As I write this, the leaf blowers are out in full force in the neighborhood, filling the air with complaint. From this observation you might assume this post is about noise pollution. Well it is, but not in the way you may think. The air – in particular the media airwaves and the atmosphere surrounding our private conversations this past week – has been filled to overflowing with a complaint of a far more serious and toxic nature.
I am not a political writer. But I cannot let the events of the past week and the alarming unfolding of their consequences go without comment. The noise of negativity that has blared so deafeningly this autumn (and summer and spring) electoral season feels almost like a physical burden. The weight and volume of its decibels have piled along the curb of reason so deep that it is hard to see any sign of a familiar or a safe path ahead.
It is hard to know what to think. Impossible to know what to do.
Friends have forwarded links and essays that either raise the level of alarm and despair, or suggest a kind of urge toward ‘wait and see’ that threatens a descent into complacency – the first step toward capitulation.
I was sitting in a meeting the other day and I overheard the person behind me say he was quite satisfied with how the election had come out. Suddenly, I did not want him breathing on me. I didn’t want to share the same air space. And although I was ashamed of this reaction, I did not know how to overcome it.
I do not do well with confrontation. I know my default impulse, in the heat of the moment, is to lash out, hit back, insult and belittle. Or (what I usually do) say nothing in fear of letting loose my impulses. Neither reaction is useful. But even if I could muster a reasoned response, a calm, nuanced argument, would it make a difference? Can we even hear each other anymore? And if we can’t, do we now face a future where the angry whine of the engine of fear will always drown out the quieter hum of civil and truthful discourse?
It is early, I know. But it feels like an ending.
I attach again the poem I wrote at the start of it all – an ekphrastic poem in response to Gray and Gold, a painting by John Rogers Cox, in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. His 1942 painting was a response to the United States entering World War II. Crossroad