Thursday, May 12, 2016

We're All In This Together

The name of the play my friend was in was "No End Of Blame," by Howard Barker. It told the story of life, love and loss in post-World War I Hungary. I would love to tell you that I was spellbound by every minute and captivated by the performances of my roommate and the rest of the troupe. I can't, because I was in my twenties and paying attention to anything longer than your standard Hollywood action film was a chore for which I was ill-suited. All the explosions in this one had taken place years before, and the drama was largely of the internal kind. The struggles of a veteran did not enter my conscience until years later, and my concerns became more worldly. I wish I could have that time back and experience the play for what it was without that haze of youth.
But that title has stayed with me. It keeps popping up in ways that I would not have expected, and now it occurs to me that it describes the United States in the past fifty years. Barker wrote it in 1981, about the time that Ronald Reagan was lulling us all back to sleep after a couple decades of strife. It came a couple years after Jimmy Carter's "Crisis of Confidence" speech, and while the two works are primarily connected in my mind alone, I can't help but pull them together to make a larger meaning. I should be honest about how much attention I paid to President Carter's speech at the time: not much. I was seventeen and if I was blind to the realities of the world in my twenties, I was precocious in my teens but my perspective was limited primarily to what I had seen, which wasn't much. Now, as I look back on Carter's words, I feel a little embarrassed.  Maybe I should have been listening more carefully back then: "Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. As a people we know our past and we are proud of it. Our progress has been part of the living history of America, even the world. We always believed that we were part of a great movement of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search for freedom, and that belief has always strengthened us in our purpose. But just as we are losing our confidence in the future, we are also beginning to close the door on our past."
Over the past half century, we have become a nation of finger-pointers. We are litigious to a ridiculous extreme. There is no end of blame for what is happening in our country, but until we start to take stock of our personal responsibilities. I understand that by calling on others to mind their Ps and Qs that I have succumbed to finger-pointing myself, and for that I take full blame. If you won't take my nudging, roll these words around for a moment or two and see if you don't start feeling more empowered to do the right thing: "President Trump." 
I hope I have your attention now. 

1 comment:

Dan said...

These words are as fresh as a clear mountain stream.