Not doomed to repeat it – doomed to never escape it.

I had occasion today to reflect that we may well be into the most turbulent and divisive times this country has seen since the 60s. And I think I meant the 1960s, but it’s possible it will get worse before it gets better and I might end up meaning the 1860s. That’s not hyperbole, that’s me paying attention.

First, I have only to pay close attention to my own situation: the most precarious I’ve ever been in, including my stint as a single mother working for just over minimum wage in the 1990s. At the time, I lived in California and there was both a state sponsored social safety net and my nearby family to help me out. (I availed myself of both at different times.) Now I have neither of those things. I am middle aged, uninsured and suffering from untreated health conditions, in the midst of retraining for a relevant career that at best will garner me lower-middle class wages for the rest of my life (at a student loan rate that, thanks to last night’s Senate vote, I’ll be unable to claim tax shelter from), and scraping together the money to pay my bills each month by virtue of a limited divorce settlement, selling my plasma and relying on my adult daughter to make up the difference.

Meanwhile, I and many of my peers wait for access to unfettered internet to expire and watch our government pass laws to both keep us in poverty and destroy the environment around us.

And I have it pretty good. I eat regularly, I can get out of bed unassisted, all five senses are in working order, I just got a part time job and enrolled in classes for spring semester. I have friends, heat, a working vehicle, and a computer. There are people I care about who can’t claim any of those things.

Those are just the personal stories. Every day I watch the government and my neighbors tear each other apart over disagreements about human dignity and as much as I see it happening in real time I still can’t quite wrap my head around it. The aging population – the ones who stuck daisies in gun barrels and marched for civil rights and sent men to the moon and brought them back from war and created art and literature that changed the world – have become scared of their own shadow. They, and in some instances their children, when faced with video evidence of police brutality and an avalanche of numbers about corporate greed, lash out at victims and claim that evidence is “fake news”. They rewrote history books to call the transatlantic slave trade “immigration” and they put spikes on benches to keep the homeless on the ground – or in it. They stand in pulpits and preach hate, then hide behind their god and cry persecution when contradicted. They steal future and resources from their grandchildren and blame iPhones.

We tend to look back and history and see what progress was made. That’s called survivor’s bias. Some people didn’t survive the 60s. And I don’t mean the graves that we keep sacrosanct or the bank holidays we use to sleep in. I mean plain, simple, everyday people didn’t survive. They starved to death. They died from abscessed teeth. They asphyxiated in garages. They slid off roads with no guard rails. They drank until their liver gave up. They got cancer from lead paint. And before they died, they suffered. Their families suffered. Some daughter, somewhere, watched her daddy get a toothache, be unable to afford or access a dentist, watched his face get puffier and puffier, until one day he got a fever, fell asleep and never woke up.

Once, we considered that kind of suffering beneath human dignity – both his, and our own. I guess we don’t feel that way any more. I wonder if I’m destined for an end as undignified. If any of my friends are. I fear it’s quite possible.

I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people. In some cases, the argument isn’t that there is a large segment of our population that doesn’t care, but that they aren’t even willing to admit that their actions effect other people.  They are so concerned with protecting themselves – from injury, insult, or intelligence – that they will pull out an endless chain of excuses as to why “others” deserve what they get, but “I” is a protected class. They are so isolated by their fear of change, their fear of losing their privilege, that they have developed an entire system of blindness to the indignity of their fellow humans. And then they elected people who capitalize on it.

I used to be interested in history. I used to wonder about the mindset of people who went to public executions. I don’t wonder anymore, and I realize that this is history – right now.

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4 thoughts on “Not doomed to repeat it – doomed to never escape it.”

  1. No one who writes like you do should have the financial problems you do. You should be writing a column in a paper with a wide circulation. Have you submitted any of your essays to newspapers? You have an incredible gift and deserve a wide audience. If you would put a reblog button on your blog, I would reblog any of the articles I’ve read and the readers would start out in my blog with a “teaser” then come to your blog to finish reading. I don’t know how wide your readership is, but it should be huge! There is also a local English language magazine/newspaper here in Ajijic that I have referred a few bloggers to. You can see it online but it is also a print magazine. It is the Ojo del Lago. I know they’d print your essays and if you need an introduction, I’ll tip off the editor. You have earned two new fans as okc forgottenman has become an enthusiastic reader as well. My blog is at judydykstrabrown.com or my email is jubob2@hotmail.com. I’ve also sent a message asking you to friend me on facebook.. Judy

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    1. That’s a really sweet thing to say, thank you. The truth is you could wallpaper my apartment with the rejection letters I’ve received. It works out better when I just write for myself, uncensored. I am supremely gratified that a single thing I wrote on facebook made a connection with such a large number of people. To speak for others is an honor and a privilege. I’ve done it a couple of times in my entire life and I remember each circumstance with a brightness and warmth that rivals the sun. But it’s not a particularly reliable way to earn a living, and anyway – I’m unequal to the task. I’m not looking for notoriety or even a wider audience. I am enough.

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      1. Most writers get a lot of rejections, but I know what you mean. It is exhausting to go the route of publishers and agents, but if you self published a book, even of your essays, I would certainly buy it. You really do have a talent and it is important you reach a wider audience not for your own notoriety but because your words carry such power and engage our interest!! Just supporting, not pushing.

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