Tuesday, November 20, 2012

the complacent traitor

Looking back, historically or personally, it may seem that it was the traitor who had things right -- the rapscallion who whispered or roared against the corruptions of complacency, the one who found sometimes egregious flaws in a status quo and then set out to correct them.

Last night, on TV, a much-wrinkled man who had lived through the Dust Bowl in America's farmland, issued a summing up of his survival when he said, more or less, "I swore I never wanted to be a farmer or broke. Well, I'm not a farmer and I'm not broke."

How hard the wealthy may have striven to become wealthy. How hard the uneducated may have worked for an education. How hard the enslaved may have fought to become free. How hard the football player may have worked ... or the father or mother or ... well, make your own laundry list.

Worked and sweat, sobbed and moved forward, experienced uncounted wounds and remained determined. Within and without, trying to change this and improve that so that then ... then ... then what? Isn't it true that whatever the implicit or explicit goal, it was the traitor who lit the fuse -- the one who knew first-hand the flaws of what was and worked hard for what might be?

Out of the dulling complacency and into the vibrant and bouncy light ... all thanks to that rambunctious traitor.

And yet is there anything more dispiriting than the complacent traitor ... the one who has mistaken, like his complacent forbears, his own bouncy complacency for peace? Endlessly, dullingly, complacently in a state of rebellion. Endlessly right ... the kind of right that by its nature must continue to set up and nourish the wrong. Or, for the complacent, vice versa... the war-mongers who call it peace when they return victorious and lay down their arms; the kind of peace that simply relies on and inspires another war.

The white picket fences of peace. The white picket fences of war. 

"Complacent," says an Internet dictionary, means

too confident and relaxed because you think you can deal with something easily, even though this may not be true
The traitor, within or without, rises up against the white-picket-fences of the past ... wonders in whispers, perhaps, or roars with indignation. Where there was "yes," a "no" asserts itself; where there was "no," a "yes" asserts itself. Complacency is not peace: It is too smug by half and too wounding in its smugness. To arms! To arms!

Blessings on the traitors in our lives. Blessings on our very own tree-shakers and limit-destroyers and iconoclasts. Is it not they who show the way? I think they do ... and yet too ...

Complacency is not peace and a lack of complacency is not peace and so these wondrous barbarians -- these traitors -- are required to go further still if peace is what they desire. A traitor faces the very real necessity of betraying the role of a traitor. Not only is the complacency of the socially-acceptable not acceptable ... the complacency of the socially unacceptable is wearying and wounding as well.

Intellectually, this is all pretty kool. But of course the intellect, like the emotions, cannot really hold a candle to the experience of the matter ... the fear, the determination, the courage and cowardice.

What would anyone sacrifice for peace?

Who says something needs to be sacrificed?

Such questions require some first-class traitors.

Or maybe not.

I don't know.

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