This just in on a mailing I was sent:
“Last week—just days after a Tennessee school board banned "Maus," a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, from being taught in schools—a church in the state held a book burning. Footage from the event shows hundreds of people gleefully tossing books deemed "demonic" into the fire.”
Is anyone else alarmed by this? Book-burning? (One of which was “Harry Potter” for its witchcraft.) Haven’t we seen enough films about the Nazis to know that this is not a good sign?
Now add to that the statistic of the murder rate doubled this past year, disturbing incidents on planes increasing from some 400 in 2020 to over 4,000 in 2021, a recent crime wave of car-jacking in New Orleans and small mobs in San Francisco (my home town!!!) running into and looting department stores, alongside the 14 states shutting down teaching our actual history in schools and blatantly shutting down voting rights and all I can think to say is WTF?!!!!!!
It’s no secret that our country and the world is in crisis on all fronts— the pandemic, climate change, the attempt to dismantle democracy— but I’ve been happily following Michael Meade’s suggestions that crisis is opportunity. We have a choice to become smaller people or larger souls and yes, there is ample evidence on the larger soul front. People taking time to educate themselves about systemic racism, environmental destruction, using the pandemic to sort out the essential from the frivolous and re-connect with art, with beauty, with nature, with each other. But it feels like the tipping point toward hope is being pushed back to despair as Nazis march in Orlando with the consent of the governor’s silence, big-name criminals whose names rhyme with “rump” and “hates” and "duelie Donny" are still afoot and not in jail. And looting in San Francisco? What are you thinking, people?
This much I know. The brain is programmed to fight, freeze, flee or feed when confronted with danger and that’s a useful survival skill. But when it stays locked in that mode during times of more drawn-out dangers, it’s good for exactly no one. The fighters are storming the Capitol, the freezers are locked in depression and vulnerable to suicide, the fleers are binging on Netflix and video games with their heads in the sand and the feeders are growing obese with potato chips. When we are in that lower region of the brain, we neither have access to the heart’s more nuanced emotions nor the brain’s capacity of intelligent thought. People dancing around fires with the books burning they tossed in are terrified and purposefully choosing to shut down all thought, not only their own, but trying to impose their chosen ignorance on others. This is not a good thing.
Meanwhile, those who are digging deeper into the truth of privilege, doing the reading, watching the documentaries, having the courageous conversations with both themselves and others, owning their fears real and imagined and doing the work to move beyond them, are the last hope we have for both survival and beyond-survival to the long-deferred better world we deserve. We really have only two choices— be taken down by our fear or lifted up by a firm faith in our human potential.
Nazi rallies, car-jacking, store looting, book-burning, voter suppression, closing down thought in schools, letting all our wild dogs loose into a lawless Gotham City— what is going on here?! In my experience, when crisis visits people in the form of illness, bad fortune, a death in the family, when a house is lost to fire or a neighborhood is ravaged by a storm, the people I know lean more towards helping, towards kindness, towards compassion. Can we please take that path, dear fellow citizens? For all of our sakes.