We gather our tribes, define our borders, and set our pikes pointing outward, determined to keep away the scourge others try to bring to our door.
All the while, self-created viruses are capturing parts of our hearts and souls, turning our humanity grey, then black, as it dies an ugly and needless death.
That scourge is as simple as a differing viewpoint.
A Good Book
I remember when I was a kid, someone gave my mother a small book of writings by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. The book, bound with a tartan plaid cover and printed on a beautiful stock, drew me in. I didn’t fully grasp the meaning behind his words. The job of understanding was made more difficult by the traditional language of the time and what I have come to appreciate as sardonic wit wrapped around scathing commentary on the mores of the age in which he lived.
I inked notes in that book, selfishly unconcerned that I was defacing and damaging what was not mine to damage. When my parents saw what I had done they shared more words, not ambiguous and definitely timeless in their meaning. The words of poet and parent still affect me.
I occasionally seek out works by Mr. Burns and find new meanings and new applications for the verses written centuries ago. A few I can remember and recite from memory, burned into my mind fifty years back.
Ye true “Loyal Natives” attend to my song
In uproar and riot rejoice the night long;
From Envy and Hatred your corps is exempt,
But where is your shield from the darts of Contempt!
What defines “a native” in today’s world, in this country, in this town? And to who or what is that native supposed to be loyal?
Are we loyal to an individual because he or she is a friend?
Are we loyal to an individual because they think as we think?
Are we loyal to an individual because we have great animosity towards another?
Are we loyal to an ideal?
Is our loyalty locked in place regardless of changing circumstances?
As we careen down the last straightaway to November 3rd, there are a lot of opportunities to visit those questions.
The local election cycle is less about spirited dialog and strong advocacy and more about personal animosity and the diminution of individuals. It seems like the strategy of the day is destruction and debasement.
It feels like ideals, convictions, and engagement have given way to character assassination, fallacious arguments, and ugly demands to engage on terms absent a sense of fairness.
We have become entirely comfortable with disregarding what was said in favor of what was “really meant.” It is not a question of having misheard, it is a strategy of misrepresentation.
All may not be lost. We will see after we vote if the choices we made will move us ahead. The goal of any election, be it average or extraordinary, is to have an outcome that guides us forward. Not total agreement, not chaos. We won’t all be happy, but hopefully, we won’t all be permanently enraged. There will still be plenty of things left to disagree about if we can survive our current pandemic of personal destruction.