The Wide Angle: That’s home. That’s us

Published 7:01 am Sunday, August 20, 2017

For all the good it does me, I have a history major which is good for little else other than to drop random historical notes of interest at parties or other such get-togethers.

The fact is, yes, it does me little good, but I love history. It’s about seeing where we came from and what we’ve had to deal with as humans. Not all of it was good, but we have had some great moments  —  all worth learning from.

In my own time I’ve seen examples of this all. Both space shuttle disasters, 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombings, our first African American president, the right for same-sex couples to marry, war, famine, celebration — all of this I have seen unfold before me.

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But never in my wildest nightmares did I think I would have be part of a history that should be no more. Never did I think the struggles of civil rights, so brutally fought over in our all too recent history, would be unfolding once again.

I’ll make no bones about it. I do not like our 45th president, but I will acknowledge President Donald Trump’s place in history. To me it’s an unraveling disaster while to others he is a symbol of renewed faith.

I could easily dedicate the rest of this column to how he has failed the minority communities while embedding those societal elements that continue to breed hate, but people with far better grasp for words can take up that sword.

I only lament at the wasted opportunities slipping through our fingers in a struggle that comes from failing to recognizing the future and what it needs to be — a place where children can grow up not knowing the hardships that so many must go through.

I wasn’t in Charlottesville when a young woman’s life was so brutally taken from her and while I can be empathetic to those minorities just struggling to be a part of the American dream I simply cannot relate to it.

The fact is I am a white American with those heritages that embarrsingly and sickenly enough those in the KKK and neo-Nazi’s would celebrate. I am of Norwegian and German blood with a mix of other heritages. I can walk down the street and not know the stares that African Americans or Hispanics get.

I just can’t relate and it would be an insult for me to try, but I can support by simply condemning those that would shuttle their hate from one point to the other.

But is it enough?

History and its harsh lessons would show that we are poor students otherwise last weekend’s tragedy would not have happened.

The president could have led the charge — which, even after two ridiculously long days — he finally did only to backtrack later and show us his true colors.

I had a conversation the other day with an acquaintance where I admitted that I felt for her struggle to help her daughter understand what is happening.

She admitted the struggle comes down to wanting to protect her daughter from the pain or explain it in such a way as to help her be the better person this world needs her to be. To not give in to that same hate that drives so many to fear minorities.

In a moment of selfishness I can tell you I am glad I don’t have to do that. Even writing this now I cannot even fathom where I would start or how I would finish when the endless parade of “why?” comes at me, especially when I struggle each day to make sense of it myself.

I believe we cannot run from this and seek shelter. Make no mistake this is a fight for our future on many fronts — societal as well as for our planet.

As we struggle to live with ourselves we also struggle to live with a planet that is faltering to harbor us all. We are missing the opportunity to utilize the planet and universe around us, to find alternative sources of energy only because we continue to bow to oil and coal.

Perhaps the most telling fact is: this is it. We have nowhere else to go. There is no hyperspace that can take us to a sanctuary beyond our horizon. For now, this is our planet and we are fighting ourselves over idealogy.

As I’ve said, history is there to learn from. It’s a free and open source to draw experiences from in order to better those things that maybe we take too much for granted.

We can be the people that love and support one another rather than drive cars into.

One of the things that helped me change my outlook and shape my opinions are the words of famed scientist Carl Sagan. I’m including the words he used in his show “Cosmos,” as well as a reading of those very same words rerun in a recent reboot of the show a couple years ago.

It’s a moving speech and they are words we really need to study. I sincerely hope you take the time to either listen or read the words. I do not lie when I tell you that the first time I watched this segment, in a darkened living room, I was moved to near tears not only because of the state we are in now, but the hope and power these words portray.

Winston Churchill once said, “History is written by the victors.”

Isn’t time we become the victors?

Carl Sagan: Pale Blue Dot

“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.

“On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.

Carl Sagan. Photo courtesy of NASA

“The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner.

“How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

“Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.

“In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

“The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate.

“Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.

“To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”