“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,” wrote William Butler Yeats. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
I live in a house 100 years old. It is not falling apart, nor is any in the neighborhood, and I suspect it is regular maintenance, or more to the point application of doses or modern methods of preservation, that keeps these places standing. They were built of wood at a time when fiberglass insulation, plastic caulking material and long-lasting paint were unavailable, but judicious use of modern invention helps preserve them, continue their use.
The Constitution provides the rules to impeaching a president, and offers significant leeway for modification, but the Senate will still follow instructions from 231 years ago. The rules to be followed are older than the Capitol, where the trial will occur. The outcome seems foregone, and those on one side will forever trumpet vindication, with the other forever noting the lack of impartiality. The center is not holding; earned and deserved disrespect of the Senate is, and will.
“He not busy being born is busy dying,” Bob Dylan wrote, a quote cited by Jimmy Carter at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. The same applies to institutions and those not evolving. They are the ones who suffer the bombshells: the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, any corporation offering something more constructive than lip service to the cause of environmentalism, the American sports cartels, name your established organizations in jeopardy. Even Google and Facebook, the generational leaders of great places to work – excellent pay, valuable services provided, a vindication of how smart an applicant is – are now on some qualified people’s “Do Not Work There” list. According to the job finding website Glassdoor, the companies have dropped from the list of Top Ten of “Best Places to Work.” Internal friction. Worker intimidation. A reluctance, in Facebook’s case, to scrub lies from users’ accounts. A belief that senior management cannot successfully lead the company into the future.
The latest is the creaky old House of Windsor, two of whose members, last name Sussex, have decided that exile to Canada and the working world is an improvement on royal duty and whatever else goes on in Buckingham Palace or any of the other palaces under the family’s care. This organization does a fine job with ceremony, and has somehow maintained its status among British citizens as a national benefit, but I read history. Anyone who does that knows what it took to build and pay for those palaces, the churches, the maintenance of this fraud called royalty. The queen finally has two people within her family – a grandson and his wife – who seem to comprehend the toll this farce takes on them, if not on the millions around the world and through time who paid, many dearly, to keep this thing going. If the British people still think of all of this as charming and valuable, well, there are those in America who regard the current president as divinely anointed.
In a way, it is enjoyable to sit back and watch the crashing and burning of anachronistic systems, as long as I am not a member of those systems. I am a graduate of a college founded in 1846. I seriously follow activities in a sport whose rules were formally codified in 1845, and I do not want to see these institutions fade into irrelevance. It should be acknowledged, though, that reductions of influence occur when something else supersedes them, for better or worse. Mainline churches know that not everyone is turning atheist, and that newer, evangelical houses of worship are thriving.
In “Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony,” essayist Lewis Thomas in 1995 decried the federal government’s abandonment of support for basic scientific research, with money going to develop nuclear weapons when it should be going to develop medicine. My thoughts are more prosaic.
The progressive rock trio Rush, of Toronto, was big in the '80s and '90s, and their exceptional drummer Neal Peart died last week at 67, not of the usual rock star maladies but of a brain tumor. A song of theirs speaks of suburbia’s banalities: “Subdivisions, in the high school halls, in the shopping malls, conform or be cast out.”
I have been to shopping malls, and their days are as numbered as any tottering institution. From casual observation, high schools remain great places to leave. Conform or be cast out? Not with the Internet inviting anyone to join an affinity group, be it Star Trek or gun rights or something some side will eventually label divisive, or worse, progressive.
Some things need to be propped, buttressed, sustained. The others, the ones offering less and less service? Let ‘em crash. Better things come along.
Contact Ed Adamczyk at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.