Picture it. America, 2019. Middle of Spring. You’re driving back from work and the usual mixture of cars are speeding, cutting people off and acting like the selfish creatures humans daily prove they are. You come up to a car displaying several political stickers on their back window, supporting a politician and mindset you find despicable and abhorrent. But you carry your thoughts elsewhere and ponder at red lights about what to make for dinner…
I live in a society where competition is regarded as the norm, cooperation something as secondary. The helpers or behind the scenes persons are often just as described, behind the stages and included in the “menial mentions” at parties. The “winners” are trained to take all the credit and glory. If they remember a few names at an event to thank, it may qualify for a miracle…
So it’s been a rough week. I start to eat a late dinner and I come across the below. YouTube has disabled comments indiscriminately for some channels, including Special Books, Special Kids. The video is raw and emotional and explains the importance of these videos, and the comments from around the world, that show disabled adults and children they are loved, accepted and wanted.
Please consider signing the petition and/or sharing the video. Together I hope we can get the comments back and shout out some more love and acceptance. Thank you.
I’m listening to the audio book of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson currently. It’s a great story and I plan to pick up the novel at the library soon. I got a little lost in the house while the doctor was describing how everything was built during his tour. (He did this so the group could avoid getting lost, ironically, and learn each floor’s layout.) Hill House was built in concentric circles with the inner rooms having no windows or doors. Furthermore, everything was built slightly angled, about 15 degrees off–on purpose. The mansion was intended to catch you off guard, it seems, to perhaps idly trap you inside its interiors. It disoriented your senses, disturbed your balance.
I tilted my head at the windows and then at the stairwell, trying to catch just how everything was tilted. I couldn’t quite grasp it and I thought it was silly and dubious to waste a contractor’s time with such frivolity. A set of doors had closed earlier in the dining room and we were seeing if footsteps on the angled floors caused the doors to shut on their own. I sense these details are themes that will come back around in the closing pages. Ms. Jackson is a sharp writer and she’s leaving her bread crumbs in the pages, beguiling. I scurry along, following the group as we leave doors open behind us, turning our heads to check them before crossing into an adjoining hallway. One particularly heavy door has a stool put before it to make sure it stayed open. We’ll see if they’re closed or open when we return.
Horror is fine, it seems, if we can control it or try to make sense of it. When Halloween comes and goes, the decorations and ghost stories seem comical afterwards, don’t they? Horror movies can be paused; masks taken off and put into storage, easily forgotten about until next year. But what about real horror? What about people getting shot in a bar, running around defenseless in smoke curtains created by a stalking predator? What about Jews worshiping in their synagogue and being slaughtered? What about children and teenagers, coming to class and not leaving alive?
Our country averts its eyes back towards the rotting Jack-O-Lanterns. They stare back, gaping at our stupidity.
Humans are very good at killing each other. They’re also very good at justifying why they kill. I believe in order to kill a person, the human mind must firmly believe the other is exactly that–an other. The other is a stranger, different from you, and therefore inherently wrong because of their differences. The other’s existence is perceived as competition for resources that enable your “right” way of living. The other, therefore, becomes unworthy of resources, any semblance of mercy or even existence. This “reasoning” quickly snowballs into hatred, takes root in the soil of self-righteousness and grows tall and strong. Pretty soon the other is blamed for peripheral things, such as lack of work, a lack of prosperity or a lack of notice and regard that you clearly deserve. The act of killing is just a short step behind this hatred, patiently waiting to leap down from the rafters.
I think this is why the rabbi in the dusty sandals said murder begins in the heart. He knew; he told us. And yet we’re not listening. We’re killing, instead. Why? Because people who hate believe they are right to hate. And people don’t like to be told they’re wrong.
There’s quite a few lines from the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium that have stuck with me over the years. If you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend it. The script doesn’t blanch at the realities of change and death. The characters frequently toss out clever lines and understand what it means to laugh and to struggle. It’s a simple plot, one that revolves around a magical toy store, but it’s powerful. I think I like the simple, magical stories the best.
One of the more poignant lines, one that is towards the end of the film, goes like this:
Molly: Are you dying?
Mr. Magorium: Light bulbs die, my sweet. I will depart.
I don’t like my country very much lately. Since late 2016, a fissure emerged in America’s lands and everyone jumped eagerly to either side. Trump being elected was like a trumpet blown by the Republicans and all of their party supporters. The supporters were portrayed as frustrated, forgotten, worn out voters who put Trump into power to “Make America Great Again”–their version of greatness, anyway. Many of these voters had been affected by the lack of working class jobs, ones shipped overseas or replaced by technology. Trump was their secret weapon; he was their line drawn in the sand. They wanted to turn back time and have their old way of life back.
I’ve been sick for the past week and have had time to reflect. I attended classes and counseling sessions last month to jump start my writing platform. And to be honest, I found that I hated these sessions. I was asked questions like “What makes your writing special?” and “Why should I pick up your book?” I answered their questions, in my typical straightforward fashion, but none of my answers seemed to appease. I sensed my words weren’t flashy enough, weren’t meeting the elusive standards of good marketing. I wasn’t attracting attention in the American, shallow way of enticement. I came away feeling I needed to change and become a saleswoman.
And I found myself simply not caring.
Some of my personal interests are crime, psychology and history. These areas of study often intersect as humans tend to kill one another, often times over differences they can’t or won’t remedy. The Holocaust is a prime example of this trifecta intersection. From 1933-1945 roughly, the Holocaust was carried out by Adolf Hitler and his Nazis with great detail and intentionality. The Germans were very well organized and kept paperwork and records on everything they did, including in each death camp.
I started learning about the Holocaust around 8th grade, or around 13 years of age. Even now, when I see pictures and footage of Auschwitz, I feel confused. Surely, this wide brick gateway with the glass lookout tower wasn’t so bad, was it? It looks like an airport tower, or even an entrance to a theme park. Everything appears so orderly and ordinary, if a little old and European looking. I expect Hell on earth–flames shooting out of the gate, the Devil walking around on the railroad tracks, bloodstains on the fences, anything really.
How could evil look like so ordinary, so efficient? Where were the flashing lights, the warning signals or other clues? No. There was just brick, mortar, glass and railroad ties at the entrance. And something else I learned recently—Auschwitz is massive. The immensity of the death camp be seen in the BBC drone footage here.
The evil was in the ordinary.
The saint* and I have a true penchant for being seated next to loud people in restaurants. It reminds me of being assigned the seat next to the noisy kid in grade school. The logic of the teachers, and perhaps the hostess, must be the sound/lack of sound will balance out. But it never works. All it does is annoy us quiet, reflective people and grates on our patience. And if we’re polite, we think we need to make conversation back to the class clown. (I have.) Come, now. Let’s rethink this maneuver.
Today was such an occasion. The two dudes (and dudes is a fitting term) appeared to be employed by some sort of military contract and were talking shop. Loudly. Dude One asked lots of questions, talked most of the time and appeared to encourage Dude Two in his career aspirations. Dude Two appeared to want to move someday and continue his military career elsewhere. Dude One began describing a potential place to Dude Two in punctuated interest:
“…They’ve got everything there, it’s a nice area. They even have a mosque so it’s good for finding terrorists.”
I looked up, startled. The man was in his 30’s or less, possibly Hispanic, but spoke with a jock/valley boy like accent. When he ordered from the South American menu, he had a refined Spanish accent.
I poured my Coca Cola over his $40 polo shirt and left.
As an introvert (an INTJ to be exact), I find American society at once demanding, garrulous and worshipful of charming extroverts. This perception of the perfect American finds its way into churches, bleeds over the pews, stains the carpets and infiltrates the very verbiage and conversational rhythms. Modern churches exemplify this particularly with stage lighting, booming mic’s, catchy tunes and coffee bars. And suddenly church is about working and collecting merit badges at warp speed. If you have lots of energy, bright eyes and agreeable conversation–you’re in!
If not, you’re a problem.