“There is no better test of character than when you’re tossed into crisis. That’s when we see one’s true colors shine through.”
— Tess Gerritsen, bestselling author and fascinating human
It’s always darkest before the dawn, they say, although I’m not sure who ‘they’ are. Years ago I heard a comedian speculate that ‘they’ might be an old couple in Kansas but I don’t trust old Kansans anymore, so I’m not confident of their collective wisdom. In fact, collective wisdom itself is suspect, here in our brave new world, where the unexpected seems to be writing the script.
Weather emergency Jonas, headed to the East Coast today, hit the Pea Patch earlier in the week. Forced to make the 60 mile round trip to town for meds, I left early, relying on Weather Channel reports. Freezing rain started two hours earlier than projected and by the time I was headed home, the road was an ice rink.
I passed at least a dozen smashed or abandoned vehicles, along with a firetruck, a wrecker and an ambulance stuck on the side of the road. Roadside ruts had been cut even deeper by intense rainfall and flooding earlier in the month.
Rounding a glazed-over corner, I spun into a ditch but was able to back onto dirt and then slip and skid, white-knuckled, for another few minutes to reach the only convenience store within ten miles. There I joined a dozen or more anxious people waiting for the county gravel/salt truck, including two Amish women (one with a newborn) who had tied their horse and buggy to a stack of firewood at the side of the building. When the truck finally arrived, we all followed it as far as we could. It took over two hours to drive the 30 miles home.
I’ll bet some of you had a story like that, or perhaps you will by the time Jonas passes by. That sense of emergency (and deliverance) began a week that seemed to bend all the old platitudes into pretzels. Take ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’, for instance. That was not my heart response to watching Sarah Palin hitch her (band)wagon to the Trumpinator in Tulsa.
Her nearly frenetic enthusiasm was not unexpected, as she’s been wagging her tail since his numbers began to climb. Perhaps this is a meeting of minds in the Snake Oil Salesman Union, ‘rock ‘n rollers’ and ‘holy rollers’ aside. Me, I think she wants a place in his cabinet. If she’d vibrated any faster in that performance, I’m confident her head would have exploded.
What was unexpected is that Sarah’s stream-of-consciousness ‘word salad’ style has definitely wilted with the public (watch Colbert emulate the demise of sentence structure here.) One conservative blogger accused her of being drunk, suggesting she go home. Eight years after her ascent into stardom, however brief, paying a bit more attention at home might be excellent advice.
Her daughter, Bristol — sometime Dancing With The Stars contestant and well-paid abstinence-only speaker — continues to stump for conservative religious principles while nursing her second out-of-wedlock child. Bristol is a blogger and committed critic of anything Obama proposes, especially if it includes birth control. While the young woman seems to have failed at abstinence, she’s learned radical rhetoric at Mama’s knee.
Meanwhile, Sarah’s firstborn, Track, was arrested for domestic abuse.
Diagnosed with PTSD, Track was the child pointed to on the stump in 2008, serving in Iraq and providing ‘patriot’ cred for the (as yet unknown) candidate known as the ‘Hillbilly from Wasilla.’ The young man not only beat on his girlfriend this week in a drunken rage, but threatened suicide with an assault rifle, and — by golly — we just know he’s got one, don’t we? You betcha!
Sarah addressed the incident in her speech by blaming Obama for ignoring the needs of veterans, which is another of those Bagger ‘truthiness’ accusations totally lacking credibility. I was pleased with the blogger response on this Mother Jones report which included a number of veterans’ family members calling bullshit on the premise.
White House wives, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, have made tireless efforts to see to it that returning vets get their needs met, despite funding obstruction on the right. While it’s never enough, sadly, they have overhauled support systems available to America’s military, wounded in body and/or in mind.
Still, while my heart didn’t get fonder at Sarah babbling like a tweaker, the same can’t be said for the extremist evangelicals who claim her. According to longtime Fundy leader, Ralph Reed:
Palin’s brand among evangelicals is as gold as the faucets in Trump tower. Endorsements alone don’t guarantee victory, but Palin’s embrace of Trump may turn the fight over the evangelical vote into a war for the soul of the party.
That clearly describes what we’re already seeing on the political right, candidates gone shrill and Baggers at war with establishment types. The evangelicals were not happy with Trump trashing their golden boy, Ted Cruz — who meets almost all of their particulars for a Gawd-inspired politician — but now that Sarah’s taken Trump’s part, they may forgive him his secularism, disturbingly displayed in his grotesquely shallow remarks at Falwell’s Liberty University this week.
It seems Donald is unaware of the platitude that a closed mouth gathers no feet, although that one is new (and something of a Jude-ism,) not old. Or perhaps he knows his audience even better than do I, because not all the snake handlers found Donald’s unfamiliarity with religious principle insulting, especially when he salted his usual me-me-me commentary with insipid statements like “The Bible is the best.” (South Park fans: I can almost hear Mr. Mackey follow that up with “Mkay?”)
Perhaps Donald’s introduction by Liberty’s president — Falwell’s son, Jerry Jr. — softened their expectation, likening Donald to his own dearly departed Dad (of Jerry Falwell vs. Larry Flint fame.) A Salon piece, which referred to Falwell, Pat Robertson and the Donald as hucksters, put it this way:
The comparison between Trump and Falwell Sr. is apt, as both men are vile opportunists preying on credulous idiots (although I imagine this wasn’t what Falwell Jr. had in mind). But likening Trump to Martin Luther King Jr. and Christ is preposterous and an insult to thinking Americans. Trump is a religious illiterate whose adult life in affront to the core message of the Gospel. Falwell’s glowing remarks reveal, to no one’s surprise, where his real interests lie.
I’ll give him an Amen on that one! Trump, Robertson and Falwell behave as unprincipled charlatans in pursuit of a buck, happy to relieve the widow of her last mite and follow up with a letter asking for more. Sadly, that’s what American Christianity has come to and the Donald’s saving grace in this company is that he’s only kissing up to them, not one of them.
I like that the writer has a good opinion of thinking Americans, who we can only hope are watching all this with a critical eye. They’ve been pushed right to the edge these last years and seem, finally, to be aware that they’re standing on the cliff, with no further room for missteps. Truly, if there are enough of them to push back, now, then all this angst will have served us well.
So perhaps the darkness before the dawn is too easy a cliché for this moment. It’s dark only in some minds, only in some opinions, only in some contests, and especially as we’re all beginning to see true colors everywhere we look. It’s dark only if we think we’re victims. It’s dark only if we decide we can’t overcome. It’s dark only if we refuse to look for the light or notice the transformation occurring all around us.
Poised on the meltdowns and breakthroughs Eric spoke of in this week’s piece, we are witness to true colors showing here, there and everywhere. I hope we don’t have to lose additional liberties and protections in order to see them clearly enough to reject what is cynical and heartless. And I trust that those who think the growing movement backing Bernie is just another ‘hopey changey’ exercise in unrealistic politics will rue the day they thought so.
Speaking to the dysfunctionality of strident nationalism and constant warfare, Robert Koehler wrote on the concept of Earth Community, a description of where we must go if we are to survive.
At this juncture, there is only one American presidential candidate who would take this information to heart, based on colors thus displayed, and even he would be hard pressed to slow up the military-industrial complex that rules our present era (but of them all, I’ll bet Bernie would be the least afraid to do so.)
Earth Community … organizes by partnership, unleashes the human potential for creative co-operation, and shares resources and surpluses for the good of all. Supporting evidence for the possibilities of Earth Community comes from the findings of quantum physics, evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, anthropology, archaeology, and religious mysticism. It was the human way before Empire; we must make a choice to relearn how to live by its principles.
This is the goal, the vision of evolution. This is what we must embrace if we are to survive. It doesn’t sound easy, but Noam Chomsky thinks it’s as easy as making a decision. “Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism,” says Noam. “Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it.”
Let’s take responsibility for the truth that the true colors — the character — of those who will assist us to get there can only reflect our own as we awaken to the possibilities. We ourselves are, first and foremost, our most ambitious project! The unexpected is not writing the script, we are! And for many of us, this process of living in crisis has given us opportunity to explore our own character, to grow into better, stronger versions of ourselves.
Although we can expect the logical consequences of what went before, we are tasked, now, to take control of our present by focusing our intention and creating a future in which we are no longer afraid of the dark, unloving or unfair to our selves or our fellows, and one in which our true colors go ahead of us as a benediction. For those with ‘eyes to see’ and ‘ears to hear,’ it can be no other way.