The times we live in seem to be dominated by confusion, hatred, and mayhem, while the world seems more than content to push things along rather than step back from the brink. Three commercial airliners in five months will never see radar again (one still missing reasons unknown, one shot down by a civil war, one possibly a victim of weather). The Middle East has never been a more desperate region. Afghanis die as readily by the same hands that killed them before the US invaded and freed their land. In Iraq monsters that were held at bay by the monster the US removed are set free to wreak their own monstrosities. Gaza is once again a land of rubble and blood, and Egypt, Syria, and Lybia smolder and blaze and rot in varying degrees. Eastern Europe plays out in microcosm in the Russian sponsored breakdown of the Ukraine. And the US is not to be outdone as Republicans and Democrats argue about what is the best way to turn our backs on babies at the borders. Politicians corrupt the honored labels of liberal and conservative into the new "spic", "kike", and "nigger". Guns have become the default expression of the disenfranchised as school children in classrooms become the target of choice, and only a year ago a young African American high school student in Valdosta, Georgia, was beaten beyond recognition, stuffed dead in a hole, and the “incident” ruled a self-inflicted accident as if it were the punch line to the oldest of racist jokes.
In less than 120 years, the world has been mobilized in cars and then planes, moved from hand calculations to slide rule to tablet, carry voice and social connections in the palm of the hand, and enjoy never before available educational opportunities. Since the dawn of man, people have fought and struggled for the higher ground, for a better life. Shouldn’t the better life be here? Shouldn’t we be able to care for ourselves, to feed each other, to put a roof over everyone’s head?
Apparently not. We the sheep in order to form a more perfect union turn a deaf ear and a mute tongue to be blind followers of the purveyors of power who need only scream epithets and sling labels that stick all too easily with the paste of ignorance in order to get us to ignore the man behind the curtain in favor of the Great and Powerful Oz. The most action that we as a nation seem able to accomplish is to point fingers back and forth, to blame that person for our woes and that party for our discomforts, to fear beyond reason that we will only be allowed to fire one bullet at a time rather than the fifty rounds per second we deserve. Meanwhile fear, starvation, and revolution are more alive than ever out our back door, in the third world, and beyond.
I have long since given up reading the newspapers. Since 9-11 I have stopped watching CNN and all cable news. I can no longer listen for any length of time to news on NPR. My hands are over my ears with my eyes shut. I have to cruise news stories on my own, melt them down using the alchemy of atomic and genetic similarity shared by mankind to distill the vapors for what might be the truth. But it is a world where people retain power by preaching hatred (a pastime older than Genesis and still we know no better, we eat it up, our piggy-persons belly up to the trough for our daily slop of lies because that is what works for us). What good is truth in small hands? How can I stand up and say to the Ukraine that ethnic Russians can still be Ukrainians? How can I turn to those same ethnic Russians and say that blood and country are interchangeable, if you can’t understand that then leave your home and go home? How can I stare down a nation and say, “They are just children. They are the future of the world. If we treat them as garbage, as undesirables, what position does that put the future in?” How can I stand on the mount and shout to the land of my father’s fathers and say, “Stop! For God’s sake Stop! You live in the cradle of religion, and you behave in the least God-like way imaginable!”
I am just one voice, and these times make me feel so small. I am infinitesimal next to powers I do not understand, in the face of atrocities that I understand all too well. There is no word, no spell, no magic phrase I can utter to get the world to stop spinning its wheels, to stop the engine of self-absorption and corruption from devouring humanity. I can only take a breath, focus, and try to believe that if enough small people can come together, a large difference can be made.