Tag Archives: depression

What Goes Around Comes Around

I’ve been reading a fair amount of historical nonfiction lately, and one thing that’s struck me is how the U.S. tends to go through fairly regular cycles of progressive vs. conservative thinking. Here, from “Asleep,” is some interesting data from the 1920s and thereafter.

“Most historians now consider the 1920s an extension of the Progressive Era. The movement began with the antitrust laws that promised to rein in some of the business megamonopolies, but it soon grew into the progress laws and ideals that aimed for a more  modern, safer and healthier lifestyle. Legislation like mandatory milk and meat inspections, restrictions on tenement housing, improved working conditions, and child labor laws passed. The movement then morphed into legislation concerning civil responsibility, granting Native Americans citizenship, and allowing women to vote….”

At the same time Warren G. Harding, widely considered the most corrupt president, died in office. The Teapot Dome Scandal and many others bloomed in the aftermath of his death.

Again, from Crosby’s “Asleep,” comes the  pointed corollaries of all this progress. Immigration became a hot-button issue. The Ku Klux Klan spread like a cancer through the country. Bills were proposed to overturn American’s open-door  policy and stop immigration. A conservative backlash called for the country to return to its “original” religious and ethnic mix. Particularly hated and discriminated against were Italians, Irish, Germans, Puerto Ricans and the migration of American blacks toward Northern cities.

This all ended, of course, with the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. “Most historians agree it was a complicated combination of factors like consumerism, market speculations, easy credit and business monopolies.”

Sound at all familiar?

By pure chance, the next book I read was set during the era of the Civil  Rights movement, when so many of these factors rose up again. And now, we see them again, and again.

* The destructiveness of consumerism and uncontrolled big business.

* Rampant fear of  “the other,” whether immigrants or people with different lifestyle choices,  or even the old familiar ‘BlackMexicanAsianArab.’

*  The spread of hate groups.  The Klan may be underground, but its brethren  are fully with us.  Westboro Church, anyone?

* Wars to keep us (we the people) distracted from real problems.

* Angry youth.

* Destructive drug use.

It all goes around and comes around, and probably has been since earliest pre-history. Does that mean we give up,  knowing that the cycle appears to be never-ending?

No. We live and seek joy and try to love even our least loveable neighbors. We lend a hand whenever we can,  turn our backs  on selfishness, fear and hatred.

Because no matter what happens before or after, all  each of us us guaranteed is this one existence. What a shame to waste it on fear and hatred and sadness. Somewhere the sun is shining.  Delight in  the day.

P.S. My daughter says I’m too optimistic. My husband probably agrees. But still… smile, laugh, see the beauty rather than the ugliness.

 

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Three Years Later …

Sometimes my life is like that. I wake up one day and suddenly a week is gone, or a month, or a year. What I’m left with is a vague memory of the time, like a skeleton made of smoke. Occasionally something got big enough or strong enough or loud enough to get through the fog and leave an impression, and when I wake up the smoke skeleton has developed a soggy bladder or a single clear trapezius or maybe just a radiating pain in the ankle. But all these things exist in a hazy vacuum.

It’s hard to tell what I missed. And the things that break through the fog enough to be memorable aren’t particularly good or bad or important. They’re just moments, incidents that registered for some reason when everything else vanishes silently into the fog.

I remember the day my dog died. The day my daughter graduated from college. Going to see “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the W. Also the young woman who played the cancer victim in that amazing small play “Wit,” also at the W. Selling “Mad Hats” like crazy at the first Windows Arts Fair.

Snow. And then another snow. And, amazingly, another snow. All last winter.

The night the oak tree fell on the back of our house and sounded like the biggest thunder ever. Seeing patches of blue sky through the ceiling (and roof) of my office/craft room. The day the tornado hit Wren and Smithville, feeling the ground tremble under my feet and understanding awe in a way I never did in any California earthquake.

I remember our new puppy throwing up – twice – on the hoodie I was holding him in on my lap on the way home. Walking through the maze of corridors at the hospital in search of Outpatient Surgery the day my daughter had her tonsils out.

These are the bits of viscera, muscle, fat and organ meat that drift around the smoke skeleton of a lost time. Maybe it’s the same way for everybody. Maybe everybody loses big chunks of daily existence and just doesn’t worry about it.

I worry.

When I am clothed and in my more-or-less right mind, I try to grab things, people, events, places, moments, and shove them into words so that when the fog descends again, I can remember. Maybe.

Maybe.

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