Showing posts with label Grapes of Wrath. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grapes of Wrath. Show all posts

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Summer of our Discontent

Another thought-provoking article by Roger Carlton, columnist for the Graham Star newspaper in Robbinsville, NC.

The great American author John Steinbeck wrote novels that captured the angst and suffering of disadvantaged people. The Grapes of Wrath was about the extreme poverty of farmers leaving the Dust Bowl and being held in camps at the California border. Of Mice and Men was about migrant workers and some very tough decisions regarding guilt of a murder by a mentally challenged person. His last novel written nearly 50 years ago, The Winter of Our Discontent, was about a wealthy family that lost their fortune and had to adjust to a much less privileged life style. Do these themes seem relevant today? You bet.

As a nation and a people, we are entering the summer of our discontent. Women are tired of gender abuse. The #MeToo movement has formed as a result. Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Jeffrey Epstein and many other big players have toppled from their seats of power and prominence. Abused women have found the courage to speak out. African Americans can no longer tolerate police brutality and form organizations like Black Lives Matter or take action with peaceful protests or destructive acts. A rapidly diminishing 40 percent of conservative voters are tiring of the chaos caused by incendiary tweets and lack of leadership in crises like the COVID 19 pandemic. So, the question seems to be who, if anyone, is entering this summer as a content person?

There is a big word in our wonderfully complex English language. "Iconoclast" means someone who believes in the importance of destroying icons, images or monuments usually for political or religious reasons. There are nearly 1700 monuments and other symbols of the Confederacy that remain in place today. These symbols are slowly tumbling down by negotiation or by force. It is easy to understand how a Confederate flag symbolizes the horrors of enslavement and racism to many. It is also easy to understand how the southern iconic statuary symbolizes a heritage that is valued by many. This dichotomy should be the stuff of dialogue and compromise. Unfortunately, it has become too late for reasonable resolution.

There are other icons that have fallen into disrepute and need to be erased. The KKK's burning crosses, the Nazi Swastika, the alt-right's WP hand signal that stands for white power come to mind. On the other hand, the goal of erasing hateful symbols or monuments to people who sanctioned or committed hateful acts can go too far. Both Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. Should we destroy their monuments in our national capitol? The Pharoahs enslaved the Israelites. Should we destroy the pyramids? 

This columnist has great admiration for people willing to risk their careers to make a statement. Colin Kaepernick got down on his knee and sacrificed his football career as a result. 1968 Olympic runners John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised a black gloved fist during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. They were banned from the rest of the games. Both went on to professional football careers. A sympathetic Australian runner stood with them on the award platform as a symbolic protest to the mistreatment of the aborigines in his home country. That ended his career. Closer to home, NASCAR racer Ray Ciccarelli will retire over the decision to ban the Confederate flag from NASCAR tracks. The key to my admiration is sincerity and not political expediency.

Where is the salve to end the pain of this summer of our discontent?  Where is the leadership to make the necessary changes to end police excessive use of force? Who will calm the rage we see in our streets?  Will we destroy all the statues and symbols that remind us of our good or bad past? One of my friends wisely stated a few days ago----when you attempt to destroy history you run the risk of repeating it.   





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