To Appreciate Life
Photo Credit: For nonprofit educational purposes, WRVO Visual, Syracuse NY
Audio Credit: Aaron Copland - Music From Our Town
The center is holding. In a direct rebuke to WB Yeats (1), the center is holding. The falcon hears it's falconer, to strike back the blood dimmed tide of anarchy. Yes, the ceremony of innocence has been drowned. We are no longer innocent. But we grow in wisdom. The best summon their conviction to meet this moment with passionate intensity. We have won a round in this great battle.
Surely some revelation is at hand.
Ours will be self generated, embraced by life on the ground, history as lived by ordinary people, in a world that's anything but ordinary. As in previous times in our recent history, the groundswell of voices has been muddled, angry, in contradiction to itself. The great river of history is impeded. In this morning's NYTimes(2), David Brooks encapsulates the contradiction and it's cause:
"But there’s a larger context here. As the sociologist E. Digby Baltzell wrote decades ago, History is a graveyard of classes which have preferred caste privileges to leadership. That is the destiny our class is now flirting with. We can condemn the Trumpian populists all day until the cows come home, but the real question is when will we stop behaving in ways that make Trumpism inevitable."
That which Brooks asserts makes Trumpism inevitable is the Meritocracy, specifically it's devolution into an institution that doesn't reward ability, but instead perpetuates an exclusivity based on an education that few can afford and less can benefit from. Most of us reading this essay might benefit from reflecting on what Brooks has to say here.
So let's enjoy the victories won this week and remember how much work remains. The feds have done their job, there's no reasonable way that Trump can escape the 78 individual charges against him. As our National government applies the law, the lessons, and the precedents of our history to our current problem, what does American Culture have to say about curbing the excesses of the Meritocracy? Is there a Groundswell of Voices to lend support to this action and direction to the next? Emphatically yes! I believe this effort is spontaneously underway.
The place I'd like to start is Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, since 1938, embodying all that's wonderful about Americana. America during the depression was a cauldron of contradictory urges and efforts, several that were dark. The KKK and the American Nazi Movement marauded in our land with the same impunity that the Proud Boys and the NRA display today. In his play "Our Town", Thornton Wilder doesn't denounce the community simply because it contains strains of hypocrisy. Instead, he examines Grover’s Corners to find lessons about life in a world that contains both virtue and vice. Wilder’s principal message in Our Town, that people should appreciate everyday life while living it, became critical at a time when political troubles were escalating in Europe. World War II was on the horizon when the play hit theaters in 1938. It was a time of tremendous international tension, and citizens across the globe suffered from anti semitism, racism, and fear. Our Town directed attention away from these negative aspects of life, and reminded Americans of our permanent values. Life on the Ground, the Groundswell of Voices in the play influencing the Groundswell of Voices in the Audience. Now, if we could just get them broadband internet, a conveyance for the Groundswell of Wisdom!
So yes, there is a solution to be found, to be found in ordinary life, in the same groundswell of voices that made Wilder's Plays popular. Just this morning the NYTimes reports that the War on Woke is subsiding, as is the War on Critical Race Theory and the effort to defend the Censorship of Books(3). The same permanent values asserted. My brother Peter is in New Hartford this weekend for his 50th high school reunion, and believe it or not my phone's ringing off the hook! - stories of great success and tall tales flowing freely!! My reunion wasn't wild last year, but it was warm and so affirming of everything that was important to us 51 years ago. Maga? Not so much, In fact, nowhere to be found. The permanent values prevail.
Our role is to remind our wandering friends of that truth. And while doing so, We need to remember, Trump doesn't get elected in a stable and politically healthy country. Remember the Tea Party? Thornton Wilder's message continues to instruct: we don't denounce simply because we disagree. We no longer ignore. We need to examine and appreciate all aspects of virtue and vice that we are presented with.
If we believe that all voices matter, and thereby advocate for the democratization of history, then we need to be diligent not only against overt attack by MAGA, but simultaneously we need to find a way to engage with MAGA, while refuting the more subtle manipulations of the Meritocracy. It's a pretty big challenge. How do we remind of the permanent values, when the those values, expressed in the Meritocracy have injured so many? An enormous percentage of rural America has yet to be wired, it's sobering to note that far and away the biggest purveyor of alternative satellite connectivity is Elon Musk, through his company StarLink. We understand that computer literacy is a vital component to engage with MAGA. But who's message is amplified and repeated? Remember, our stories are more important than ever!
Life on the ground has dramatically changed this week(4). Suddenly our generation has an imperative, a task vital to our future. When life on the ground changes, the ripple effects can often be more powerful than war or politics. Lets take advantage of this truth. Not to hammer the obvious, but the indictment this week offers momentum and a cresting wave of popularity. But, it will only matter if we win the election. If Trump, or if another Republican wins, Trump gets pardoned and we lose our democracy. It's that simple. We already have the numbers, lets bring them to bear. So engage! Stand Up! Tell a story! Make some phone calls! This is why our stories matter. All of our stories, are part of a movement to change history into the story of life on the ground, same as it ever was. A groundswell of voices of ordinary life. History Chip is here to be the change, to harbor the democratization of history, to be a place where all voices matter. Let's share our stories and contribute to this evolution of how history is made. Share our stories and bend the arc of history towards truth. Share our stories and apply this week's victory, apply the lessons learned to the important work ahead.
Notes and sources . . .
1. William Butler Yeats: The Second Coming
2. David Brooks: NY Times Op Ed: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/02/opinion/trump-meritocracy-educated.html
3. Jonathan Weisman: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/06/us/politics/woke-republicans-poll.html
4. Jean McGavin: https://www.historychip.com/blogs/contemporary-history-in-3-words-jazz-gandhi-technology
Author: Jake Cunningham
Boynton Beach, Florida
August 4th, 2023