Below is a column I wrote eight years ago in the month of August. Very bleak and sad, yet all of the remarks still have resonance eight years later.
The idylls of summer continue, even if the weather got a bit chilly last week. However, the bounteous summer warmth returned for the weekend festivities.
We seemed determined to celebrate the days of warmth and light, even if the world news was so catastrophic. Put on the sunscreen, grab the charge/debit card and make plans to enjoy the summer riches of the region.
However, Thursday happened. Somewhere, we had a friend on an airplane or due to be at an airport soon. The utter randomness of our current lives came home to roost.
It did not surprise me that the conspiracy theorists were so immediately vocal on the blogs. Even the technology Luddites sensed a set-up. And, yet, the reality set in when it was acknowledged that the experts have known for years about the potential for mixing liquid cocktails and iPods, laptops or cellphones. These must-have communication devices had suddenly become lethal weapons.
The bad jokes swiftly surfaced: “Can one board a plane with your own bodily fluids?” But the guffaws seemed muted.
Smugness rose exponentially with loud declarations about not having to travel by plane, or making a conscious decision to NOT use scarce fuel resources.
Frequent flyers whined about the inconveniences.
Suddenly, our sweet, secure world was threatened in a way that we had not foreseen. Yes, we grumble about taking our shoes off. Yes, we find it tiresome to show identity to get into OUR federal, state and local government buildings. Yes, we support our troops. No, we do not like the divisiveness in our political and economic cultures.
We keep adapting, but our cynicism grows also.
The late Walter Lippmann perfectly stated, 65 years ago, our human needs: “Above all, the other necessities of human nature, above the satisfaction of any other need, above hunger, love, pleasure, fame — even life itself — what a man most needs is the conviction that he is contained within the discipline of an ordered existence.”
The Christian right feels that they have a plan for this discipline. But then other religious orders have different plans. Politicians have plans, and screaming talking heads on the radio and cable TV have plans.
As the spin goes faster, as the voter turnout goes lower, as the cost of getting out the message goes higher, where is this whirling taking us? I think deeper into our petty miseries, rather than outward to the broader culture.
What will it take to bring a sense that we are all in this together, and that we can reach out in our communities with nurturing support and respectful acknowledgments of our differences? Where can we create safe harbors without divisiveness and cynicism?
I do believe, eight years later, that there is a renewed idealism starting to take shape. It continues to get clarified. People know that we simply cannot sustain such ongoing divisiveness.
I do think the media — all of it — needs to also lead the way. The trolls who comment need to be cut off from their anonymous profiles. That would be a great place to start toward returning civility to our discussions.
Closer to home
On my daily walks in the neighborhood, I have noticed that a greater number of walkers and runners are willing to greet me in passing.
When I am in Rome each year, I have my own little neighborhood now. Every day, everyone greets each other in passing.
I have tried to bring that sense of community home with me, and I am delighted to report that I do see a greater connection between people.
Others, I expect, will grumble that there is no truth in that, for everyone is just tuned into their own device. To which I respond: The word is out, and people are knowingly disconnecting from their devices.
Now, to return to the sweet thoughts on these last lazy days of summer.
Our gardens are producing bumper crops. Find a food bank to share them with, but please only donate the vegetables or fruit that you would eat. The food banks do not need — nor do they have the time — to compost your compost.
MADELEINE WILDE is a longtime Queen Anne resident. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.