by Joe Courter
Years ago I saw a play called Rhinoceros at the Hippodrome Theater downtown that really stuck with me. Written by Eugene Ionesco in 1959, it centers around the disturbing nature of group think, as the lead character experiences his fellow citizens slowly transform into rather disturbing people resembling rhinoceros with horns and greenish skin, and not quite like they used to be. While it expressed the playwright’s dark satire of the acceptance of authoritarian power in his native Romania in pre-WWII and in post-WWII France, I can’t help but feel like its premise is alive today.
I was reminded of this play when listening to Gov. Ron DeSantis deliver his State of the State address, opening the 2022 legislative session. It made me feel like I live in an alternative reality with my values virtually opposite to what I was hearing. The jingoistic use of “free,” the dismissive and arrogant tone regarding police reform and teaching actual history, the Fauci and mandate bashing — it was a tough listen. And then that evening, as I was playing pool at Palomino, I was joined by a guy from Pennsylvania. Nice guy. We shared small talk while playing, but then out came his rhinoceros side: COVID was manufactured, the election was certainly stolen, masks don’t do anything. He just felt the need to share. I politely disagreed and moved on.
I have seen these rhinoceros transformations in friends on Facebook through what they post and in comments made. I see the Trump signs still up. I read the statistics on Big Lie believers … the mere fact that 70 million voted for him in spite of all that is known. The solid Senate unwilling to break ranks. And the rather blatant vilification of liberals and the Left in general. The Biden bashing. The very undercutting of our democratic system of voting.
What are we on the Left doing to fight back against the fear mongering and slander of things we value and hold dear? It feels so overwhelming, and we don’t have that strong Labor movement of the past to galvanize us. We have such a richness of distraction coming through our screens, movies, games, amusing little videos on Tik-Tok and You Tube. Real in-depth news coverage is reduced to a parade of chattering heads arguing in a construct of false objectivity, bombast and a-historical opinion. People are trapped in debt and insecurity, and coupled with COVID concerns and precautions, we have become isolated from one another.
Our Editors’ Picks on page 10 has some real gems in it, and we hope you will make use of all the links there to be explored. Fellow Iguana worker Pierce Butler found an intriguing one, “Insurrection, One Year On,” from a retired intelligence professional who publishes at Stonekettle.com addressing the Jan. 6 insurrection anniversary and those who participated, in particular military veterans, but not just limited to them. Read the whole thing at: tinyurl.com/Iguana1331. It is rough, plain speaking, but a powerful perspective. But this:
“It has often been said that for evil to triumph, good men need do nothing.
And that is true.
But it’s more than that.
For evil to flourish, good men forget who they are. They forget the ideals they once swore to give their very lives for. They come to believe that they are aggrieved, that justice, liberty, and democracy are zero sums and that they have been diminished by the rising freedom of others. They come to see education and intellect as ‘elitism’ and they begin to regard duty and the obligations of civilization itself as oppression. They raise up ignorance, hate, and especially violent rage as strengths and sneer in contempt at compassion, charity, and selflessness.” – Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station
This type of warped attitude is fed by Talk Radio and countless other sources.
Let’s make 2022 a productive year… things are more fragile than they seem, be it the changing climate, our rights, or our democracy itself, and time is running low on how we can try and turn things around, or at least stop the hemorrhaging. Best of luck to us all in the New Year. Do what you can—to cope and to make change.