From time to time JLH blows off his translation duties and writes an essay about current events in these degraded post-modern times. He sent the following piece a couple of weeks ago, but I deplorably (can that word be used unironically anymore?) let it languish in my to-do folder for too long. Fortunately, it hasn’t stale-dated.
Buckle Down, Winsocki!
I just finished listening to another of our revered leader’s homilies about how the stabbings in Minnesota and bombings in New Jersey and New York will not frighten the “folks here.” Please, not again!…
I recall being present at “pep rallies” where we all cheered for our team in the upcoming contest — whatever the sport: Rah! Rah! Rah! And there were even some who became a bit too boisterous and shouted marginally unacceptable things like “We’ll kill the b*****ds!”
And it did happen sometimes that fans from one school would encounter fans from the other in an impromptu, testosterone-fueled confrontation. Insults and possibly blows exchanged. Not exactly at the level you expect when you hear “soccer hooligan,” nor the level of anticipated violence in East Side Story, but not exactly slow-dancing either.
And I recall the days after a particularly significant loss, when the gloom of defeat darkened the halls and classrooms, and every one of us understood the immortal line:
“But there is no joy in Mudville —…”
We lived through it, and we may even have improved because of it. We certainly learned that defeat is as truly an element of combat as is victory.
Maybe it’s because I’m too old, but what I cannot seem to recall is any occasion on which our team tried and bled and failed on the field of battle, and was not only soundly defeated, but was the victim of dirty tricks from the other team as well as almost criminally bad officiating. And afterwards, we all went home and had a great, big healing ceremony, in which — tears in our eyes — we proudly chanted, “Mudville Strong!” And instead of vowing to “Beat the b*****ds” the next time, we swore that we would not let them defeat us by making us hate them. And we wouldn’t make them mad enough to beat us so badly again, either. We would go on with life (such as it was), and show our strength through generosity of spirit — reserving a place for our former foes when we handed out our certificates of academic and athletic participation. Open hearts, open minds — let the breeze of love blow through.
The dead have earned our grief, no matter how they died. But those who have killed any of them just because they were Americans have earned our fury. Grief cannot wash away a mad and criminal act. Boston Strong? Really? And most recently Orlando Strong? Shall we make it retroactive — San Bernardino Strong, Fort Hood Strong, New York Strong? How about Pearl Harbor Strong, Bataan Death March Strong? It is proper to grieve, but that cannot be an end in itself. We cannot bring memorials and tributes and tell ourselves we have done all that is possible. We cannot “heal” and go on as if someone had passed away peacefully at home in bed.
We did not say that the Japanese were deluded by a misinterpretation of Shintoism or that Hitler was misled by his faith in a perverted message from the Norse gods, and that we had to therefore be understanding and not blame an entire nation for the criminal acts of a few. We did not figuratively lay flowers on the graves of the dead, weep a while and go on with our lives. We did not murmur “Je suis Pearl Harbor” and march hand-in-hand to mourn our dead and simultaneously demand understanding for the perpetrators.
Nor did we painstakingly scrub the name of Germany or Japan from historical documents to disguise the fact that we knew who had done what, and simply did not choose to pursue justice. We did not endure endless public relations addresses by top-to-bottom officials explaining what was really important — like getting on with our lives and “not letting the dictators win.” And of course the well-meaning questions from ace reporters, like “What kind of economic sanctions are we imposing on the Axis powers” or “What would you like to say to the people in the concentration camps?”
FDR did not go to some symbolic spot and lay down a teddy bear. What he did do was uproot multitudes of ethnic Japanese as well as (less well-known) a smaller number of ethnic Italians and Germans, from their homes, businesses, jobs and communities, and put them in special settlements (concentration camps?) until war’s end. And yet, ethnic Japanese, German and Italian Americans served in the US armed forces — some with great distinction. When the US Congress finally decided that compensation was due to the Japanese for this act of ethnic/racist discrimination, many of the victims were not alive to witness it. But they have not been murdering their fellow citizens. They have not “self-radicalized.” They are us.
So how do we deal with the not-quite-lone wolves who live among us and hate us, and with the extensive networks that support them? I refer to my title. We do what you have to do to WIN. Buckle down.
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Buckle down, Winsocki