And on we go

Like many of us, I was never taught about Rosa Parks’ activist legacy. I learned only that she was brave, tired by some revisionist accounts, and her iconic act of December 1, 1955 was more or less spontaneous. All but the first is patently untrue. She was very brave, but more than brave, she was courageous. She knew the risks, she knew that she was risking her life and the lives of others close to her, and she acted regardless. To be a colored woman, in 1955 Alabama, hauled off the jail by white male policemen, must have been terrifying. But she persisted. And it was not the first time she had taken such risk, according to points raised in the article included above.

I am sure there are many other stories of the Civil Rights era that we have romanticized, idealized, and de-brutalized over the years. There are many accurate and unflinching accounts of those events that are bad enough. We get the picture, as much as we can, and those events continue to push us to action. As well they should. If we can offer nothing else but a bowed head and a moment of silence for the cost of that revolution, then so be it, but we can offer far more. They pushed; we have to push harder. They risked, we have to risk more. We also have to remember that we all have a place in the effort. All of us are not able, literally, to march or resist arrest or block traffic or storm a building. But there are things we can do, make signs or phone calls or send letters and emails. It takes a village. It takes several villages. But, as Tracy Chapman’s song “Revolution” said several years ago, “Don’t you know, we’re talking about a revolution, and it sounds…like a whisper.”.

That’s how it starts. With a whisper. “Do you believe what’s going on out there? Pass it on.”. The shouting and footsteps come later, but it starts with a whisper. The Indigo Girls’ song “Ghost” also echoes that – “…and the MIssissippi’s mighty, but it starts in Minnesota, at a place that you could walk across with five steps down”. We look back at history, and see the end result, the seemingly impossible hill crested, the immovable mountain that a pass has been carved through. We don’t always see, or take into account, the number of attempts that were made, the amount of risk that was taken, the number of failures. Without the failures, there could be no success. Success is generally not for the faint of heart, and rarely the result of a spontaneous effort. We forget that, and we expect instant gratification, perfect effort that ends in success. That’s not how it works, I don’t think. Judging from our history in this country, that is never how it’s worked. But in this land of nearly instant electronic communications, live broadcasts, streaming our lives across the airwaves, we expect things to go much, much quicker. That’s not to say that bureaucracy doesn’t unnecessarily twist even the most graceful artistry into grotesque and unintended gatekeeping gargoyles, but our expectations may be somewhat unrealistic regardless. The proof is in the persistence, which makes the pudding. From what I’ve seen, you have to whip some eggs into submission and stir a concoction of ingredients into individual oblivion before you can approach a pleasingly blended delicacy. The dessert comes after the hard work of the meal, clearing the palate in a lighter fashion.

I suppose where things stand now, however, is the meal is ongoing. We’ve not been able to get past the entree’ and on to dessert. Many people are still waiting to be served the appetizer, and still others are finding the main course hard to chew and swallow. They are complaining about the service, the quality of the preparation, everything. They want to speak with a manager, but don’t trust the one who appears. So, they’re just banging their utensils on the table and starting to toss food items. Before long, it’s an all-out food fight. I’m not sure what the intended outcome of a food fight is supposed to be, other than to destroy the food, the dining area, and impress on everyone the utter and complete rage that you are feeling. Maybe to soil other diners, to generally disturb the peace. Maybe to destroy the reputation of the eatery. Past that, I’m not sure the instigators are getting what they want. There is still no dessert, so the taste of the unsatisfactory meal is still on the tongue. If they want a new meal, they can get that, but they’re still angry. If they want a refund, they may be able to get that, provided they haven’t eaten most of the meal despite its inadequacy. And they’re still angry. So. What can “make this right”?

I don’t think it CAN be made right, until the rage dies down. I think all we can do at that point is abandon the issue, clean up the mess, and try to move forward. We should not visit that same place again, unless we know there have been changes. In the future, we maybe take more care to discern the preparation methods, ingredients, the staff, etc. before making another choice about where to dine. But, when we do that, we’re still taking our chances. You pay your money, and you take your chances. Maybe we decide screw this, I’ll cook at home, and make things the way I like them. OK, that’s a start, but we still have to depend on external sources for parts of the meal – the ingredients, the spices, the cookware, the garnish. Unless we go to live on a mountain top and either grow or synthesize your own food sources, we will starve (and the mountain top will have gotten really crowded).

Democratic ideals attempt to give us a means of living together in this shared space. They are an attempt to polish our millions of rough edges. In a republic, our elected government is supposed to be the means by which the sharing is done. Is there corruption at the level of those elected? Yes. Unfortunately, they are human and easily corruptible. Our system gives us the means to navigate that betrayal, by voting them out. If we don’t take advantage of that mechanism, we can’t complain about them. But, at this point, something else is happening, something I cannot understand. Democratic ideals presuppose common goals – common defense, common welfare, common pursuit of life, liberty, happiness. At this point, I believe longstanding and malicious social engineering efforts have resulted in the manipulation of the citizenry. This manipulation has resulted in the majority of people seeing our enormous trove of resources as finite, seeing our individual experiences as a zero-sum game: there is only so much that exists, so if you get more than what you had yesterday, that means I will lose some of mine. This is a lie. This is a lie perpetrated by selfish and malignant oligarchs who crave power, and have noted that he who has the most toys controls the playground. It’s pretty much that simple, except the biggest issues on a playground usually involve whether or not there are too many kids trying to use the same thing at the same time, or whether something is broken and can’t be used at all. But this is life, and there are millions of us, and we have much bigger issues, like health care and education and where to live. There is more than enough to go around, but not if the ogre decides it’s five for them and none for you. That’s not an issue of resources, that’s an issue of greed. That’s not an issue of global warming and forest fires or hurricanes, that’s an issue of immorality. That’s not an issue of needing to reduce population size or blame people for needing help, that’s an issue of intolerance and oppression. None of that is an issue of the planet and Mother Nature failing, all of that is an issue of hubris. Humans cannot negotiate with the planet, or with the Universe. We are simply not that powerful. Believing that we are is the ultimate joke on us.

This is power. We got nothing.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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