Orlando. Paris. San Bernardino. Charleston. Dallas. Nice. We live in an era when innocents suffer cruel, violent death. Is this our time's distinguishing badge?
No. No human has ever lived in any other time.
Following the death of 17 million men, women and children in WWI, the Great War, the War to End all Wars, William Butler Yates summed up his generation's pervasive despair --
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.
(First stanza of The Second Coming)
Our distinguishing badge is not death. It is the immediacy and intensity with which death is communicated. We once had no way to know of death at a distance. Today we binge watch snuff films presented as journalism.
Truly though, we are not so delicate. Our center will hold just fine. Despite the political opportunism of the worst among us, we will recognize our era for the time it is. Not the time we would hope it to be, but a time greatly to have been desired by nearly all our forbearers.
Twenty-one years after Yates' war a megalomaniacal demagogue started it up again. This time we called it WWII.
I had dinner with my folks Sunday night. At seventeen dad raced through high school early to replace Tenth Mountain Division casualties over in Italy. Now he watches presidential candidates on TV. "This guy sounds like Hitler," dad says, "why doesn't anyone ever say that?"
Not having been there at the time, I can't argue with him. But America has survived past populist demagogues. Huey Long comes to mind. Before leaping off the precipice we somehow come to our senses. I expect our luck will hold again.