I am feeling very vulnerable and exposed this week. The mood of the whole country is edgy, suspicious, and angry, and the election is setting people against each other. Things are out of control. I am reminded of one of my favorite poems:
The Second Coming
BY William Butler Yeats
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
I am a mild-mannered person, but my blood boils when I see those red baseball caps, as I did outside the local polling place at the library. And I am convinced that those people feel the same way as they glare across the parking lot at the volunteers representing the candidates on the other side. I told a customer today that I approve of using four-letter words, because if I didn’t cuss, I’d slap somebody.
Americans hate each other. Last weekend a man walked into a Pittsburgh synagogue and opened fire on people inside the sanctuary, slaughtering eleven simply because he hates Jews and wants them dead. The President’s initial response was to suggest that if the people in the synagogue were armed, the result would possibly have been better. Neither he nor any politician in power has made any serious steps towards banning automatic or semi-automatic weapons, but instead suggest that if we were all armed, we could simply have gunfights in synagogues, churches, schools and shopping malls.
A ragtag army of refugees from violence in Central America is making its slow way to the border, and the government is sending the military to greet them with blazing arms. I’m thinking that we should exchange the torch lifted by the Statue of Liberty for an AK-47. That might be more accurate.
Yet, apparently my views do not represent those of many Americans. People are scared and believe that guns will solve their problems. As Yeats says, “The worst are full of passionate intensity.” Men grab guns and shoot either random victims or target people from a group that they violently oppose. They feel justified in hurting people, just as the Nazis did, because they believe they are superior to them.
This week I began setting out Christmas items, as the end of Halloween kicks off the holiday season. Normally I get the warm fuzzy feeling as I set out ornaments, decorations, and gifts, but this year I feel scared. What tragedy will occur in the next days or weeks?
Can we possibly have a hiatus on hate at least for the duration of the holiday season? I am reminded of the break in fighting between German and American troops in WWI on Christmas, 1914. The soldiers started by singing carols in both languages, and declared a truce for the next little while:
“The next morning, in some places, German soldiers emerged from their trenches, calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. Allied soldiers came out warily to greet them. In others, Germans held up signs reading “You no shoot, we no shoot.” Over the course of the day, troops exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons and hats. The Christmas truce also allowed both sides to finally bury their dead comrades, whose bodies had lain for weeks on “no man’s land,” the ground between opposing trenches.”
It can happen, even in wartime. Let us declare a truce among those of us on either side of the great cultural divide. Let’s do it so we can all enjoy the holidays without watching over our shoulders for the shooter with passionate intensity in his eyes.