I keep wanting our country to be rescued. Keep listening for that Hans Zimmer refrain of rousing music to signify the cavalry or a sudden dashing appearance as the Forces of Good appear on the horizon. I’m a dolt when it comes to Super Heroes; the current roster of animated and cinematic airborne wonders that my generation knows like the alphabet.
Everything I’ve learned as a child rebel, independent-thinking artist, maniacally-driven woman, tells me it is wrong to just sit and marvel at the crumbling of one’s society and culture. But what to do? Who to trust? Chadwick Boseman is gone, poor valiant warrior. Where is Joan of Arc, Wonder Woman, Maya Angelou…? Ruth Bader Ginsburg did her best but had limited time and had to fight with the other caped crusaders of her judicial clan.
At the very start of WWII, Denmark proudly proclaimed itself “neutral” and slapped their hands together, sure that was as good a done deal as one of Monty Hall’s Zonk prizes. Only six months later, Germany invaded and took over control of their country, thumbing their nose at Denmark’s King, Christian X.
The Nazis did permit many institutions to remain open and functioning. At the same time, the British managed to drop guns and ammunition from planes to help arm the Danes. But it wasn’t until the Reich pronounced their intentions to round up all Jews and demanded the death penalty for any resistance fighters or saboteurs, that Denmark made a stand.
King Christian X went into isolation, all the officials and secretaries quit en masse. The Germans could not fathom how to run the civil side of the country, so their response was to simply impose martial law. It was ordered that within two days, all Jews would be arrested and taken to extermination camps.
In a remarkable show of unified compassion during those 24 hours, resistance fighters and local fisherman made endless secretive trips by night using small boats and trawlers to rescue and relocate 7,220 Danish Jews. The King helped finance this massive mission of transporting 95% of Denmark’s Jews to unoccupied Sweden. (Admirably, Sweden received and sheltered a total of 16,000 refugees during the war). Simply glorious: the wonderfully orchestrated civil heroics that restored the Danish sense of independence and integrity and saved almost all of its Jewish populace.
We are aching for such a leader, for a caring, unified country to help salvage and restore our sense of humanity. Instead, a Mondrian-designed diagram of divisive rules abound; strict, bold black lines and boundaries set with disregard to human rights. The battlegrounds have been shaped and drawn–similarly to Hitler’s rule–between a democratic state and totalitarian system of command.
Equally terrifying is the fact that most lawlessness and criminal endeavors are the efforts of high ranking government officials, with more coverups in the White House itself than the Mafioso practice of encasing victims in concrete to enrich the bed of the Hudson River.
Americans have been rendered sitting ducks in a re-election game with a decidedly carny atmosphere. Mailing absentee ballots are as risky as throwing softballs into grids of toilet bowl rims, rigged to expel them again. Republican barkers insist that everything is safe, is secure, is going to make the world a better place. But the sightlines all around them depict a carousel of ghettos, infernos, tortured citizens and rank discrepancies of ethics.
The overriding fear of fixed elections, the likely clandestine involvement of Russian authorities (whose last endeavors four years ago proved so successful), is hard to contend with from a practical, emotional or defensive position. A huge outraged demographic is striving to counter the damaging potential disaster that looms. VOTE, we urge the public, despite the blatant fact that the means for voting are being sabotaged daily, mailboxes and sorting equipment dismantled and carted away.
When I was twelve, a tall and veritable tomboy, my eight year old brother would run back to our house pursued by hotheaded ten year olds (I never knew why they chased or were mad at him). I would simply take up the gauntlet of protection and roaring, run them off. Surprisingly, they always turned and fled in the face of my angry gestures and shouts. Sometimes, a few well-launched stones helped. Inside the house, when my mother was furious at Robert for something and chased him round the downstairs with a butcher’s knife, I would calmly hold the front door open for him to escape through, then close it quietly. She would skitter around the corner hollering and stop when she realized her target had disappeared. Glaring at me, the knife tightly clenched, she’d spit, “WHERE”? I’d shrug and retreat upstairs. I always waited until I heard her in the kitchen again, before tiptoeing down to let myself out too.
The forest surrounding our house was a definite lure, between the thick, mossy trunks of trees, vines and floral wonders that wound through its lace of fallen limbs. Like one of our fourteen cats, I hunted for small foraging creatures, if just to admire or sketch them. But the woods also proved a fine haven and escape from my mother’s tirades.
My brother has two grown sons now, with whom he’s forged an intimate, caring and close relationship that is the antithesis of what we grew up with at home. His wife, a linguist and teacher with a keen sense of humor, still shakes her head at the stories my sisters and I tell.
I have tried to combat the persisting frustration of events around me – through my art, in performing and by communing with nature. But the scourge of omnipresent politics and national bullying returns me to the state of a raging twelve-year old. I want to run the bad guys off with stones and fury. To open a door that will let the oppressed go free and contain those self-righteous evil ones. It’s a genie-in-the-lamp mentality, I know; a mental armor of farce and fantasy.
Charles Bukowski declared, “You begin saving the world by saving one man at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics”. He also noted, “The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that, in a democracy you vote first and take orders later. In a dictatorship, you don’t have to waste your time voting”.
Wanted: a soul tunnel in which to glide through good votes and good intentions. A path by which to offer the hurt and humiliated spiritual compensation and support, a means to move ahead. Oh, for a more humane government. Rather a leader with dementia than one who is clearly demented, better a military force that doesn’t train its sights and weapons on its own citizens. Let’s put an end to capricious, vindictive rulings that serve only an already privileged few and endanger or deny the needs and rights of the majority, the ones most suffering.
I’m reminded of Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion: eyes closed, gripping his tail and bemoaning, “I DO believe in ghosts, I do, I do, I DO believe in ghosts…” We all have prayers and wishes, fervent and ineffectual as they are.
Fighting is a forever bad habit; people are stubborn that way. Differences in cultures, religions, appearances, fashions, passions and studies needn’t signify a green light to despise and ostracize others. It’s just easier to clash than seek or develop common grounds. Harmony seems to have become the rarest of commodities, unlikely to be achieved in any lifetime soon. And the escalation of all the prejudices, exploitation and possible outcomes is what is dreadful and frightening.
I had thought we were long past those Medieval accounts of barbarism and vicious punishments, dogmatic religions, of inflexible, unfair class systems that pitted an oppressed poor against the vanity of entitled wealth. As long as this is the perpetual fashion of societal behavior, war and mass deaths will be, too.
The American poet Eve Merriam expressed a hope we should all wish for. “I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, “Mother, what was war”?