alking under cloudy pre-dawn skies (Mordor skies) to the train station. Was thinking about what had happened the night before, the breaking of the line, the loss of the field, the fall of our future. Amid these morose thoughts, I noticed a Hillary sign hanging like a defeated frigate’s sail in the sweeping lights of passing suburban FUVs.
And it made me think of who I am, what has made me, and the changes before us.
My thoughts went to Winds of War and War and Remembrance which I can still largely remember reading while I was in my teens, some forty years ago. I remember Aaron Jastro ignoring the rise of Fascism in France and Italy, of stalling and pooh-poohing any departure, of dooming himself and Natalie. While details fall away as get older, I still remember feeling that sense of foreboding and dread as society rises to consume those it should serve. This book was so chilling that my little Nazi fixation (the adulation of German organization and drive) was placed on the back shelf of my mind, a thing of childhood, not in keeping with the organized thought and careful deliberation of a thinking man.
Closely related to this, The diary of Anne Frank. Again, here is a young girl demonized by hatreds of a jingoistic movement. In the pages of her doomed diary, we see her clutch at the potential of the life she might have had, a writer’s life. And we watch as the routine housebound days pass, until the diary suddenly ends. Frank ends her days withering in a concentration camp, the final solution of a society so blithely able to cast off those it is discomforted by.
Weary of Nazis, I picked up the thought train after crossing a busy boulevard in a city that kills more pedestrians than any other in the United States, where an FUV might strike you, drag you, and leave you crumpled in the darkness (happens every news cycle). On the relative safety of the opposite pavement, I resumed my musings. In this, I remembered The Tale of Two Cities, and also Scaramouche, for the same reason. Here we see, from the ground level, the results of the poor rising in bellowing blind anger, the committees, the rumble of the guillotine, the roar of the crowd. And here we see what happens when societies and bureaucracies become feral, running wild in the streets, snarling and snapping, killing for the lust of it. The heroes in these book are caught up in it, usually presenting forged passes to officials (former stable hands lifted from their mud) who now feel power pump in their veins.
In all these stories, we see the world gone mad. We see the pain and bloodshed of bottled (and stoked) vengeance. We see the terror and pain and termination that comes from a civilization that fuels itself, not on economic regulation and a defended borders, but on the persecution of the citizenry and the passion of the mob.
As readers, we’ve seen these things. We can see a possible end for toppling order and rule of law.
And that’s what makes us aware of the risks, this foreshadowing provided by literature. In books, we are empathetic to the main character. We live in his skin, we feel the damp perspiration before the checkpoint, the dread of discovery. But in movies, it’s all action heroes, thrills and scenery and in the end, a witty line as the villain is dispatched. In movies, the medals are ceremoniously handed out, the music swells, the credits roll. There is no aftermath, no fearful accounting. We don’t see the results of societal destruction, just a celluliod lie.
Make America great again? I’m just trying to escape the fates of Nineveh and Berlin.
There is only one out. We must be like mid-book heroes. We must stand tall against the winds of adversity.