History is (not, it turns out) dead

I remember thinking in middle school, and even high school despite the radar blip of the Gulf War, that history was dead. It had surely passed us by. Those people long ago were fortunate to have lived in times that mattered, times when things were happening.  Events of the time seemed far away from my suburban Connecticut town. I loved tales of long ago, preferably far away places…but no matter.

The evening news only ever seemed to report fires and break-ins. So why watch? The local paper was poorly written and seemed to cover the same sorts of banality. A chance encounter with the New York Times in a friend’s home later in high school left me gasping at the sophistication of language and the complexity of the stories. But since it was my only chance to read it, I didn’t have time to feel that history was still breathing.

All those years, I was soaking in bits of history from other times. I know a thing or two about history by now. And as an adult I’ve found news outlets that cover more of the world than the local evening news and the regional paper. So for a decade or more I’ve also been tuned in to current events.

These days it seems I can barely tear my eyes away  from the headlines or my ears away from the analysis. We are flooded by the facts and vignettes of history–loud, angry, calamitous, defiant, shocking history. Every day some new revelation has me narrating headlines and key points from the news at my family. My husband pointed out that I’ve been angry a lot lately.

It’s been awhile since I shook off the youthful naivete that nothing new will ever happen in the world. The old adage that those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it, is so familiar it had worn thin–the kind of thing you know intellectually, but don’t feel in your bones. Until…

Flash forward to 2017. It feels like we’re watching colorized newsreels from another era…several in fact. It feels like we’ve slipped into the pages of a dystopian series…and as an avid reader I know those get much worse before the end.

And then today. Today the spokesman for the leader of the free world chose to curtail the free press. Legitimate news agencies were barred from participating in the daily presidential briefing.

Curtain please.

(Spotlight stage left. Cut to black.)

Doctor enters and crosses downstage. Removes surgical mask and gloves. Wipes brow, clearly exhausted.

I’m sorry. Democracy suffered severe trauma. She’s in critical condition.  Without her free press, she’s been hemorrhaging. We haven’t been able to stop the bleeding. Without a transfusion of a free exchange of ideas, and the ability to speak truth to power, Democracy won’t last the night.

You can go in and see her now. Prepare yourself. The end could come quickly. It would be best to say your goodbyes and make your peace in case the worst happens.

Any of you who are able to donate free speech, freedom to assemble, or protection of habeas corpus, the clinic is open.  We’ll keep her on life support for now. Anything you can do could make the difference.

Democracy was the best among us. I’ll be sorry to see her go.

(Lights up on empty stage.)

History is happening now.

It was easy to judge the characters in historical fiction. Easy, from the outside, to see what they should have done. It’s harder to see our way through right now. Clearly we must make a stand.

I just hope when 2017 feels like ancient history that those reading our story will see that we did not go quietly when democracy was threatened. Please, don’t let me be a passive bystander when it matters most.

 

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Blustery

Do you remember the Ray Bradbury story, “All Summer in a Day”? Well, these past several days have felt like all winter in a week. Snow, and ice, and freezing rain have pelted us here in Connecticut. Temperatures plummeted. And it seems like the wind has been howling, whipping around the edges of my house, raging across the roads.

I don’t know about you, but when blustery winter weather moves in I hunker down. I seek out the coziest arrangement I can manage–ideally fuzzy pajamas, a pot of tea, and a stack of books. Hey, as long as we’re imagining the ideal, let’s throw in a crackling fire and some peace and quiet.

Reality is never quite so idyllic. There’s the shovelling, obviously. And the household chores that collect during the school week. And even though midterms are finally over, my freshman son still has piles of homework that somehow take more of my time than my own collection of schoolwork. My younger son, while he needs little attention to his homework, nevertheless feels left out while our focus is elsewhere. Add to this the not-peace-and-quiet when both boys are frolicking together, then when there’s been just too much frolicking and togetherness. And somehow there’s as much swirling and drifting inside the house as out.

Ready? Here comes the metaphor within a metaphor.

This whole winter has been like that. With the state of the world such as it is, every news headline, and many social media posts send my insides into a squall. Half formed reactions and ideas pile atop each other, only to be blown across my brain into new drifts higher than I could climb and deep enough for two active boys to dig forts into. It feels like no matter how fast I shovel the (alarming) information, the driveway is covered in a new inch of snow before I even make my way to the mailbox. Maybe you’ve felt it too.

Strangely enough, I find myself relentlessly seeking input from my NY Times subscription, NPR One, and the many socially active authors and educators I follow on Twitter. When I pause the input the thoughts start to swirl again. At least while I’m scanning or listening I can focus on one thing at a time. But the blizzard, the avalanche of information builds up. You’ve probably seen a shopping center parking lot recently. There comes a time when there is nowhere else to put the accumulating snow.

In the middle of the blizzard, a colleague convinced me to participate in the Slice of Life Challenge (previous post). As I dusted off the keyboard and pulled out a notebook something surprising happened. The wind died down. The background noise faded into the background. I could see the post-blizzard sunset. blizzard-sunset

I forgot writing could do that.

So tonight, when the winds started to gust, I pulled out the notebook again.

First the pen can calm the storm… Later it can attempt to be mightier than the sword. Maybe writing can be whatever we need it to be in the moment.

Enjoy your own blizzard sunsets.

*tap tap tap* Is this thing on?

Testing, testing, one, two, three…

Oh, hi there. I’ve left my poor little blog alone for so long, I didn’t know it if was still working.

I just wanted to shake off the dust and test the batteries before the March Slice of Life Challenge… It seems to be working.

I’ve noticed the Slice of Life Challenge before. I thought, “Wow! What a great idea. I should do that someday when things aren’t so [busy, overwhelming, etc. etc.].”

But this year, a colleague invited me to slice.

I can skip the gym because nobody’s expecting me, and I can justify it because 100 other things need my attention. When I was part of the swim team or the crew team, I showed up dutifully every day, even at 4:30 in the morning. The difference is, people were expecting me. I had to show up or three other girls in my boat weren’t going to get to the lake.

Writing can feel like that, too. It feels like an indulgence sometimes, or a burden. But this year, I have a teammate expecting me to show up.

That might be just the support I needed to dust off the old blog and get writing.

Thanks, Writing Friend! I’ll be waiting [writing] for you, too.