I am writing this on December 24th shortly after walking Rabia in four degrees with a minus-sixteen windchill. By the time you read this we’ll be peering into fifty degree weather.
My first thought is biographical — a memoir of Rabia’s short life. She will turn nine in a few months but is too vain to admit it. Her first three years were enjoyed in Vermont. A real minus-sixteen was not unheard of on our nighttime walks up on the border with Quebec. She loved it and the snow. The deeper the better. I would throw a snowball in one direction and as she got to it — nosing into the snow to find it — I would throw one in the opposite direction. Off she would bound like a deer. Back and forth, back and forth. My arm would get sore before she tired of the play.
Not this morning. After doing her business I found myself pulling her home because her paws were so cold she didn’t want to take another step. Poor thing, she didn’t want to stand still but it hurt too much to go forward. I took her leash off as soon as we were in sight of the house and told her to go home while I went to the dumpster with a knotted green baggie. She darted to the porch, turned around and sat to make sure I was coming. “Go on,” I shouted above the wind. She turned and headed to the porch. When I turned back toward the house from the dumpsters she was sitting on the edge of the porch starring at me, just waiting.
She has forgotten all that wintry play just like you, dear reader of the future week, have forgotten what minus-sixteen feels like. We can remember the idea of pain but not the actual feel of it, at least most of us don’t have acutely sensual memory. Our memories have limited ability to hold sensation and that is a definite liability as we walk into the new year.
A significant swath of the public is like Rabia was this morning, not wanting to stand still but resisting the pain of moving forward toward an honest reckoning. Trump aside, there are millions of Americans who support the sentiments of the January 6th Capital rioters and who seem ready to blow up what is, in favor of whatever is not what is. There is no single ideology or vision guiding that toxicity. If indeed there is a battle for the soul of the nation, it has stalemated and in the interim we have lost our soul.
Moving forward requires remembering that our Founders defined Black Americans as less than fully human and enshrined slavery. Moving forward means remembering the genocide conducted against indigenous peoples, naming the ways we violently persecuted LBGQT people, and the means used to restrict the social, economic, and political participation of women. Memory is required to move forward.
While there is a solid core of the MAGA body politic that consciously aims and desires to reactivate the violence we have done to select groups within our society, some of them have hearts and minds yet able to be redeemed by a broad and intentional act of collective memory. Going forward means remembering what we have done and left undone, so that we resolve to never do them again.