Originally published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette September 30, 2021
The late Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman’s, “What, me worry?” was a dimwit. Here’s a list of recent headline bugaboos that trouble me. You may have similar anxieties — feel free to add on.
1. Red Soxxer Chris Sale had Covid-19 twice and is unvaccinated.
2. Booster shots are here for some and soon for all. Who’s next?
3. In Texas masks are required in schools but illegal other places?
4. Biden is either past it or America’s savior president? Stay tuned.
5. Sen. Joe Manchin owns four coal mines. Does he vote for us?
6. The Mexican border. The former guy’s “beautiful wall” is holey.
7. Restaurant owners. God bless them, Seniors still can’t eat in safely.
8. It’s 2021. Black and L.G.B.T.Q Americans earned equality long ago!
9. Conservative Catholic bishops being more political than pastoral?
10. Will Democrats vote for hard and social infrastructure — like FDR?
W.B. Yeats: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer; things fall apart; the center cannot hold; the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
In the aftermath of World War I, and the Irish rebellion of 1917, poet William Butler Yeats wrote “The Second Coming.” In this after-war year, we find ourselves in an American vortex of swirling confusion. This nation was bleeding for 20, no, 70 years of wars abroad until, inevitably, the worst came home to roost in the tumult of Trump’s insurrection. Poets, like Yeats, cut to the chase while many live lives of wishful ignorance.
Yeat’s “citizen/falcon” has drifted so far afield that he cannot hear his own truth. The pillars of society and community are forgotten in search of a freedom that translates to selfishness. For our sins, we view “big lie” rallies of DJT’s cultists protesting masks, COVID shots and “stolen” elections.
Amazingly, lifesaving vaccines so deeply desired months ago are denounced. The center cannot hold when uninformed advice runs amok across the internet. Misleading messages are running roughshod over science, over enlightened voices, over reason itself.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster promises to fight President Joe Biden to “the gates of hell” so that his people have the right to die from COVID-19. No, you can’t make this stuff up! It’s right there on the telly. Anarchy loosed upon the world. We honor the dead with a count, on track toward 700,000!
In August 2020, I recycled a 1998 remembrance that I’d written for the Springfield Union-News. My Frank Sinatra memories were similar to a 1997 column on the loss of Princess Diana, both were inspired by the death of a newsworthy figure. I confess to taking a lifelong interest in famous and not-so-famous lives. It’s a built-in habit, seeking human experiences that in large and small ways connect us. I’d prefer not to read your COVID-19 denier obit to ask, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, why didn’t you get vacinnated?
Last year’s Sinatra piece was prompted by a revealing TV biography, warts and all, then streaming on Netflix. A funny thing happened because of my mid-century musical preference. A reader took umbrage, writing a hot letter to the editor blasting Sinatra, this columnist, and the racist and sexist 20th century into which I was born.
Writers must own what they write. However, I’m quite confident that racism and sexism will be hard to find in my opinions. One month before Frank’s, my subject was, “Waking to white privilege.” I could quote you a list of similar topics, but believe that finding cluelessness to America’s faults or my own, would be rare. The latest take on racism is that it resides inside each and every one of us because American society was built that way. The charitable efforts of Bill Gates now, or even Frank Sinatra in his day, surely inadequate to inequities across our country — gaps are worse now.
The GOP has found a new whipping boy in critical race theory, which began and belongs in the Academy. Ignore bloviators on Faux News.
In conclusion, living is hard for too many this autumn. Seniors with time to spare and loads of expeience may offer useful guidance. Against all odds, we live in hope. My friend points me to the English anchoress and mystic, Julian of Norwich (1343-1416) who, during the fraught years of Europe’s Black Death, prayed and promised: “All shall be well:”
From her mouth to God’s ears!