The stairs had a tightness, coiling down into the gloom. I stepped nervously, missing a step and clunking into the wall. And then it was brighter, the light coming from above. The space was empty, full of grit and dust.
I held myself there, thinking this was the place and should stay here to find something out, something true, but went into the side room, walked across the creaking floor and opened the little door. The light changed. There was someone above, and I stayed quiet, wondering when they would find me.
Sometimes I think about what might have been if Martin Luther Ling Jr. had not been assassinated in 1968. He might have led the Poor People’s March on Washington that summer and advanced the cause against economic discrimination. He might have advanced the cause for ending the war in Vietnam earlier; indeed he might have become a senator, even president. He might have established a very different course on foreign policy – no wars in Kuwait, Afghanistan or Iraq, genuine aid offered in the Balkans, Rwanda, Syria…
A very different domestic policy – restraints on the rich, opportunities for the poor…Perhaps even understanding and vision for our environment.
As much as the people of the United States might like to focus on their guns, let’s not forget that chemical weapons are also part of an historic past. Smallpox-infected blankets were given to Native Americans as part of a virtual genocide in the 18th century. The U.S. government is also known to have used chemical weapons in World War I, developed a biological weapons project under Franklin D Roosevelt and doused pretty much all of Vietnam with Agent Orange. And then of course there’s the use of nuclear weapons.
And so…what if the United States government had decided that chemical weapons were worth the amendment, and not guns, in 1791? A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear chemical weapons shall not be infringed. Is this what they would be fighting for now? Would it be the National Chemical Weapons Associations (NCWA) rather than the National Rifle Association (NRA)? Would mentally crazed individuals be running through campuses spraying nerve gas? Would so many others be collecting various strains and keep them loosely locked in bedroom closets? And would the U.S. government send aid to Syria, in the form of canisters, when people were killed by gunfire instead?
Resolution is an over-used word not only on New Year’s Eve, but also in times of conflict and television watching. Resolutions on New Year’s Eve are harmless enough: I’m going to quit smoking. I’m going to stop eating junk food. I’m going to be a better person. They’re said late at night, under the influence (of drink or good intentions) and are rarely remembered. The problem with resolutions is that, when they are maintained, they result in conflict. Be it the NRA’s resolution to keep all of their guns, the Republicans’ resolution to not raise taxes, or the Syrian government’s resolution to win at all costs, nothing good ever comes out of this determination.
Republican House Speaker Jim Boehner is reported to have told Democratic Senator Harry Reid, “Go fuck yourself.”
Resolutions need to be compromised so that a, um, another resolution can be created. Rather than resolutions, I propose that we follow the simple philosophical theory of Thesis + Antithesis = Synthesis. A good example of this is found in French history: Monarchy + Revolution = Republic.
French President Sarkozy with wife Carla Bruni
My New Year’s Synthesis is a simple one: Talk + Listen = Think.