“But if this ever changin’ world
In which we’re livin’
Makes you give in and cry
Say live and let die.”– Paul McCartney
Yesterday’s piece generated more conversation than what I’m used to. In fact, any conversation is more than what I’m used to. One thing that has always been difficult for me is giving a satisfactory answer in a few words. If you aren’t writing at least 75o words then you aren’t really trying that hard. Surviving in a Twitter universe is just not possible for someone like me.
The number one complaint (or comment) from the peanut gallery is that those on the right are far more vicious than we are and if we are gracious it will only be used against us. I find that argument to be particularly persuasive and ultimately difficult to counter. This adds to the fact that others pointed out historical inaccuracies in the first account. Perhaps, it would be fairer to say that the historical record was incomplete.
This is also a fair criticism. The sweet spot is hard to find in an essay ranging from 750 to 1000 words. History has to be acknowledged and yet in acknowledging history you often find yourself short-changing it. In particular, one can find any number of examples of people sewing discontent and acting in a manner that indicates they were sewing disunity and not unity.
These are fair points. The period after the civil war was certainly not as rosy as I portrayed. On a different forum, others pointed to periods of strife that could be labeled more significant. My goal is not to quivel with those folks as their points are well-founded unto themselves. Tragedy can be found everywhere at any time. Comparing one person’s tragedy from now to someone else’s years ago is a fool’s errand. In the moment, nothing we experience could be any worse than what we just experienced. Immediacy is a powerful bias.
The point of yesterday’s piece was always meant to be a personal reflection. The last five years have made me the worst version of myself. I can only speak for me, but the sense I have is that this is true of many of us. One always has to separate what we are fighting for with how we choose to fight. We can only control ourselves and how we react to the world around us.
The tragedy isn’t that bigotry and hatred exists. That has always been the case and is evidenced throughout history. The tragedy is that someone came along that actively stoked those feelings. The tragedy is that so many allowed themselves to be taken in by its message. The tragedy is that so many have surrendered their humanity and core values in fealty to a single man. No man deserves that and more so not this one.
The other tragedy is what it did to the rest of us. No, we never offered fealty to that individual. No, we didn’t succumb to the hateful message. No, we pushed back hard enough to at least keep from watching that hatred and bigotry completely engulf all of us. The tragedy is in what it turned many of us into. We became more hateful and embittered in the process. That’s a very real tragedy on a human level.
We have become more tired. We have become more depressed and anxious. In some cases we have become that with which we started to rail against. It’s important not to make light of real conditions like anxiety and depression. It is important not to make light of conditions like PTSD. Yet, we can’t ignore the real depression, anxiety, and trauma the last five years have caused.
There are no answers that will satisfy the most basic question: what do we do now? The commenters are all correct. We cannot allow the forces of darkness to completely engulf us. We cannot be timid or submissive in their wake. Yet, we somehow have to remember what it is we are fighting for. Otherwise, we risk the very real possibility of slipping into the darkness ourselves.