Melancholy and Rage: Howard County in Physical and Virtual Realities
The quote by the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould keeps flashing across my mind:
“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein's brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” [italics added]
Meanwhile, as we approach what would have been his 80th birthday, the sedulous ignorance which infects our population has somehow managed to turn the undeniable into the debatable; the horrific into the somehow acceptable. While some labor to shift the Overton window towards a more compassionate society, others are loud and menacing proponents for shattering the glass…or burning the house down entirely.
I had the misfortune of reading a post that originated in the HoCo Neighbors Something-or-Other today. So, I revisited what I could see of the group (having long since been shown the door, much to my mental well-being). Too many remembrances of screeds past.
A cursory glance at some recent posts revealed, in no particular order:
· Klan apologia
· Reflexive, thoughtless nationalist triumphalism
· An anti-busing statement within the context of a thread on slavery and genocide in the United States as well as the Holocaust
· Downplaying the public health threat of the Delta variant
· Blatantly incorrect definitions of racism (including the non-existent “reverse racism”)
· Critical Race Theory denunciations
· Conspiracy mongering
· A complete misunderstanding about the removal of Confederate statues. Hint: books are for learning; statues are for celebrating. Think of it this way, I am certain many of us can agree that learning about Nazi Germany is important while also being opposed to having statues of Hitler erected. Of course, I am far less certain about that “many of us” contention these days.
· People amplifying factually inaccurate statements about COVID and the science behind its transmission, prevention, and overall public health impact.
In short, a poisoned gruel of hate and incomprehension. And yet, as has been noted, the purveyors of malice do not merely exist digitally. They reside in our own communities. We walk past them in grocery stores, we see them shopping at the Mall, we hear their horns honking as we wait at lights.
Knowing what might be going on in the darkest space above their shoulders, how can anyone let down their guard, even for the briefest of moments?
I will close with this from Bertolt Brecht:
“Whose tomorrow is tomorrow? And whose world is the world?”
What is to be done?