I went out for a walk today into our village. I was headed to the the milk vending machine. It’s in the parking lot of the Edeka grocery store. On top of it is a bigger than life cow. The milk from this machine is delicious. It comes from a local family owned dairy. It is pasteurized but not homogenized. Each reusable glass bottle produces a nice dollop of cream at the top after it has sat for a bit in the refrigerator. It’s like I remember milk from my youth before the mega-corporate dairies put all the small farmers out of the milk business.
The Edek is closed today. Almost all retail businesses are closed in Germany on Sundays. This makes for one relatively quiet day out of seven for people to get outside on their bicycles or take the children for a little walk in the thin winter sunshine.
I don’t know if thin is the best way to describe sunlight in northern Europe in December but weak or feeble don’t quite fit. These words make it sound like it has no power. In fact, winter sunlight is very powerful in its own way. There is so little of it, that when it appears, it draws you like a magnet. It feels “thin” to me because it doesn’t bath you in radiant energy like a summer sun. It just lightly caresses your face, the only uncovered part of your body. It reassures you that it is still there to give life to all living things.
While I was walking, I thought about what life has been like these past eight months since Covid-19 pushed the world back on its heels and imposed its will on us. My thoughts went to the roller coaster ride we have been on with its highs and lows. One day we make plans to see loved ones. The next we have to lock down. In the summer the virus cases subsided. Winter brings a surge. Hope waxes and wanes like a fickle moon.
Many of us heeded the warnings from the scientists who study pandemics. We didn’t listen to ignorant, self-serving political leaders who believed they could pretend it didn’t exist. The honest information we were getting didn’t make us happy but it did keep us safe, or at least safer than those who decided, for some reason I still cannot fathom, that we were in a “scamdemic” fostered by Bill Gates, George Soros, devil worshipers, child traffickers, or anyone just dumb enough to wear a mask or be a Democrat.
I wrote in previous essays that I thought the denial of the pandemic was about fear and the need to control fear through adopting an explanation, no matter how weak it was in the face of scientific data. Now, many months later, I find that I cannot explain it. I am out of theories. I am actually dumbstruck by peoples’ seemingly limitless ability to bend facts to fit a comforting belief system of “alternative facts”.
This same incredulity extends to our current presidential election. Many state and Federal courts, including a conservative-leaning Supreme Court, have rejected the claims of a “rigged” election. Yet, I would not be surprised, if even after the Electoral College votes on Monday, the drum beat of, “Stop the Steal”, will continue. It seems as if some people only believe in democracy if they win.
I really should not be all that surprised by the response to the election by those who deny its outcome. There has always been a sizable minority in America that would dismantle our democratic system if they could. These people would wish to take the country back to some form of 18th Century monarchy or 17th Century feudalism, with them in charge of course!
Worse yet, there have been currents of totalitarianism with even more sinister overtones. In February 1939, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, 20,000 Americans attended a rally for the American Nazi Party. This was just seven months before Hitler invaded Poland in order to plunder it and enslave its people.
I have often wondered if the ancestors, real or ideological, of those who were members of the American Nazi Party, aren’t the same ones who would undermine our constitution for their own political and monetary gain by contesting a legitimate election.
I must admit that I am completely stymied in trying to understand why people who have benefited the most from a free and democratic America would fight so hard to invalidate its most precious institutions: free elections and rule of law. One would think the most oppressed people would be the ones claiming rigged elections. But it is not. It is the powerful and the privileged who would shamelessly lie to anyone who will listen. It is the very beneficiaries of democracy who seek to deny America the fruits of a system of government that our ancestors fought and died for over the past two and a half centuries.
I will admit that I have some personal animosity toward those who do not have the decency or moral courage to accept the will of the majority. One of my great, great uncles died at the Confederate Andersonville prison during the Civil War. He gave his life for the Union, for the United States of America. When I hear that a southern state, one that fought for the Confederacy to preserve slavery, sues other states to overturn their election results, my blood boils. When I hear suggestions of secession from the Union by state officials or hate mongering talk show hosts, I hear treason.
The viability of democracy is again being tested. The US has been cleaved in two by a chorus of confederates led by a cheerleader with an orange comb-over and visions of greatness. Every system of government seems to get stress-tested periodically as history shows us. Some survive the stress and some collapse, often under the weight of domestic strife.
The first victim of any collapse is the truth. When the truth becomes a commodity, a unit of exchange for political or economic power, then the foundation of trust is broken. From the first false claims of record turn out for the inauguration in 2016, to repeatedly debunked charges of voter fraud, we have seen truth under assault. These past four years remind me of George Orwell’s novel, “1984”**, in which he writes, “the lie is always one step ahead of the truth”.
It is on a quiet winter day, such as this one, when walking to get milk and some much needed exercise, that I can be rejuvenated by a “thin” sun. The warmth of the sun, no matter how mild, reminds me that its “truth” is still there. It caresses my chilled face like a mother’s warm hand and does its best to assure me that I’ll be all right, the world will find its way, that my beloved UNITED States of America will find its way. The Confederacy failed miserably. Slavery was abolished. The Nazi Bund in America no longer exists. Our courts have held against the onslaught of lies.
The winter sun says to me that the darkest days will pass and warmth will return to nourish me and the earth.
*The title is borrowed and modified from a novel by Richard Farina, “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me”, Random House, 1966
** The editing system on substack won’t let me underline. Both book titles credited here were placed in quotes. I hope Mrs. Rauch, my eighth grade English teacher will forgive me.
Thank you for being one of my readers. I welcome your feedback. You inspire me. Love the ones you are with, even those who are hard to love. Life is short even without a pandemic. Be safe. Be well. Courage.