The old Robert Frost poem about two different paths we choose from reminds me of this past Christmas, New Years, and 2001. I swear some scientist invented a machine that transferred personalities between different time periods; targeted the Left and the Right, switching personalities back and forth between the two across the span of time.
Eight years ago many of us were still angry and suspicious regarding the last election, the winning candidate… and far more than just “suspicious” about all that had happened during the year after that election . An administration was moving as fast as it could, pushing an agenda we found offensive at best; doing all it could to make its vision for America come true. The anger on the Left was pulsating; on high, vibrant and filled with hate.
Do any of these feelings seem at all familiar to some of you who didn’t vote for Obama, now?
I think what brought about this edition of Inspection was a conversation with a fellow member of a homebrew club who I knew was often on the opposite side, politically speaking. We were discussing health care and all the changes in the bills.
It was just a general conversation without getting down to the nuts and bolts where, I’m sure, if we got down to specifics we might have spent the rest of our time trying to tighten one nut or bolt that the other had just loosened. That pretty much describes every civil discussion I’ve ever had when we are on opposing sides. It can be fun. It can be enlightening. It usually doesn’t change much.
Those “civil” debates pretty much are extinct these days, which is why I often avoid discussing issues in public; or even with relatives.
Then, during our talk on health care, we got to the point where she mentioned one medical specialist she knows who said he would have a strong desire to simply blow those bolts away. And, yes, this is a vague reference to hatred for a certain president. Not that the specialist said he would assassinate; just that if health care passes, he would have a strong desire to.
I found it a bit frightening that we have gotten so quickly to this point, yet I also recalled a lot of the rhetoric that came out of the Left that had to do with Iraq, the Patriot Act, New Orleans, Blackwater and damn near everything that happened during the Bush administration. I don’t recall the reaction being quite that stark; even from those who hated Bush and Cheney the most. But the two can be compared. They seem to come from the same dark place.
I will say, at least from my perspective, the Right’s capacity to hate seems deeper and surrounds more extreme violent fantasies. I don’t recall anything like Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, some of the more violent militia stuff like in the Turner Diaries, on the Left… at least not since the 60s and early 70s. But I admit: my perspective is skewed by my own opinions, just like everyone else.
2001 or 2009, both sides had been given a true gift, even the supposed “losers.” Losing doesn’t deserve all the angst that surrounds it: red hot; New Years night-like, fireworks. The gift may actually be better than what was given to the winners… who often get lazy from getting exactly what they thought they wanted; only to find out that no gift fulfills all promises. Disappointment always seems to follow, not matter how much you like the gift. Not getting what you want, on the other hand, helps you get stronger; reassess priorities… and rearranges your life in ways getting what you think you want ever can.
But to that specialist, to all who may entertain violent fantasies: you may find bomb throwers never get either gift, or have their wishes granted. When they do follow the wrong path they may bring down someone they hate, but looking back at the results of such martyrdom, I am always reminded of a now cliched movie quote…
“If you strike me down now I will become stronger than you can imagine.”
This season offers the end of a year, the birth of the new. When we choose how we react to our blessings, or what we think is a curse, we need to think carefully about which path we take. Some paths chosen lead to a warmer: better, place; where we gather to celebrate or commiserate: think of how we can achieve what we did not. Some paths chosen lead to a frozen place: spaces heart and hearth can never warm.
I chose warmth.
How about you?
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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Picture courtesy Eleanor Hutchinski