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“Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge.”

I find myself thinking about this quote a lot these days.

I am a student of history. I've spent my youth and much personal industry reading, studying who we as a people are and where we've come from. American History is wonderful and horrific, progressive and reactionary.

Our story as a people and a place is full of contradiction, the best of human ideal mixed with the worst of human nature. Trails of tears and cries of the beaten bondsman, mix with all men are created equal and life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As a trained historian, you're taught to keep a distance from the events you view. Like Herodotus, we're supposed to be inured to the emotion, the passion of what is occurring around us. A historian should report what he sees, not what he feels. I can hear my professors’ voice in my head, “remain objective”.

Fear often undoes reason.

That’s why I’ve spent so much time lately reflecting on the quote that is the title for this post. It’s from Fahrenheit 451, the seminal work from Ray Bradbury. Many of us have read this work as a parable about censorship. Yet it is so much more than that.

451 is a cautionary tale of a society that no longer values knowledge. It’s a world where society has replaced the stimulation and education that books provide, for a world of fast cars, vapid entertainment and mind numbing drugs. Sound familiar?

As we careen toward November, the choice that lies before us gives me pause. In the past, we as a people have often seen through the charlatan. We most often make the best choice. Yet I wonder, are we on the brink of a different result?

Have we reached the stage in our society where fear will override reason? Are there enough of us that see the charlatan for what he is? Or are we so scared and angry at “difference” and “otherness” that we will confirm our baseness and ignorance to a larger world?

“There was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past, afraid of the present, afraid of themselves and shadows of themselves”

Have we forgotten this:

“Fiction gives us empathy: It puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gift of seeing through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.”

Have we finally become this?

“And the uncles, the aunts, the cousins, the nieces, the nephews, that lived in those walls, the gibbering pack of tree apes that said nothing, nothing, nothing and said it loud, loud, loud.”

Only November will tell.

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