These days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve are a strange mixture of the past’s waves washing over a new beach made of molten lava spewing into the ocean of time, whatever that means. I like the image of change, the cutting edge where energy steams off liquid rock, hardening in cold briny waters. Birth and death meet. Future and past. Hope and history. The sands of time swish back and forth, turning upside down, tumbling over each other, imperceptibly shrinking away. Here and now.
The Romans had a god of doorways, beginnings and endings, named Janus, for whom January was reportedly named. He had two heads in one, looking forward and backward simultaneously. In some depictions one face would be older than the other. But in between these two faces we find one neck, which is where we are today, in this here and now moment. 2017 looks backward into the mists of prehistory; 2018 gazes into the matrix of infinity.
In the therapy business we speak reverently about the here and now, which is where we are condemned or challenged to live. I often point out that depressed folks look lugubriously backward into the past, whereas anxious people peer fearfully into the endlessly oppressive future. Depressives guiltily mutter, “If only I hadn’t done… x, y or z. If only I’d done a, b, or c.” Neurotics nervously sputter “What if x, y, or z happens? And if not, what about a, b, or c?” Neither view appeals to the beholder. The litter box of the past holds all the awful clumps of a sad life like islands built on icebergs of cat pee. On the other hand, the gaseous future comes unglued molecularly, requiring huge expenditures of energy to chase down all potential atomic outcomes. No one can live in either atmosphere. One is not enough, and the other is too much. Balance, equilibrium, centeredness… all get at the same condition of being in the middle, in between, in the neck.
Americans don’t seem to like being in the neck of between-ness. We like the new, the young, exciting and sexy next thing; or else we prefer living in the mythical past, when everyone was happy and healthy and homogeneous. The mythic 1950’s, for example. Or before those glorious years, back in the nearly perfect Currier and Ives or Norman Rockwell eras of American life. What we fail to discern once again is that no one can live in either place because we are either cursed or blessed within the present time and space. It’s all we have access to, folks.
But the miserable among us claim, “There should or must be more!!” In some bait and switch amygdala chamber, a voice clamors for something other than what is. It’s all too much or not enough. But the rational question is this: compared to what? The miserable answer: compared to what should be or could be or used to be. No matter what you plug into such a simple formula, you wind up with misery. Kids, society, jobs, spouses, politics, the economy, technology, preaching, music, manners, etc. And it is a simple truth that these factors do change in one’s lifetime. So what? How realistic is it that fashion or manners or technology would become static and remain so? Not even North Korea or Mongolia can do that.
Life is lived between the real and the ideal, right here in this moment. Idealizing a period of history or some imagined future leads to tyranny. The tyrant says something like, “Make America Great Again!”, or “Make Islam Great Again”, and away we go in search of imagined greatness in a bottle and convenient scapegoats to punish for our failure to find it. Really, there are three messages imbedded in that one, MAGA. First, America/ Islam was great in the past. Second, it is not now. Third, it will be again…if you follow my and only my precise directions, be it POTUS or Imam, eliminate the non believers. Then we’ll be great again.
Obviously, there is a comparison to the Third Reich, used by Hitler to describe his German Empire. There had to be a first and second Reich in order to get to the imaginary Third Reich or empire. The first two Reichs were imaginary, sort of. The first was the Holy Roman Empire, which is often noted to have been neither holy nor Roman nor an empire. So strike one against Reich One. Reich Two was something called the… well, let me scam some Google post…
The Second Reich was the Hohenzollern Germany, from the unification of Germany following the Franco-Prussian War (1870 – 1871) and crowning of Wilhelm I as German Emperor at the Palace of Versailles, with Otto von Bismarck as the first Reichskanzler, to the abdication of Wilhelm II in 1919 following the German defeat in the First World War. [check out the hat…]
So, strike two on Reich two. Inglorious ending there. Crippling defeat followed by excessive retribution and humiliation of a people. No wonder that the Third Reich was so appealing to the German people. They did not want to strike out of the game of history. It was all or nothing in the 1930’s. Hitler promised a healing balm for Germany’s shameful wounds. Forget facts or history, baby, cobbling together sound bites and mythology, anger and scapegoats made for a great recipe for the resurgent Fatherland. Airing old grievances, building up the armed forces, shutting down intellectuals, gays, gypsies, Jews, and non Aryans turned the world into a simple us versus them game. Victory would be the annihilation of them, the feared and hated Other. The Fuhrer was the father of the Fatherland, not unlike Kim Young Fool is today.
And what a murderous father he was.
World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history in absolute terms of total casualties. Over 60 million people were killed, which was about 3% of the 1940 world population (est. 2.3 billion). Wikipedia.
That’s all, Folks. Germany was not made great again. Isis will not make it either. Maybe we should just stop with this, “Keep America Great”. It suggests no deficiency or tarnished past in need of a strong man, just a smart one to keep it going strong.