Friday, April 12, 2013

We Are a Cautionary Tale

Words are real only in an intellectual sense. They are not material of any kind and as such have no shape, size, mass or structure. As kids we were told 'sticks and bones may break my bones but words will never hurt me' which is true, but only so far.

If you're a child in any school anywhere across the United States and don't quite fit in...too nerdy, too jocky, too prissy (one of my all time favorite words), too bookish, too plain, too and-the-list goes on, we've tagged you with a sobriquet that didn't break any bones when we go to the x-rays but did amazing damage to your psyche.

As a culture, we are quick to anger and slow to forgive. We nurse injuries, real and/or imagined, until we've raised them to grievances and causes and then there's no negotiating with us. When the phrase 'we the people' is uttered I'm not sure about whom we're speaking but am absolutely positive that my definition and yours differ greatly from one another. Sadly, each of us not only sees the other's definition as wrong but we also have unkind thoughts about the person with that definition and very likely the horse s/he rode in on.

Instead of a civil dialogue, at the national, and other, level we have competing monologues. I am  not so much listening to you as I am waiting for your lips to stop moving so I can speak my piece. And how dare you then to treat me the same way. We don't know how to disagree without being disagreeable. At one time we used to work on this-now we exult about it.

This entire week, from last Sunday, April 7th, through this one, the 14th, is National Holocaust Remembrance Week and if you have assumed it's to mark the catastrophe that overtook European Jewry (and countless other peoples) from 1933 through 1945, you're not getting the whole flick.

When we insist on 'never again' we mean each of us cannot and will not allow the dismissive dehumanization of those with whom we disagree, by word, thought or deed, to ever occur. If I can reduce in my mind those with whom I disagree to vermin or a minor form of pestilence, it's just a short step to accepting the conceit of destroying them and that step of that journey can never, ever happen again.

This week the legislature in the state in which I live (not Blissful Ignorance, but rather, Connecticut), driven in no small part by the spectre of the Newtown tragedy, passed, and Governor Dannel Malloy, signed what some have suggested are some of the toughest gun registration requirements in these United States.

Some see the legislation as one means of protecting those in our society who are most in need of protection. Others see black UN helicopters attempting to land on the lawn and are counting the rotors while speed loading the guns God gave them under the Second Amendment-unless it wasn't exactly the Lord's work (says this group of solons). And here we are, you and me (and very probably the truth of the matter), out here in the middle.

Reasonable people can agree to disagree while working to expand common ground to reach a common goal. Except that's not happening here, especially this week, of all weeks. Someone, or a group of someones, egregiously ignorant of our history on this planet offered this graphic to summarize their unhappiness over events in Hartford, Connecticut's capital.

So we are clear, no state of these United States, to include Connecticut, is the Third Reich and no one in American political life, not Barack Obama, not Dannel Malloy, no one-no matter how much you detest her or his politics- is Hitler. If you think otherwise, think again. And do it somewhere else.

You needn't be a Survivor or a Child of a Survivor to recognize this posturing transcends intelligent discussion and acceptable social mores. My visceral reaction is that this is abject crap (hate to use technical terms on Fridays) and to shut down any and all efforts to listen to the views of anyone who comports in such trappings.

The suggested comparison infuriates me and I very much hope I am not alone. It deliberately (I suspect) provokes people struggling to be the bridges over our chasm like differences of opinion, often unpleasantly expressed, to STOP all of their efforts to help move us as a society to a more respectful of one another place and space and just drop the gloves and wail on someone who is obviously both arrogant and ignorant.

That angry response and the animus it requires and produces puts a lie to that well-meant and heavily advertised desire/goal of 'never again' condemning each of us to remain chained to a mandala of hate, hurt and mutual recrimination over our insistence on the right to yell theater in a crowded fire while all around us burn the fires of a Hell of our own creation.
-bill kenny  

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