This morning the Washington Post printed online a cluster of posts that cause me to despair. They were not about how stupid and criminal the President is, nor were they about the mysterious paralysis of Republicans who fail to deal as they were voted into office to do. They were about the American public.
The idea of a democracy is dependent on the idea that voters will be sane and act in their own interests. But they’re not. They don’t.
I blame day-care or at least the socialization of children (often through institutions) by their cohort rather than any adults. They are confirmed in child behavior because the adults are busy elsewhere and don’t have time or patience to answer questions. The last time I got trapped into teaching (about 2004) the fondest memories of the kids were about child care — not the leaders and protectors but the other kids. They told me frankly, grownups don’t know anything. They’re incompetent. Earlier, the kids in Heart Butte said they dreaded growing up when they would, as adults, by default, each become a drunk who is unfaithful. Some very nice ladies in larger towns are technically like that.
After I came back to Valier in 1999, I slowly realized that the people around me were different and becoming “differenter.” Flatter, more predictable, less aware of major issues, not very funny. No irony. I thought it was me. You know, arrogant. Grumpy old female.
But ever since seminary, which was VERY different from an animal control locker room, women have been bent on competition. As officers, we “first women” stuck up for each other, gave a little boost when we could. These university women wanted to draw blood, but undetected. The guys in both places were about the same: oblivious.
When I run into “nice” people now, they all have little scripts they press me into. The realistic ones see an eccentric with too many cats. The “mystical” (self-defined and unrealistic) talk “spirituality.” They mean pretty stuff. Angels. They haven’t read the bloody suffering tales of saints.
London production of "Angels in America"
A bit more realistic about angels.
The hardest bunch of these scenario-makers are the stubborn ones who stick with Trump. You can remind them of all the evidence over and over and they look at you, notice that your lips are moving, and don’t hear a thing you say. Traitor, criminal, rapist — they don’t get it. They just go on in the same rote way they ever did. What happened to the country people I used to know? Blackfeet, Cree, Metiz, whatever. They never panicked — they never fled. When something really bad happened, they reacted. And they knew a mafia don when they saw one.
But these new shallow sorts don’t really believe how serious things can get. To them it’s all on a screen somewhere, not real. You know — like walking on the moon. They hear about immigrants and trafficked kids, but they never met any. They think. I suspect they WILL run, but only when it’s too late.
If an old woman in a small town where she only has one option — to write — can see this so clearly, why can’t they? There are a lot of former military floating around but they only think about their past — not their future. They operate on stereotypes from TV the same as everyone else. People refer to me as “that little lady.” I’m neither little nor a lady. I don’t even dress nice.
The last time I felt this way was when I was in high school when Hungary tried to become independent. That was when I memorized this poem, though now I had to go look it up.
by e.e. cummings
a monstering horror swallows
this unworld me by you
as the god of our fathers' fathers bows
to a which that walks like a who
but the voice-with-a-smile of democracy
announces night & day
"all poor little peoples that want to be free
just trust in the u s a"
suddenly uprose hungary
and she gave a terrible cry
"no slave's unlife shall murder me
for i will freely die"
she cried so high thermopylae
heard her and marathon
and all prehuman history
and finally The UN
"be quiet little hungary
and do as you are bid
a good kind bear is angary
we fear for the quo pro quid"
uncle sam shrugs his pretty
pink shoulders you know how
and he twitches a liberal titty
and lisps "i'm busy right now"
so rah-rah-rah democracy
let's all be as thankful as hell
and bury the statue of liberty
(because it begins to smell)
I don’t know what cummings would make of the many cartoons that show the Statue of Liberty in distress, but I think he would appreciate them.
I owe this post another few hundred words, but I think I’ll just stop.