HEAD ABOVE WATER

★ ★ ★ ★

HOW I RESIST

By Tim Clark

There is a geometric perfection to my morning commute. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and I live by that rule. I know exactly where I am going, which exit I am taking, and which lane I need to be in. So, I get in that lane and I go. If somebody is not going fast enough, that’s cool. I take my place in line, turn up the music and settle in. I am never in a big hurry to get anywhere. It will still be there.

Of course, there are people who do not take such a peaceful view of the commute. They weave in and out of traffic, taking foolish risks, gambling with their lives, worse, the lives of others. You see the flotsam of chasing a few precious seconds scattered along the sides of the freeway from the outer belt to downtown. Yet, to save a few seconds they are willing to take chances that seem suicidal. I just don’t understand the reasoning.

Cruising along, the path of least resistance, enjoying life is how I deal with pressure. I ignore it.

Vietnam raged across the television screens of my youth. Body counts with Walter Cronkite; reporting progress in morbid numbers, a backward ascendancy of the technological prowess of the first nation to walk on the moon. It was information overload with America’s most trusted voice. I have spent much of my adult life trying to find out why America ever got involved in such a hopeless situation, and there does not seem to any real answers. It just happened. And the world is still filled with hopeless little wars.

Imagine the horror I felt as the Watergate break-in was litigated right on television. To this day I remember the outrage when Richard Nixon called Daniel Inouye “a little Jap.” It was an amazing display of desperate hubris by an ego in freefall. And, it begged the question of how a man who had such an inflated ego could be laid low by a botched burglary attempt. What drives a man to such extremes? Even now an American president and many on his staff feel the pressure of a special council investigation, and the reaction is shameful.

Growing up during such difficult times made me realize authority was, like the rest of humanity, not completely trustworthy. Since I was only one small person, a microscopic cog in a catastrophic plan, I decided not to play along. The words of Jerry Garcia became my guiding principle “Constantly choosing between the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.” I refused to vote for someone just because they were not as awful. So, it takes a special circumstance to drag me to the polls. Life can whiz past me, I don’t care, I have my place in line.

For most of my life I drifted in and out of social consciousness. Staying focused long enough to understand nothing had really changed.

Tommy Smith’s and John Carlos’s raised fists at the 1968 Olympics was an act of bravery and defiance and sixty years later we have NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. Black Lives Matter marching in protest, and it all seems to be on a loop. People driving too fast through history to notice this is not new, things still need repairing.

Women demanded equality seventy years ago. Angry girls burning bras and marching for rights, equal rights, fair treatment. It was an impressive display of organization and bravery. They were ridiculed, derided as lesbians, Nazis, uncontrollable and incorrigible. But they fought on, with determination and grit. It was an impressive display of humanity. Now we have the #MeToo movement, and it becomes obvious nothing has really changed. Not really. It has been driven deeper, maybe covered a little better, but it hasn’t changed. Our world is in too big a hurry to make any changes. Weaving in and out of the people who can’t move quickly enough.

I used to believe the world would correct itself, nations would learn to live together. Somehow, people would understand we are all family, we are all basically the same. The writing is on the wall, and the consequences are tragic, irreversible. Climate change is accelerating, atomic weapons are mushrooming all over the globe. America, Russia, and China glare and grapple over the same things nations, kingdoms and tribes have been bickering about for millennia.

Now, I am an old man, and the world is still gamboling along in casual disregard for safety, driving too fast, too carelessly for my taste, and the choices seem to have gotten worse.  I look at the people running for office, and they all seem intent on playing the same game. In fact, they seem proud of their determined faith in the old ways, the established order. We have an outsider in Washington who is walking backward down a path that leads to a place the world has been trying to get away from for the last seventy years. An isolated wasteland, blind to reality, where uncomfortable events are easy to ignore.

It seems like we should be smarter, but I’m not sure we are. It seems like we should mount a resistance, demand change, but change is normally just cosmetic, temporary, possibly imaginary. So, I’m not sure it will make any difference. But, maybe if enough people can join, enough people are willing to make enough noise, something good will happen. Maybe if we all start moving through life as one, a single organism moving in unison, a parade instead of a rat race, maybe we can become the immovable force and the irresistible object. Imagine what we could do, together, we could make the people who are supposed to represent us actually represent us. I hope so, anyway, because I don’t like the alternatives.

Tim Clark lives in Columbus, OH, where he works for a small warehouse.  He is proud of his marriage, but he would have to ask his wife how many years it has been. He has a blog about life and the perils involved. You can see it here, Life ExplainedHe writes occasionally and with pride for Street Speech, a local homeless advocacy newspaper. He is contributor for Mercurial Stories, Writer’s Newsletter, Cross and Bull Stories, and has stories in anthologies from SmartyPants Publishing and the coming edition of Blank Tapes. He is particularly vain about his monthly column on The Wild Word. He is working on his first novel, based on a series of short stories, random memories, and imagination.

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