August 9, 2012 at 6:32 am, by Carl
Last week I shared another free excerpt from my book Tracking the Storm. The chapter I presented is perhaps the one that is most familiar to us; I shared how each time the nation got closer to our major national crisis (part of the Fourth Turning that has hit Western Civilization for the past 500 years in a recurring pattern), a hint of the problem shows up in a growing philosophical divide that prohibits the nation’s leaders from really trying to fix the issue. At the core, that divide typically means that both sides are utterly convinced that their way, their solution is the ONLY solution, and come hell or high water, they are going to fight to the last for what they perceive to be the only answer.
The evidence of this being true today is all around us. One simply cannot escape the fact that the divide between sections or viewpoints in this country is massive, and I would offer, sadly, unbridgeable. As I indicate in the chapter of my book, at a certain point, the issue cannot be solved—-in our modern day, for instance, you can’t have both less taxes and higher taxes. One can’t be willing to accept gay marriage and yet also be against gay marriage. Similarly, in history, especially at the crisis of the Civil War, there was no compromise position for slavery…not anymore, not in the 1850s.
I bring this up to reference, again, the commentary by Michael Phillips a few weeks ago, in the wake of the horrific shooting in Colorado during the opening of the new Batman movie. Phillips seems to be surprised, or maybe saddened, that the Batman movie is so dark. He seems to be equally surprised that the movie merely matches our current setting in the country. He writes, “Those who emerge from “The Dark Knight Rises” mightily impressed speak of it as a strange sort of survival test. This is how it is in 2012, in a world without much job stability or stability of any kind. On our couches or out in the world, surrounded by others, we spend a lot of time and money and psychic energy steeling ourselves for the worst. We measure ourselves against dire apocalyptic scenarios invented for our enjoyment. We immerse ourselves in the war games of “Call of Duty,” wondering if we can survive to the next level.”
My reply is “YES” it is a survival test. We are on the cusp of the major crisis–others would argue that we are in the crisis, while a few unaware people seem to still hope that we are through the crisis. You hear that naive take when they try to convince us that the financial crisis is over, that there WAS a “Great Recession” but of course now it is over because President Obama’s economists have said so….as if they are the Magnificent Oz and they can merely speak the words and it becomes so. Yet, anyone with a brain, or knows someone hoping for a job, realizes that our economy is still in shambles and probably will remain so for the foreseeable future. To deny this truth is to be pollyannish.
That Phillips wishes to take director Christopher Nolan to task for having the audacity to hold up a mirror is disappointing. If nothing else, we should view The Dark Knight Rises has a necessary modern-morality play, and the themes within such as Batman’s last words to Commissioner Gordon, reminding him that a hero is someone who takes time to comfort a scared child as pointing to a possible solution. Phillips, though, seems to wish for the campy Batman of the 1970s, a series I grew up with, and loved, yet seems so out of place now, that if it were on TV, could only be seen as mocking us.
He writes, “Director Christopher Nolan’s film has been praised widely for its depiction of Gotham City under siege. For some of us, though, what worked with sinister skill in “The Dark Knight” turned morbid, rancid, in the new picture, quite apart from the horrific events of early Friday morning. As Joe Morgenstern wrote in The Wall Street Journal: The film “makes you feel thoroughly miserable about life. It’s spectacular, to be sure, but also remarkable for its all-encompassing gloom. No movie has ever administered more punishment, to its hero or its audience, in the name of mainstream entertainment.” Slate critic Dana Stevens noted its “repeated scenes of bone-crunching violence” and characterized it as “something of an ordeal.”"
What we are in IS AN ORDEAL. It is high time we admitted that and decided upon a better course of action than sitting around just hoping the government will ride to our rescue. What a better picture of the weakness of government when the military forces sent to save Gotham are rendered nothing more than jailers to the city on the lone bridge out of town. Instead of being able to save us, they are shown for precisely what our Founders knew government to be, a necessary evil best given very limited money and very limited power in order to the most basic things, and leave the rest of living to us, the citizens.
Just as in the history of our country, whether talking about Jamestown or those brave citizens who crossed the Appalachian mountains in to carve out new communities (including my own ancestors in the 1820s), the people risking the Oregon Trail or the many other nameless Americans who set up small towns and villages all across the continent…our way out of this current crisis will come with ordinary people pulling together. Government cannot save us; government has never been able to save anything or any society throughout history. It will take a community of souls determined to live by solid core values, investing in one another and helping each survive.
I think Michael Phillips knows this to be true, though he doesn’t say it as openly as I wish. Who knows, maybe he is as blind as most others to what our solution really is. Yet, at the end of his article, he does seem capable of at least noting the truth—we need each other. Listen to what he ends with:
It’ll be a long time, if ever, before “The Dark Knight Rises” can be watched for what it is — grave masterwork or grim ordeal or both — rather than for what happened early Friday. I’m not sure why, exactly, but the saddest thing I read after the killings came from Tom Mai, a neighbor of the Holmes family in suburban San Diego. In an Associated Press interview, Mai described Holmes, who recently endured some troubles at school and, like millions, couldn’t find full-time work, as “a typical American kid.”
He “kept to himself,” Mai said.
And he “didn’t seem to have many friends.”
We will not close this philosophical divide. That’s the naive voice who believes “the government can save us.” No—we’ve already hit this spot in the road. Like those storm chases you see on TV who get too close and realize that they will have to go THROUGH the storm, we are already on the cusp of that chasm. We will go through it, just like the citizens of Gotham do in the movie. The division within our political voices, echoed in many normal citizens, will impact what happens next, and as in the movie, and in our history, it will probably get messy.
Yet, we will emerge on the other side. We always have. We will this time as well. HOW we emerge will depend on your actions now. Invest in others. Look for ways to build your own community that you can trust. During the movie, this is shown by the community of children in the Boys’ Home who realize that they only have one another.
Blaming or criticizing Christopher Nolan for merely putting on film, masterfully done, the reality of our own setting, gets us no where. Instead, let’s decide that we will start now building a community right where we live that can survive the scary times. We have done this before–community was once among our grandest attributes marveled at by others; WE CAN DO THIS AGAIN!