Rendered Fat Content


Franz Marc: Träumendes Pferd [Dreaming Horse] (1913)
" … as decency becomes RespectableAgain, finally!"

I decided early this morning to afford myself a little hopeful anticipation. With two weeks remaining before this election, it seems increasingly likely that decency will shortly become RespectableAgain. Through the current occupation, the man elected to perform the role of leader of the free world seemed incapable of showing respect toward anyone, including himself, and like any member in good standing of what my folks used to refer to as "the bad crowd," he encouraged a general debasement of the traditional rules of comportment. He seemed to work awfully hard to turn everything upside down and backwards, and only because he believed he could, and many—way too many—seemed to follow his lead just as if he was seducing freshmen into a previously inaccessible underworld. He tried to teach them to drink and smoke and avoid curfew violations, just as if not getting caught amounted to genuine freedom. A few seemed to flip entirely to the dark side. Others dabbled, but could not shake their inherited decency, their own unshakable paranoia sending them back into their families. Most of us looked on feeling horrified.

So this sense that some big changes are coming feels enormously reassuring.
I probably won't have to fly my flag upside down for much longer, for truth told, I never reveled in the necessity of displaying it like that. It seemed a necessity, a tribute to an absent decency I once relied upon without fully appreciating its presence. Decency seemed a free good then, both free and good, the default baseline birthright for every citizen unless one chose to degrade one's self. One could always choose to join a gang or a cult, by which I mean anyone was free to make that choice, but few took that tumble. Some dabbled before snapping out of it a short time later, a little wiser. When the current occupant began vilifying decent behavior, he seemed to ennoble that perversion of freedom, the ridiculously libertarian one which always insisted upon fealty to impulse and self above decency toward anyone else. He painted a firm belief in common decency as the underlying enemy of the people, as a form of weakness rather than of sublime strength. A deplorable minority took to strutting around as if they somehow represented a majority instead of simple indecency. They seemed unnecessarily mean and vindictive, neither being decent impulses.

He spent much of his time filing frivolous lawsuits, thumbing his bronzed nose at precedent and convention, asserting rights and privileges never anticipated by any framer or subsequent jurist. Fortunately, few judges and even fewer juries found in his favor, though these rulings resulted mostly in his even more fervent denial and too often in a quick backstreet burial of a previous imperative. He scoffed at the laws he swore to defend. He just ignored many lawful injunctions. He perverted justice itself, supporting lawmakers intent upon twisting the rule of law into what formerly qualified as the subversion of it, making a few indecencies perfectly legal. Everyone became his eventual enemy, for he seemed to revel in others reviling him and in him reviling them in return, or even preemptively. He seemed a man without a friend and dedicated to ensuring that he would never acquire an authentic one. Surrounded by deplorables, he seemed capable of attracting only toadies, the lowliest of sunny day friends. It always seemed to eventually start clouding up and raining again.

But this morning, I sense a welcoming flood of decency descending again. I foresee a time when we might see a day or a week or a month or a year without the leader of a suddenly much freer world deliberately offending anyone to gain headlines or simply for fun. The outgoing abject perversion of democracy, of common decency, deserves a prominent place beneath the ash heap of history, ignobility worthy of anyone so damned dedicated to encouraging inequality. I'm not suggesting that every prominent difficulty might suddenly disappear, for I fear a backlash of demonic dimensions. Some pundits predict that a prominent minority might always feel that their ideal was cruelly stolen from them and set about with renewed passion to pervert our democracy again. Some armed citizens might well attempt continuing assaults upon decency itself, having grown accustomed to such perversion. Decency seems powerful enough to deflect even them, for we began as rabble before choosing to take a higher road. We well know those innate impulses, though most of us chose to embrace decency instead.

This country used to pursue decency, however imperfectly, and while we only very rarely ever actually achieved it, that striving spirit ennobled us. Not a generation before us failed to experience serious threats to this faith our forebears bequeathed us. A few have always distrusted the promise and cynically rejected the founding proposition that we might all have been created equal and therefore deserve the decency that continually eludes us. Let our past failures reanimate each of us to reject whatever tries so hard to seduce the weakest and most vulnerable among us. We've successfully dabbled in degradation as a guiding principle of an otherwise great nation, and we found the experience terrible. That notion that we were better than that was the still, almost quiet voice of our better angels reminding us that we always held the potential to be better than that. Now, we need only accept this great gift and get on with being better than that, expecting some vehement hecklers every inch of the way, as decency becomes RespectableAgain, finally!

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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