Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Shocking TV images, frightful news stories, skis to tune

 As American democracy teeters on the brink of self destruction, we're still renting ice skates and sharpening and waxing downhill skis and snowboards, and working on the odd and occasional fat bike. Potential customers still come in hoping to find snowshoes, cross-country skis, and even bicycles in their size. It's hardly a mob scene since the hot rain on Christmas obliterated three feet of snow in 24 hours, but people are finding things to do. The snowshoes were gone before the end of December, but we've actually managed to put together some cross-country ski sets for lucky Cinderellas who come in and find that our selection of glass slippers happens to fit them.

The contrast is strange. Very little of the violent political unrest seeps through to us, despite the persistence of flag-waving disciples of authoritarianism who still keep their banners aloft. It's been interesting to see some of the really long-stranding ones disappear, though. My middle finger is getting a lot less of a workout on the commute now. Instead I beam a little message of thanks that they finally found a line they wouldn't cross. Either that or the dang thing just rotted from a few years of UV exposure, and they didn't bother to replace it. But that can't be true of one of them, which was brandy new right before the election in November. It actually came down a while ago. I forget which atrocity had just preceded it. The comings and goings of the flag and signs at that house were an enigma anyway.

I don't want to find out how long we would be able to continue our business more or less as usual after the country became a fascist dictatorship. I'm afraid that we would barely notice. The heroes of resistance in World War II faced a different kind of conflict. Weapons were more primitive and the battle space was still somewhat defined. The fight appeared long and dangerous and difficult, but Allied forces were on the move. It was just a matter of holding out and helping out as much as possible in occupied territory. But there have been tremendous advances in killing hardware and sadism since then. Not that sadists have invented anything new, but there seem to be more of them, and they can communicate readily to coalesce in locations that currently do not depend on declared control of territory. No place is behind enemy lines. People who want to start something can just get in their trucks or hire some buses and go. Since their political ideology is founded on ignorance, paranoia, and greed, they offer no plan that can be critiqued, other than short-term plans to do harm to elements of society or specific individuals that they believe threaten them.

Racial justice matters little to communities that are basically all white. It's easy for a business owner in a situation like that to say that he doesn't care who is in office as long as he can take care of himself and his family. I could never understand the virulent racism in lily-white northern New England. What the hell do you people know about having to get along with other races? They rag on French Canadians, too. Frenchman jokes abound. The south hasn't gotten over the Civil War. New England still hasn't gotten over the Seven Years' War.

I wonder how many northerners went to fight for the Confederacy during the first Civil War. Based on the attitudes I see today, I would expect a lot of them would do it now.


Rob in VA said...

The last 4 years, especially the most recent year, have laid bare the splintered character of our nation. The citizenry's appetite for conspiracy theories boggles my mind. I theorize that mindless, decades-long consumption of TV "reality" has rendered a large fraction of our population capable of being manipulated to believe virtually anything. Scarcity of critical thinking skills is rampant, intentional ignorance seems to be en vogue.

When weather allows, I venture on my bike into more rural territory. The pastoral valleys are littered by the pervasive presence of trump campaign signs, stubbornly remaining months after the election. Passing pickup trucks whiz by, some proudly sporting huge "rambo trump" flags, others plastered with stickers displaying offensive slogans. Unfocused, uninformed defiance is the new opiate of the masses.

greatpumpkin said...

I wonder what part of VA Rob is in, to compare what I also observed. I live in Arlington, the most liberal/progressive part of the state, part of the Yankee occupation that the rest of the state only tolerates for our tax revenue (I have heard that Northern Virginia and the Norfolk area are the only parts of the state that pay in more than they receive in benefits). I spent the summer traveling the countryside with home buyers looking all over Loudoun, Prince William and Fauquier Counties. It's another world out there.

Something to keep in mind about the Resistance, as in WWII European Resistance, La Resistance, etc, is that they didn't know how it would turn out. They didn't know if they had to prepare for month, years, or centuries of occupation. The decisions they made were not only based on whatever they believed in, but on their assessments of what was most likely to ensure survival. It is easy to see the resisters as good and the collaborators as bad, but it wasn't so clear at the time. You can see the same thing happening here when we are faced with whether to speak up or not, in the face of objectionable words or actions. People are pretty much the same everywhere and have always been.