Saturday, March 18, 2017

Silence Disturbed

Patchogue (NY) resident James Klein, a registered Republican
and a Navy veteran, hangs the American flag upside down
outside his home on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017.
Martin Scorsese's "Silence" is a brutal story of persecution. Going back to the early 1600s, Silence tells the haunting story of the first Christian missionaries in Japan. Not for the faint of heart, the film portrays  inhumanity to an extreme that makes you wonder if the universe is simply not better off without us. 

Leaving the theater, I experienced a revelation of sorts. It suddenly dawned on me that stories about religious, ethnic, or political persecution are all trying to convey the exact same message: persecution exists because the powerful minority will always posses a consuming fear of the powerless majority

I decided to read-up a bit on the subject of human fear, as it should be clear by now that politics is more about the management of fear than anything else it claims to be. The simple conclusion was that fear is the most basic, but ultimately most toxic of human instincts. It brands itself from early life as our protector-in-chief, a survival of the fittest superhero of sorts. Yet as honorable as mere survival can be, and as useful to evolution as it has been, fear often reaches dysfunctional overload when unchecked. We are coded to take even the hint of a minor threat and entertain worst-case scenarios in the kangaroo courts of our mind. When it comes to fear, sense has no voice in our decision making process. When it comes to fear, alternative reality makes as much sense as we need it to make.

Every generation since the dawn of man has witnessed the tragic impact of irrational fear. Ours is no exception, so it's best not to fall prey to nostalgic distortions. There is no way to sugarcoat it: fear, unchecked by either reason or faith, makes cowards out of mere mortals. 

Teddy Roosevelt, one of the great conservative presidents of the United States, best summed up the power of caution over fear with his famous maxim, "speak softly, carry a big stick". Such was the quiet strength of our leadership, one that was instrumental decades later in the defeat of boisterous Nazi Germany. Yet somewhere along the way we seem to have lost the lesson. America has apparently stumbled into a leadership tinkering with dystopian antics. A leadership that could now be summed up by an unbecoming speak loudly, spread a big fear.  

Much has been written in recent days about the parallels between our latest brand of leadership and Nazi Germany. The superficial similarities arguably exist, except for one important detail: Germany imploded during the Great Depression, America grew stronger. Germany devolved practically overnight from Weimar Republic to Banana Republic. The foundation-less Republik was no match for the strength of our checks and balances, making current comparisons premature. Besides, we have plenty of swept-under-the-rug issues that have plagued us for many generations. Never mind the dark specter of an American dictator. Worrying about a Nazi fate only clouds very real and unsolved problems. The kind of problems that will likely be the real undoing of the great American experience, such as our alarming rate of incarceration (US DOJ and Interpol statistics), murder rate by firearms (FBI stats), and real unemployment (US Dept of labor and Census Bureau). None of these problems have anything to do with ISIS, and although they are complicated by illegal immigration they will not go away if we stopped ALL immigration. 

That being said, our mighty checks and balances today are about to be tested like never before, much to the concern and contempt of half a nation. But consider the following: the other half, the one who ushered in this chapter of American history, held the exact same contempt for the previous leader. They fell back on the same kind of Naziesque warnings: Obama was a dictator that was hellbent on destroying America. It was a contempt driven by fear (much like the current contempt), and there was not enough consolation our checks and balances could provide. 

There is no doubt in my mind that one of the two sides of this dysfunctional marriage we call America is closer to the truth. A mediocre accomplishment, as almost-truths always are.

As I watched Silence in my own distressed silence, one particular word kept recurring in the story: apostasy. Apostasy is "the formal disaffiliation from, or renunciation of a religion by a person". Apostasy, it seems, is also what lurks in the shadows of America’s Heartland. A Heartland with a vindicated mandate to cleanse our "formerly great" nation from fear-inducing ethnicities and non-Christian religions. A Heartland who will no longer remain in silence. A silence, disturbed. A disturbance that now haunts those who call themselves The Resistance. A resistance that will swing the pendulum of democracy back within the next four years, so we can get up and do it all over again. 

Until then, those of us obsessed with making sense of it all might finally understand the words of America's subway prophets: "Fools, said I, you do not know: silence like a cancer grows..."


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SPOILER ALERT on the video below. 
Do not watch if you've never watched "House of Cards" 
AND you intend to do so. Oh an also it's NSFW.


"Silence Disturbed"
A Videoblog by the Daily Presence-Joey
Video editing by Joey. Scenes from House of Cards
Song performed by "Disturbed", music and words by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.

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