August 14, 2017-- Thoughts that I tried to put together, nearly deleted, decided to publish, no answers, only doubt and grief

>> Monday, August 14, 2017

I find myself more sad than angry, somehow.  I find myself feeling an inarticulate to express pity for my country and my people.  I don't mean to say there's no anger.  There is.  But anger is exhausting, anger leaves you feeling brittle and impotent, and when the anger has burned itself out what is left standing are the brittle, flaking, ashen bones of sorrow.

There.  I went and tried to articulate it and wandered into a cheap stab at poetry.

What is new is old.  I know that; I'm not entirely stupid.  The people who went to Charlottesville with violence and rage are hardly distinguishable from the bastards who burned down Greenwood in 1921 or committed a municipal coup d'etat in Wilmington in 1898.  They've spent a hundred-fifty-years plus marching and shouting and lynching and shooting and burning.  They're on the Internet, now, but they used to have pamphlets and leaflets and fliers, you know, and books you could send for by mail.

What I am, I think, if I'm not stupid, is naive.  I grew up with an idea of a future in which the past was the past, where the great lesson of the Second World War was that the xenophobia and racial rage was a thing fading into the past.  The dreamers I suckled from throughout my childhood came from the generation that fought and won and was stricken by the horrors of that war, and they insisted that if we didn't learn from the horrors wreaked by fascism in places like Poland and Nanjing, we'd be bound to repeat them with the added convenience of atom bombs.  And, okay, you'd still see the odd Klansman, Jesse Helms was one of my state's Senators, the skinheads were packing up and moving to Idaho and collecting guns; but these were the lunatic fringe, weren't they?  These were the people who were dying.

If so, easy to forget that a dying animal can turn mad and stupid.

Too often these days I find myself thinking that the intelligentsia made a terrible mistake in the 1980s when we didn't take the reactionaries at their word when they declared a culture war was in progress.  It seems to me that too many of us shook our heads and tried to be conciliatory; "What are these people thinking?" we asked.  "Nobody is declaring a war on faith, on Jesus, on American values, on Christmas, on their way of life," we said.  Not realizing that we had, indeed, declared war on their values inadvertently, accidentally, with good intent and largeness of heart, because we misunderstood and misconstrued those values; because we believed that all people are good at heart and all humans are rational creatures at some fundamental root of intellect; because we believed that the bright shining future would be one that was ultimately, inherently virtuous and good because it promised more equality, more justice, more peace, more fairness; not understanding at all that what some people wanted was the security of the familiar order even when the familiar order preyed upon them and theirs, even when the familiar order bloomed in a bed of iniquity from wicked seed.

We ought to have just said, "You're absolutely right," and damned them in every way we could.

But writing this brings me grief.  This is the part that may be hardest to explain.  This may even be why we may lose, why we don't even have a future, much less the postwar dream.  I do not know how to destroy my enemy.  I do not want to burn his churches, I do not want to run him down in the street.  I would let him go off somewhere he could do no more harm and have his little church and his little pride in his own righteousness and wait for him to die, recklessly confident his children will abandon him because I want to believe in their goodness at heart and fundamental rationalism.  I do not know or want to know how to use his weapons: the guns and sticks and fire and animal rage.  I do not want to learn how to fight on his terms--the thought makes me ill and brings me tears.


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