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Archive for the tag “twenty-first century”

Election Day

i-voted

 

November 8, 2016.  A date that will… a date that…

A date.

At the time of my writing this, it is the night before.  More accurately, the overnight before the morning of.  And as overnights before mornings of have a way of doing, I am left with my thoughts.  And the silence to think them.

And to write.

Thought number one…

In the mid-twentieth century, there was a man, a one-time German minister named Martin Niemöller, who became widely known for a quote that was an acknowledgement of the apathy of German citizens under the Third Reich, and Adolf Hitler.  This is the quote…

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

What Niemöller succinctly told the Post World War II world, at every opportunity, was that he, and all German citizens of the 1930’s and 1940’s, were culpable for the actions of those in power… power that was, at first, voted into existence by those very same citizens.  And while most of those citizens did not… could not… know at the time that they were turning over the reins of their government to what would be forever known throughout history as Nazi Germany, turn it over they did.  Again and again, with every act of cowardice that showed itself merely in their perpetual indecision.

Until, as Niemöller said, “…there was no one left to speak for me.”

Multiple millions of people, inside and outside of Germany, were tortured, starved, and murdered as the result of something as simple as saying, “Nah, I’m safe.”

Until they were next.

Thought number two…

In the early twenty-first century, who are the Socialists?  Who are the Trade Unionists?  Who are the Jews?  Not literal Socialists, Trade Unionists, or Jews.  But their figurative, metaphorical descendants.  Because every great country in the world has them.  Unpopular for many reasons with those who might have been here longer and reaped the benefits of that not-so-subtle favoritism based on nothing more than tenure, and beating the biological roulette wheel of unearned opportunity.

What if, one day, we who are still here are required to endure the words of a modern-day Martin Niemöller?  And what complicity will he, or she, be calling us to account for?

Because today is election day.  And for our choices, we all will be held to account.  So, will we who are still alive be culpable for in a second mass citizen apathy?  Shown culpable for our allowance of the following…

“First, they came for the Liberals, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Liberal.

Then, they came for the Working Poor, and I did not speak out, because I was not the Working Poor.

Then they came for the Brown, and I did not speak out, because I was not Brown.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Thought number three…

I am a writer.  That means that, if I’m doing it right, I take concepts that people talk about every day, and turn them into words that cause people to think, and then live accordingly.

Today is Election Day.  That day, every four years, when it is the right, the privilege, the duty, of every citizen, to act on what they know, and then vote accordingly.

History has been kind to all who, anonymously, stood with those who’s tragic ends came at the hands of unjust rulers.  History will again be kind to those who, anonymously, by secret ballot, stand with those who’s tragic end is in their hands to prevent.  To act on what they know, and then vote accordingly.

And see to it that one Martin Niemöller was enough.

Now vote.

 

© Copyright 2016 William S. Friday

20 Inch Black and White Portable TV

nano BLACK AND WHITE

 

I disappear.

It’s something I have always done, even from my earliest days.  In the late ’60s, when most kids didn’t have a TV, I had one, in my room.  20 inch, black and white, portable TV.  No remote.  I can’t remember the brand anymore, but that’s just one invisible detail in a story about becoming invisible.  With that TV, I watched Japanese monster movies, and re-runs of Gilligan’s Island.  With that TV, I watched local news with anchors nobody remembers.  With that TV, I watched the Dodgers and the Giants.

With that TV, I would disappear.

In the late ‘60s, both my parents worked, and they had plans in place to counteract leaving a child on his own before the age of ten.  My grandmother lived with us, but by the late ‘60s, she was in her early eighties couldn’t keep up, and there wasn’t much she could do to make interesting to a child the things she was interested in. Just like there wasn’t much that a woman born in the waning years of the nineteenth century could understand from a kid growing up in the mid-twentieth.  So, when all the afterschool sports and games were done; after all the neighborhood kids were called inside for the doing of things like homework and family dinners; before my parents would return from work, in the dark; I would retreat to my cluttered room, with the 20 inch, black and white, portable TV.

With that TV, I would disappear.

It became a habit almost impossible to break.  The retreat from loneliness into a different kind of loneliness.  One of my own choosing.  With my stunted social skills, learned well, but honed badly by the lack of brothers and sisters, or hands-on parenting, I was more at home in my room, in front of a 20 inch, black and white, portable TV, as I was in the company of other kids, or their families.  When I tell this story now, to people who think they know me… and I seldom tell it… they have a hard time believing that I’m not a lifelong extrovert.  Only decades of well-rehearsed dealings with folks… of knowing when, in conversation, to press in and look genuinely interested, or when to back off, so as to come across as informally cool… have gifted me with the ability to keep myself from disengaging, yet remaining in a soothing isolation from the crowd.  All of it reminding me of a childhood in which I felt more in control in the shadows of a room lit by a 20 inch, black and white, portable TV.

With that TV, I would always disappear.

And now, because this is a blog post and not a novella, I end with this.

Today I live in the second decade of the twenty-first century, almost fifty years removed from a time when a kid could disappear into the world of a 20 inch, black and white, portable TV.  The second decade of the twenty-first century, where listing the potential distractions for a child of this space and time would take longer to write than it took you to read this.  And it is no great surprise, except to most of my friends who think I could not possibly be anything other than an extrovert, that my retreat is still TV.

But they will always be wrong.  Because I will always have that need.  To fade into the shadows, and hear only the voices of those whose words I can turn on and off at will.  To close the door on the outside world, and let go of things beyond my control.  I miss that 20 inch, black and white, portable TV.

Because with that TV, I would disappear.

 

© Copyright 2015 Bill Friday

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