What Rough Beast

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre   

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand.

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.  

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out  

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man, 

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,  

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it  

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.  

The darkness drops again; but now I know   

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,  

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

­-William Butler Yeats; The Second Coming

At least when the world ends it will be well-documented.

I mean seriously, the entire planet could be falling apart or the second coming will be in full swing and someone, somewhere is going to be tweeting their experience right up until the bitter end – or until they are whisked away to paradise, whichever may be their fate. The really weird part is that their words will probably be etched in the databanks of some communication satellite, unspoken and unread as the millennia pass until either civilization reaches a point where they can once again access the information stored there, or until an alien species that knows how to retrieve the data stumbles across it.

Yes, I know, the world is not ending. Yet. At least it has not ended for those of us who were fortunate enough to wake up this morning. For those of us who woke up with our loved ones safely at our sides, at least the world as we know it has not been turned upside down.

Not everyone has been so lucky.

Today, some people woke up as they usually do, only to be hit with the gut-wrenching realization that a loved one was no longer with them; with the knowledge that they will have to live the rest of their lives without ever seeing their faces or hearing their voices again.

Some never woke up at all.

For those who lost loved ones this last week in Texas, the world as they know it has ended; ended abruptly and violently. Their families, their lives will never be the same again.

No, it is not the end of the world. Yet. In truth, the entire human race could disappear and the world would more than likely eventually recover. Life would find a way.

No, it is not the world that is ending, but it is the end of society as we know it, at least society as we know it in the United States, and for some, that will be as devastating as the world itself coming to an end.

Why do I say that it is the end of American society as we know it? Because, the very definition of society (according to Merriam Webster) is “a community or group of people having common traditions, institutions, and interests.” This used to be true of the United States. Even with its myriad of races and religions and belief systems, and in spite of its obsession with capitalism and rugged individualism, there were common threads that bound us together. Namely, the belief in freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of action (as long as it does not impinge on someone else’s freedom) and freedom to worship, or not, as we see fit, (again, as long as it does not interfere with another’s choice to worship or not as they will). These beliefs were hard and fast threads that kept a society as diverse as ours from falling into total chaos and division.

While there have always been tensions between various factions and parties in our country, and while the various threads have sometimes been stretched to just shy of the breaking point, there have always been those willing to mend the breach, to bargain with the other side in order to reach a compromise that both sides can live with. Time and time again our shared beliefs, those binding threads, have pulled us back from the brink.

That was then. That was before the threads broke.

I’m not sure when exactly it happened. I’m sure a historian could pinpoint the exact moment, but the point is that we broke. At some point it became more important for one side to “own” the other, to refuse to consider legislation that would benefit both sides if it is introduced by their rivals because they can’t let the other side “win.” At some point it became the “goal” of each side to dominate everything from the senate to the courts to the school boards and to keep the “losing” side out of the decision-making process altogether (even though in any scenario, the ‘losing’ side usually represents nearly half of the population). At some point it became common practice to undo any changes made by a previous, competing administration. At some point it became okay to roll-back laws that have been in pace for decades because a vocal minority feel that the laws impinge on their religious beliefs.

It doesn’t matter who is “wrong” and who is “right.” The concepts of right and wrong are subjective. What is “right” for one person may be “wrong” for another based on their upbringing, education, religion etc. This is why our federal government is set up the way it is. Three separate branches; legislative, judicial and executive, each designed to provide checks and balances to the other and to make sure that all citizens, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or religious affiliation are treated fairly and given equal opportunity for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The whole purpose of our federal government is to ensure that the laws that govern the country as a whole are fair and equitable for everyone, not just for their voting base or for those who contribute the most to legislator’s campaign funds. That no matter what state you live in, you can be sure of your rights as a citizen of the United States. By unrolling federal regulations and federal laws and passing the decisions to be made regarding individual rights and liberties; rights that impact everyone in the country back to the individual states where local biases and prejudices can impinge on individual liberties and not be held accountable, then we can no longer claim to be a united anything.

The core of our constitution is that “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”And if we are not united in our belief that justice, domestic tranquility, defense, general welfare and liberty are the rights of all people – even those whose beliefs or lifestyle you disagree with – then you cannot claim to support the constitution. And if the core of our constitution is not upheld, then the center of American society as we know it cannot hold.

As the center crumbles away, anarchy will be loosed, innocence will be lost, there is a lack of conviction on the part of decent people, and passionate intensity in those who would have the rest of us conform, by force, if necessary, to their view of the world and our places in it.

I don’t know how this is going to end, whether with the bang of a civil war or the whimper of a society slowly dying from the inside out, but unless we can retie the broken threads, the one thing that is certain, is that the center will crumble and that the rough beast of anarchy and apathy will have its hour come ’round at last.

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