Alexandria’s library still burns in my heart. If we had not lost the accumulated knowledge of that ancient temple of wisdom, would we have a cure for cancer today? Would we have warp drive? What would our world look like now if we hadn’t taken those sixteen thousand steps backwards—if we haven’t had to retrace them in a sand with faint footprints?
I saw the Taliban blow up the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas and grimaced. A tantrum by intemperate children destroyed beauty. Such wonton destruction and disregard for what was sickens me. I shielded myself from videos of extremist thugs desecrating museums of Syria and Iraq, smashing statues and the like. But I can’t stop looking. I can’t afford to.
A man with a dream tried to build things of beauty with the tools he had available to him. The tools were imperfect, like the man who wielded them. But he worked earnestly, with hopes that those who followed would build upon his foundation, perhaps build additions that may in the end outshine his original construction.
Other forces had different ideas. They shot Dr. King on April 4,1968. 45 years later, one of his constructions, the Voting Rights Act, suffered a major gutting at the hands of the Supreme Court. How ironic. The Court had been seen as a tool of salvation, a ticket to freedom. But things have changed since the days of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
Freer minds exist today thanks to the work of the Civil Rights Movement that Dr. King was a part of. This gave rise to the impossible. Thus, in 2008, another man tried to build things of beauty with the tools he had available. He, too, is an imperfect man who used imperfect tools. But he, too, worked earnestly and hoped that others that followed would build upon what he created, or create something even better.
And again, other forces had different ideas. No preplanned, concerted effort brought the current president to office, per se. That is to say, he was not selected out of a crowd, anointed as “the one” and then fed, nurtured, and primped for the role. No. He just appeared. But having grown up fed with racist ideology, he fit the bill just fine. His father wore the robes of the Klan, taught his son not to trust dark-skinned people. Don’t rent to them. Don’t hire them to handle your money. They’re thieves. And the son learned his lessons well.
They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.
Now he is in the house that was once Obama’s and is smashing it to bits, just as the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas, just as the Islamic State destroyed the ancient sites of Palmyra. Our punishment for having elected a black man is to watch all that he did get decimated by a man who lacks Obama’s intelligence, education, thoughtfulness, grace, and wisdom.
Alexandria burns again. Its scrolls turn to ash, its tablets into rubble. Its knowledge vanishes for another thousand years. Except we don’t have a thousand years. We may not have 50. We have a world hurdling towards oblivion due to anthropic climate change. We have millions threatened with homelessness and disease because of draconian policies planned by the current regime.
We also have the power to stop it, if we want. We can beat back the flames, reclaim the scrolls, restore beauty. We can defy the shitholes.
We can. We should. We must. But will we? If we don’t, then we are the shitholes. And our descendants will look at us as such.