“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”
Charles Dickens’ opening to A Tale of Two Cities is one of my all-time favorites. Today, it’s more relatable and relevant than ever. If you’re tired of politics, feel free to stop reading now. I won’t be offended.
Like many across our nation, my heart is heavy with sadness, not just because of the events in Charlottesville, but because it tears me up inside to see the daily barrage of people attacking people in the streets and on social media. I don’t take part in discussions or arguments on twitter or Facebook because, frankly, I don’t see the point. Either we have the same viewpoints, beliefs and principles (be they cultural or scientific) or we don’t. I haven’t seen anyone’s mind changed after an online battle of words. Having said that …
Today at the grocery store, I found myself studying my fellow grocery shoppers. How many of them think like me? I wondered. Are they disturbed by what happened over the weekend? Are they happy about it? I shuddered to think. I sometimes feel like I’m living in the world of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, waiting for my pod to appear. A scary and over-active thought, I know. But then … I’m a writer.
Eventually, I decided to buy some oranges. I approached the citrus section, but a young caucasian man beat me to the mandarins. As he reached his hand forward for an orange, I immediately noticed the tattoo covering most of his forearm. Wait for it … it was a cluster of wildflowers.
I stood by the display and watched him walk away with his orange – dressed in a tank top, shorts and black baseball cap over his short-cropped hair – the young man, not the orange. He didn’t have any other visible tattoos. I wanted to ask about the wildflowers. What’s the story behind them? All tattoos are a statement, sometimes a drunken mistake. Somehow, I doubt this young man got plastered one night, stumbled into a parlor and asked for the prettiest tattoo in the artist’s book. Perhaps, I stood there wondering, the flowers are covering another tattoo he regrets. Or maybe he simply appreciates beautiful things. Good things.
I firmly believe most people are good, not perfect, but good in their hearts. People want to make a living, be happy and see improvement in their lives. A small group of radicalized men and women think only they have the right to those things in this country. It’s distressing this small group has such power to incite their agenda and terrorize the nation. What they don’t seem to realize is … they’ve already lost. The world has moved on without them. No matter how loud they yell, progress cannot be undone. Races have merged. Cultures have come to enhance each other. Heck, technology has exploded because of this blending of viewpoints, ideas and backgrounds.
Of course, I’m not denying the endurance of intolerance in all its forms. It’s alive and well; I’m sad to say. I’ve been subjected to it myself, though not nearly to the extent of many, many others. Intolerance is an attitude as much as a disease, contagious and not easily treated. In its path of infection, innocent people have been and will continue to be hurt.
But there are other victims along our course toward progress. Good people are feeling left behind. The world is changing faster than some of them can keep up. I am not unsympathetic to their plight, but I am a practical person and don’t believe clinging to the old ways is a solution. Re-education (as in adaptation, not brainwashing!) is desperately needed in this country. Here’s a wacky idea, why not offer tax breaks to rich people who sponsor re-education for a person in need? Yeah, I know. Crazy. But out-of-the-box ideas are what is needed right now. America should be one of the global leaders of future enterprises, but it seems like we’re falling behind the rest of the world.
Referring back to good ol’ Charles Dickens, this feels like the worst of times (not to downgrade America’s past struggles and times of war), but I believe it will prove to be the best of times at the end. Evil is out of the Darkness and in the Light which is the best place to fight it. Though damage is being done, wisdom will prevail and overcome the foolishness. While there is no shortage of disparate beliefs and incredulity over what is happening, I still have hope, even confidence, we will defeat this sense of despair and America will be stronger for it.