September 21,22, and 23, 2020
There is good reason lately to find myself sad and sometimes anxious for the future of myself, my friends, my city, my State, my country and the world I live in. I am 78 in the year of the COVID19 and have two pre-existing conditions, and the males in my family have all died before they turned 50; those deaths include an identical twin who died 30 years ago. My friends include two who threaten to leave the country if Trump wins, and one who was close to despair Sunday night. The latter, a brilliant professional and beloved associate in avocational work, confessed she is continually depressed and her life is threatened by working for an employer who does not encourage COVID precautions and misleads about the casualties in her company so far. I work in a profession that officially discourages me from working on site, but I do anyway because I am a Georgia Public Defender, which is so underfunded that we are short on needed lawyers even if I show up anyway. Then there is my city, the county seat in Bulloch County, currently listed as the number two hot spot in the nation, which leads the world in ignoring taking needed precautions and avoiding needed testing. So self, friends, and hometown face terrible dangers from the pandemic.
But leaving the plague aside, my State, nation and world face terrible other reasons for great anxiety. My beloved associate and I live and work in Georgia, a state which has led the nation in efforts to downplay the dangers and to ignore needed precautions in dealing with the virus. We continue to do that under the lack of leadership from our governor. Mt country continues to suffer extraordinarily high numbers of deaths from this virus, and much of that suffering comes from the same miserable lack of leadership as my state. The world faces even greater peril from dramatic asn accelerating climate change, which has been created by human greed and hubris in the consumption of fossil fuels. As my associate says “We are out of time.” We face the very real possibility that climate change will become irreversible, which would mean that our best efforts would then be powerless to prevent environmental losses and human costs that would be beyond any catastrophe our species has ever known. It now appears that the Supreme Court of the United States, once a frequent ally of the forces for human rights and freedoms. will become an even greater adversary of those causes than it has been by narrow margins in recent history.
So why am I not in despair, despite all of the above reasons and more for the “heavy heart” I frequently feel when I look at the vicissitudes faced by all that I love?
A real hero to me was the recently passed Congressman from Baltimore, Elijah Cummings. He famously said that he counseled his daughters to not ask why they had troubles come to them in their lives. “No” he said “ask why these things happen FOR you.” He said that only through difficulties can we learn to grow and only from these difficulties can we ever make progress in our lives. The above cited difficulties may be preludes to needed changes that would not happen otherwise.
When I have talked recently with friends about the current threats and difficulties, I have started with telling about historical moments that looked very bleak, but that became preludes to fulcrums for salvation. Here are a few favorites:
In the summer and early fall of 1864 Lincoln was on the verge of losing his race for re-election to a Democratic opponent whose pledge was that he would make a peace settlement with the Confederacy that would have preserved both the Confederacy and slavery. Then Jefferson Davis appointed John Bell Hood to command the defense of Atlanta. Bell promptly attacked Sherman’s army and got whipped so bad that he had to abandon the city. Atlanta’s fall won the re-election of LIncoln, thereby assuring the preservation of the union and the end of American slavery.
The American Revolution was at best a bloody six year stalemate until Cornwallis detached his two best generals to consolidate his hold on the Southern colonies. Both kicked over local hornet’s nests by their brutality and arrogance; many locals who had hitherto largely favored the British or stayed on the sidelines were suddenly fighting like devils for the Revolution. The rest of the story is told in Southern victories called King’s Mountain, the Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse and finally Yorktown.
Finally i tell my friends about how Stalingrad changed the course of World War Two. It was an unexpected miracle of resistance to Hitler’s invasion of Russia. I also recall the air war over England that unexpectedly blocked Hitler’s conquest of England. The latter miracle was preceded by the totally surprising performance of Churchill after the miracle at Dunkirk, and the acceptance of the English people to not negotiate, but to fight Hitler to the bitter end. So the outcome of World War II hinged on at least four unanticipated turns of events that saved us all from the domination of fascism in the 29th Century.
There are so many other stories from history that demonstrate the truth that history’s greatest moments usually come as dawns that can only flow from the great gloom of the darkest hours. But I will refrain from them for now. These essays, of which this will be the first of three, are being composed primarily for the love of that associate mentioned previously. And I told her to expect an essay on this subject soon. That was Wednesday night and it is mow Wednesday. So here is a beginning on the promised argument for replacing despair with hope. The other two parts, which will come soon, will attempt to cover some of the urgent problems which are not likely to have real solutions until they become even more painful, the current signs of hope that the worst of the past and present may be overcome in the future, and some personal experiences with seeing transformation rise from the ruins of catastrophe.