The very first thing I read this morning was a New York Times article by war correspondent Alissa Rubin and the poetry she carries with her into dangerous places. One of the poems quoted caught my eye.
O what fine thought we had because we thought
That the worst rogues and rascals had died out.
~William Butler Yeats “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen”
Reading that poem is like a forecast of our current days. Yeats’s despair had everything to do with Irish and European politics and history and almost nothing to do with the United States, but to read that poem, absent certain esoteric references, is to read what we might feel about current American circumstances—including those we share with the world, such as the horrific heat waves set off by human-caused climate change, as well as the war in Ukraine; and those that are uniquely American, such as the merging of misogyny and Puritanism that is the forced birth movement and the awful knowledge of what really happened on January 6.
Given the almost unrelenting bad news, I admit to occasional depression—yes, me, the determined optimist.
Yet I am also puzzling over another bit I read today, by David Leonhardt, also in the Times, about how the “Stop the Steal” movement predates the Trump presidency and belies a real conservative fear of being replaced, of being a “fading minority.” Add to this the current uneven economic picture, the pandemic, conspiracy theories, and yes, Trump, and the result is a rabid reactionary movement. Leonhardt points out that this isn’t the first American reactionary movement—the most consequential having been the Southern States’ resistance to the writing on the wall about slavery—and it likely won’t be the last.
In what do I see a glimmer of hope?
Well, for one, an opinion piece, also in the Times, by Margaret Renkl, about how, despite the horribly oppressive politics of the South, there are so many people fighting to make it better.
“We are fighting for our lives here, and we could use your help. Come on down, and help us throw the despots out.”
I live in South Carolina, and I can attest that there are, indeed, Southerners of progressive thought who are struggling every day and don’t plan on going anywhere. (Also, there are some planning to flee, but if some folks fought through the Jim Crow and civil rights years, like Rep. Jim Clyburn, and still haven’t left, you know this current impasse will find some still here.)
Sometimes the best way out is through. And this reminds me that the future is almost certainly a merging of human populations to the point where there is no true majority and no true minority, but people in somewhat varying hues and borders that mean less and less.
Also, no matter who or where, there are some truisms in life, such as:
Almost everybody loves dogs and cookies.
We will last, my friends, because we have to. Giving up means consigning our children to hell. And then who would look after the dogs or eat the cookies?
All the articles I’ve cited are listed as links below. And, as always, please like, share on social media, and comment below. I see you and you know I love you!
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