We're not back at the starting point, apparently. We're a hundred miles behind it.
|Word on the street is that everyone is busy getting educated. Or has already achieved that exalted state. The Public Trust trusts that what this means is that common literacy, comprehension, gathered knowledge and understanding will lead to wisdom. Wisdom will lead to tolerance, acceptance and peaceful relations between humans. We suspect that somewhere in that mix wisdom might be stuck in the mud somewhere due west of Biloxi or perhaps southeast of Jackson. Could be off a hilltop road overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. We're just not quite sure. It's a big place and there's a lot of space and where to look?
Looking back then, I recall a lot of upheaval in the decade of the 1960's when I was just a kid. A lot of that uproar and upheaval led to a pretty mellow time the next decade on, in the 1970's. I wonder if we've ever been as relaxed as we were then. Relaxed enough that hair was never so weird, clothes were astonishingly weird, and even the music we danced to was weird.
So we pat that decade kindly on the head and forgive it like an understanding grandparent, smile upon it while shaking our heads at its claim to high ideals while watching it turn pratfalls. So very many things that are commonplace now, were taking their first tentative baby steps, then.
These days we tend to focus on identity. Whether we like it or not. Whether we want to or not. Our racial identity, or political identity, or socio-economic identity, or sexual identity, or gender identity, or tribal identity. We focus on these identities so much that sometimes I wonder if the identity that gets lost in the herd of all those other identities, is our human identity.
So much so, that it is not enough to be a good and decent human being anymore, to possess what used to be referred to as moral and ethical human values. Kindness, fairness, understanding, acceptance, generosity, graciousness, empathy and compassion. A good and balanced fit between the head and the heart, liberally spiced with humor in order to fit ourselves in there somewhere, within the human comedy. I think when we forget to know how to laugh at ourselves, we lose some of the best of what we are, and what we can be. And I just have to ask, if those traits listed above are just not good enough anymore, just not correct or serviceable enough, than would a real shrewd and sharp person who could dance that 'corrected' dance real well, but who in fact deep down and secret, was actually a real miserable , spiteful, nasty kind of human being, and was able to hide it well, would their correctness earn them a free pass into the exalted hall? And I can hear that comment - if they were that vile they would be known as such - to which I say in this world as it is right now? That is not a valid argument.
So when we have to trade all that in, in order to be correct above all things, something gets lost, and we wonder at times just what that is. I refer back to that decade long ago, when we knew how to relax. That was the decade that I, as a very young man, grabbed my education and got the hell out, before what came next. I feel lucky sometimes, to have had that opportunity. But what can this possibly mean to all those who never had that opportunity? The ones who came along later?
Because of course, a lot has changed since then. We attempt to be wise enough to know that change in itself is not always a good thing, just because it’s different.
Which brings me to an examination of that lovely thing, human psychology and how it works, how it plays into all of this. LIke choosing to wear an identity uniform comprised of sex or gender signifiers. Or skin color signifiers. A whole lot more commonplace than a Gucci suit. Or Air Jordans. And at times it seems like a lot of people can't breathe a breath of free air anymore. Because something is always terribly wrong. And this wrongness (constantly fighting with some species of rightness) now becomes a national identity, in which, apparently, everyone gets to play.
As if anger itself is an identity. Or outrage is an identity. Or any measure of humiliation, or suffering, or just any kind of oppression, is an identity. And we ponder this and perhaps ask: is the balance of my bank account an identity? Is the house I live in, its style and size, its location and design, an identity? Or the car I drive. Or the shoes I wear. Or the contrast between the words I spell and those I misspell. Or the books on my bookshelf. Or whatever my grandfather did or didn't do.
And of course you know I could just fill up WDC memory storage with this overspill until the get mad at me.
A lot of things in life add up to the sum of what we experience. Which often doesn't get us into or out of anything for free. But how is it that we came so far only to wind up back where we started? Or not even there but behind the starting line? And what exactly is that line anyway? And does that starting line (wherever and whatever it is) mean nothing at all until the entire human race can line up perfectly one inch behind it? And if that were even possible, then what?
And what is the race, and who makes the rules, and what is the prize. I hear a lot about equality. I'm aware that equality of opportunity is a long stretch. I hear not so much about freedom as I used to, except a lot about losing it, having it taken away, and even giving it away. Imagine. Giving freedom away. For free. There must be something of value, in that trade.
Perhaps no-one ever finds the answers, if they don't come up with the questions. I know a lot, but not anywhere near enough. But certainly enough to know that I am still capable of profoundly disagreeing with other answers. Too often I feel that those answers don't go far enough, left something out, or serve a personal agenda. As a kid, I was dragged kicking and screaming toward an idea. Truth matters. It isn't always easy. Often it hurts. Sometimes it even illuminates. But one thing I learned back then - if you can't think and speak freely, and exercise your conscience without fear, well then you'll probably never really get to shake hands with truth.
Which is why I wonder about just what kind of culture of fear is prowling this land now. To what end, with what kind of goal in mind. Fear is a thing that can shut a lot of other things down. Like for instance, one of my favorite word puzzles. The very concept of what we now refer to as hate speech. It is quite possible for someone to utter speech, where we find that the speaker of this speech doesn't actually hate at all. This is indeed, possible. Because that emotion is something powerful enough that we can most certainly identify, in the privacy of our own moral beings, whether it is a thing entrenched within our emotional self. How does anyone else know, then? Because they cannot crawl inside someone else's skin and know exactly what is thought and felt in there. They can guess - and often they do. Sometimes, they're right. And sometimes, they're wrong.
And yet when that same speech is claimed to be of a hate variety, by anyone who hears it, I have to wonder, is it claimed to be of that hate variety, because the listener hates it? And if that is so, then that would make it hateful speech, which is something different in our shared and understood vernacular. I could really, most definitely hate a speech that I hear that tells me I've broken the law and am liable to go to jail. Sure I would hate that with gusto. It would be most hateful to my ears. But it does not fall into that common category of what we now call hate speech.
You know, I have lived an entire life so free of personal experience with that concept, on both sides of the equation, that it even feels painful to me, to write the words. I will soon stop. Many people in our society have learned to stop. Speaking. Writing. Expressing. But they don't ever stop thinking. We do not as yet have anything in our midst that appears capable of reading our minds. That would be thought police. We must pray that we never do.