Weathering the Storm

Feb 25 • FEATURE SIDEBAR, NEWS & VIEWS, ViewsNo Comments on Weathering the Storm

Our weather is changing for the better, even as our climate is changing for the worse—just as Al Gore suggested. Our icy February is one more data point that will help us estimate how bad off our situation is, but it’s not likely to instantly change any hearts and minds any more than Martin Luther King or the Civil Rights Act instantly and politely transformed us into the post-racial, equal-economic-opportunity America we now enjoy.

 

The next time we weather such storms, we’ll probably be able to buy snow survival supplies at our local big-box stores. All our big-box stores will ship the emergency supplies in on one of thousands of energy-efficient freight trains that will criss-cross our progressive state. We won’t miss work, or listen to small businesses complain about lost revenue. We’ll leave our cars in the driveway, and use our state-of-the-art public-transportation system. With education always a priority, kids that get to the elevated trains on College Road or the Market Street subway won’t miss a day of learning music, math, and Shakespeare.

 

While hunkered down under the ice, I spent a few hours watching the Olympics. Even the commercials. Some of the spots left me with questions. If you air a spot during the Olympics and promise to commit to buy $250 billion of American-made merchandise, is that technically an advertisement, or propaganda because you don’t sell much American merchandise now? And do you change the name of the country when you air the ad in China?

 

In general, I’m not a winter-Olympics person, but these athletes impressed me. Particularly in the post-Cold War X-games-driven disciplines, many U.S. athletes gracefully downplayed hyper-nationalism and hyper-competitiveness, all to focus on surviving the slopes or half-pipes and cultivate their own particular excellence. Time will tell whether these youngsters simply traded flag-waving for corporate-branding (some youngsters had to be persuaded to ditch their corporate sponsors and product placement—at least while actually slushing).

 

I also used the weather event to finally read Timothy Tyson’s “Blood Done Sign My Name,” and peruse the script of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” Not the kind of reading likely to warm the heart about the prospect of climate change in America—at least regarding racial and social justice or equal economic opportunity.

 

I’m new to the area—only been here 19 years. Unless you were topping and cropping tobacco or shrimping as a kid, you’re new, too, and would benefit from reading “Blood Done Sign My Name.” Mr. Tyson writes about the civil rights era in North Carolina and in Wilmington. As the weather warms, and I finish Mr. Tyson’s little book, I’m reminded there is still ice in many hearts and bigger stories are far from over. The bigger stories are not necessarily a matter of black and white.

 

Martin Luther King and many civil rights’ activists saw the struggle for minority rights inextricably linked to worker’s rights, education, and voting rights—all the things being rolled back to the reconstruction era in North Carolina. Doctor King knew that America was built by visionaries, salesman, and slaves, and that ever since the Civil War, when indentured servants of all races organized around their common interests, they faced vicious well-funded opposition. Basically, whenever people of all races practiced democracy and took power, money and violence took it right back. Check 1876 Louisiana and South Carolina, 1898 Wilmington, or post-Reagan America.

 

Reading Arthur Miller’s play also sent chills down my spine. Written in 1949 as theatre, it’s now prophecy. I easily can see Mitt Romney or Governor McCrory playing Willy Loman’s big brother Ben. As Willy falls further down the rabbit hole, Ben—the one percenter, the mythical entrepreneurial success story—smirks, “When I was 17, I walked into the jungle alone, and when I was 21, I walked out. And by God I was rich.”

 

We’ve weathered February’s storms and are moving into what could be a heartwarming Moral March. I guess it’s up to each of us to choose how we will sign our names—whether we will lead lives of value or experience the death of a salesman.

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