Thursday, July 18, 2019

What We Are Talking About Now

The reporter for Politico told Terry Gross that the government had failed in its basic function of record keeping and admitted to making orphans of hundreds of children simply because families had been separated and could never again be reconnected. She was aghast at the thought. He called it one of the greatest scandals in modern American history.

Who's talking about it now?

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere else to get to and sailed calmly on.

What did Trump say, and when did he last say it?
It is too much to say this is another distraction; that Trump is leading us away from what we should be paying attention to.  In truth, he's responding to the failure of his distraction, to the blowback of his racist xenophobia.  How in the world did those crowds come to change "SEND HER BACK!"?  It's a mystery to him; you have to go ask the people in North Carolina.  He tried to stop it by speaking quickly.  After 13 seconds, he began disparaging Rep. Omar by name and nationality.  How was that supposed to stop the chants?  How would he know, he doesn't know why they started in the first place.

The Trail of Tears.  The slave trade, enshrined in the Constitution itself and only finally extirpated after a bloody Civil War the roots of which still haunts us.  That legacy of racism is as American as apple pie, and still we deny racism is a reality in this country.  Even identifying it is not what decent people do.  The Tuskegee experiments.  The internment of American citizens of Japanese descent.  The lynchings across America that were an open secret for decades.  The cruelty of the "orphan trains" and the callousness of "Three generations of imbeciles is enough!" The scandalous treatment of human beings by government that we are sure today would rip governments open and cause nations to fall and bring out the righteous wrath of the populace chanting "NEVER AGAIN!" and "NOT IN MY NAME!"

And who remembers the orphans of the last 12 months?

"About suffering they were never wrong, the Old Masters...."  Suffering is what happens to us, and none of us suffered the loss of our children because we were fleeing violence or even just poverty to try to make it to America (which is the story of our ancestors, but we're here now, so no matter, never mind).  Our suffering is what the President said last that outrages us; our suffering is the "scandal" of a President disparaging a sitting member of Congress simply because of her national origin or her religious beliefs or even just her political opinions.  The true governmental scandal, the breakdown of government not by crisis by by incompetence and cruelty and viciousness and stupidity enforced from the Oval Office itself down to the meanest Border Patrol station on the Rio Grande, that crisis we've already forgotten, in favor of the one we can see (children in cages!) or the one we can read tweets about.

Were you there when the scandals occurred?  Oh, how could people let that happen?  How could people ignore such horrors?  How could people remain silent and do nothing?  How could they ignore and forget?

Easily.  Easy as pie.  Easy-peasy.  We do it all the time.  The chair of the NRCC is right:  Trump just said it wrong.  But what he said claims more of our attention than what he did, and what he said will last until the next outrage; what he did is permanent in the lives of people, but people who are not us.  People who are not politicians or pundits or journalists or on-line anywhere.  What matters is what happens to us, and that happens on Twitter and cable TeeVee and we're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore!  What's the next outrage?  What's the next scandal?  That's what REALLY matters!  We always have somewhere else to get to, after all.

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