For many of us, the past six months have been agonizing. On a daily basis it is necessary to re-group, re-think, and defend (whether in public or internally) our political and religious beliefs. It’s tiring and demoralizing, and such a waste of human talent. We sense that we should plan for disaster. But which disaster will strike first, and what will that disaster look like? Planning seems impossible, or useless, or basically, “I’m just too exhausted to figure it out.”
That’s my negative side, which usually takes a back seat. But my positive outlook, compassion for others, belief that we can do better, treat others (even those we don’t agree with) with humanity and humility, is sorely tested and weakened these days. I cling to it stubbornly, but wonder whether the fabric will hold when almost daily it needs to be mended and patched and reinforced.
A few days ago, Irene wrote in her blog about A Perfect World, and asked: Why are my children having to worry about which cabinet to hide in at school? When back in my day, our biggest fear at school was not having anyone to play with at recess!
When I was in high school we had “Air Raid Drills.” We learned to proceed in an orderly fashion down the hallways of the school and into the cold, windowless basement where we stood silently against the cinder block walls. This was to prepare for a nuclear attack.
REALLY???? We were going to survive a bomb that had reduced two Japanese cities to rubble, had burned the skin off people from miles away, and had poisoned the “lucky” survivors with deadly radiation?
One time, I just went up to the principal, who was directing traffic at the top of the stairs, and told him it was against my religion to participate in the drill. In a way this was the truth, but I’m pretty sure my motivation was more that if I was going to die, I’d just as soon die in a room with windows than in a cement coffin with hundreds of other terrified kids. He told me to go into his office and wait there. I think it was about this time in my life that I finally accepted that grownups don’t have a clue either.
One of the good results of getting older should be a sense of perspective and some satisfaction that things are getting better. So I could say to Irene that lying awake worrying about when the Russians were going to drop a bomb on my school, and marching into the basement in a futile attempt to be convinced that I would survive the attack didn’t ultimately scar me too much. That would pretty much be true.
Yet, I would also have to acknowledge that the world is far more complicated today, that while the internet and social media have enabled us to be more connected and more informed about other cultures, it has also helped make us more divided, angry and antagonistic. Somehow, we have settled at the lowest common denominator, rather than risen to greater heights. Our public discourse has become crude, vicious, and hateful and our national image has become a laughingstock around the world.
My children are adults now, and I know they do not blame me for this. I also know that there are still many good and committed people working in their neighborhoods and on the national and international stage to create better lives for themselves, their neighbors and the world. There are rational and measured voices speaking truth to power. But I am very afraid that power no longer recognizes or even cares about truth.
I feel a deep sense of shame and sorrow. This isn’t the world I wanted to leave as a legacy for future generations.It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.
Anne Frank wrote this in her diary on July 15, 1944, while she and her family were hiding from the Nazis in a small attic in Amsterdam. If she could believe this under those circumstances, then who am I to doubt that it’s true?
My rant is over!
Daily Prompt: detonate