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By Dr. Gary Corseri
“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to my conscience, above all other liberties.” –John Milton
“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” –Abraham Lincoln
“Lord, what fools these mortals be!” (Puck, in “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.”)
We have not yet reached the horrific insanities of the American Civil War…but we seem hell-bent on approaching that precipice and tumbling over like lemmings following manic “leaders,” disguised as politicians, “educators,” celebrities, journalists and the commentariat, et. al.. We are not yet engulfed in Civil War, but we are certainly “testing” whether our nation, “or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” If it were to come to actual Civil War, given a population that is 10 times what it was 158 years ago, given our dependence on our modern “grid,” our reliance upon drone weapons, and a vulnerable WorldWideWeb where deadly information spreads like cyclonic fires, the horrors we are facing could be many times what America’s soldiers/patriots/and misguided citizens faced back then.
Since the 2016 election, we have been passing through what Kierkegaard might have called “the long night of the soul.” Accusations and counter-accusations have flown like blind, maddened bats out of the caves of our collective hells, collective guilts. As we pause at the precipice now (if we are wise and steady enough to pause), we may wonder: What next? What have we learned?
Though he did not frame it so, the great experiement Lincoln admonished we were “testing” was just what angels-and-demons-wrestling Milton had speculated about two centureis before: “the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to my conscience.”
But, in our age of Information Overload (or Over-kill!), when our news and information is managed and mangled by a handful of media magnates and mega-corporations, their retinue among subservient “noble” (and highly remunerated) classes of attendants/scribes/and lawyerly mouthpieces…how can we hope—no matter how “conceived” and “dedicated”—to grasp and hold such “liberty”?\
Dostoyevsky wrote that it was necessary to enter a nation’s prisons to understand its culture. I taught in prisons for two years and I’ll vouch for Fyodor that it’s still true; but in our day a more handy entry point is through a nation’s media—MSM or “social.” TV dramas and their sibling newscasts are the muezzins of our popular culture, calling us to a shared, created universe. How to emerge from Plato’s cave to sunshine?
Is it too much to hope for commonsense and honesty? Civil discourse to temper civil derangement? Guidance based on the wisdom of the ages—Socratic, Confucian, Jobian, Sufi (take your pick or mix judiciously)?
In The Ornament of the World, her neglected, modern classic, (unfortunately published about the same time as the headline-engulfing 911 horror), Maria Rosa Menocal describes a “golden age” of medieval Spain, “where for more than seven centuries Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together in an atmosphere of tolerance…where literature, science, and the arts flourished.”
Seven centuries! They translated each other’s books; they recognized each other’s human rights; they practiced what they preached. They learned each other’s languages; participated in the “commonwealth,” respected each other’s traditions, worked towards mutual respect and understanding, intellectual and physical security.
We are all “entangled”! The scientists describe “quantum entanglement”—how once united quantum particles, though worlds apart, respond correlatively when one part of the particle is “spun” or manipulated in a certain, measurable way. If true in the quantum world, how not true in the human?
There are two crises that have confronted generations of Americans for decades; crises that metastasize, cost more innocent lives, year after festering year. The Republicratic factions divide and joust over these crises while innocent Americans are victimized by rapes and killings, drug addictions, fear and loathing.
There is no “manufactured crisis” on our southern border. Nor is there a “manufactured crisis” about our antiquated gun laws.
If we want to help our neighbors to our South, we can do so in a reasonable, measured way. Remember John F. Kennedy’s “Alliance for Progress”? That would be one sort of sensible approach. Help them “over there” so that they are not victimized by drug cartels, wanting to breach the US borders and cause havoc here. Who profits from such havoc?
Nor was it a “manufactured crisis” that macerated 17 young lives and traumatized countless others at that Parkland, south Florida high school. Have we forgotten already? And the 58 massacred during an outdoor concert in Las Vegas—forgotten? 851 injured by gunfire or the ensuing panic! “Collateral damage” in our political-media wars? And how many other thousands and hundreds of thousands of victims?
Our Republicratic factions had better start working together! $5 billion dollars for a “border wall” is nugatory compared to the tens of billions wasted “controlling” drug addiction here, wasted on poor food quality, the figleaf of healthcare protection, air and water pollution.
As for our gun laws—where in the 2nd Amendment is there any mention of AK-47s and other mass-killing “automatic” weapons? The 2nd Amendment is about a “well-regulated militia.” Is the national government prepared to delegate such power to “well-regulated” militia units? Can it possibly be right/moral/sensible to delegate such power to individuals?
Let us remember: when our Constitution was written, we were a nation of under 4 million hunters, gatherers, and farmers. Our weapons were primitive, ball and powder 1-shot affairs! We lived in small communities where people knew their neighbors. If the “village idiot” was suddenly roaming about aiming his gun haphazzardly—people sounded the alarm.
Republicrats—walk and chew gum at the same time! Unite the factions around the principles of safety and common sense. Stop the anarchy in the nation’s gun laws; stop the anarchy on our southern border! Reporters and commentariat, Hollywood “celebs,” “educators,” et. al., you need not be “fools” and you must not treat the citizenry as fools. Begin the renewal! Secure our sacred “liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to my conscience” and honed understanding.
“That this nation…shall have a new birth of freedom.”
“Freedom from fear.” Freedom to lead. Freedom to be the best we can be.
Poet-editor-journalist-novelist-playwright-professor, Dr. Gary Corseri has published work in Pressenza, The New York Times, Intrepid, Village Voice, CommonDreams and hundreds of other publications and websites worldwide. His dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta, and he has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library. (Gary_Corseri@comcast.net)