The ceiling has hung low in the darkness of these mornings, shrouding the dawn in a blanket of clouds. Sunrise and moonrise have been hidden by winter gray padding the the skies while keeping the sun prisoner with only peek-a-boo appearances. This morning I went to the lake in darkness and while headlights flickered through naked trees on the far side, and distant lights here and there reflected upon the inky water, I could feel the veiled predawn clouds pressing down yet unseen above my head.
Even so, the temperatures have been moderate and that allows for bicycling. What joy there is in defying winter, bracing against the icy wind while peddling past the legion of geese bulging out of the bay on the north end of the lake with their riotous clacking ricocheting off the water. Some are year-round residents, hundreds maybe. The neighborhood swells in winter though, with Canadians who hang out here for the relative warmth.
Sitting out late one afternoon this week under the ascending cloud bank that rose to fill the sky with layered wisps of gray and grayer, I heard geese in the distance. Only slowly did I become aware of their voices, distant and cacophonous. They almost sound human, like the din in a restaurant when words escape mouths and float in the air indistinct yet randomly decipherable. Rabia didn’t seem to notice or care, but my growing consciousness of their voices caused momentary confusion. I realized the noise I heard could not be the geese gathered near the beach over a mile away so I looked up.
Squadrons of geese flying south flew high overhead while straffing the furthest layers of gray with their barking. Hundreds of formations, thousands of the birds composing the familiar v-shapes, one after another flying into invisibility in the distance. Their yammering rained down upon Rabia and me from six thousand feet above, hardly visible but the presence of their sound still acute. I thought about the babel of right-wing rabble roiling in the background of last week’s House Speaker debacle.
The cult that ruthlessly exalts their vision of nation, a hernia of racial privilege and a bulging vein of violence in its ranks, exhibited the power of “No.” When a parent gives in and rewards temper-tantrums with acquiescence, bad behavior multiplies. Giving power to those who cross their arms and refuse reasonable participation and compromise, releases the toxin into the mainstream. The ill-effect of the Speaker election will not be contained within the walls of the House chamber.
The presence of this necrotizing disease on our body politic mummers in the background all around us. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Map of Hate Groups lists thirty-five in New York State, five in Western New York. Forty-six or more New Yorkers were arrested in the aftermath of the January 6th riot at the Capital Building, a quarter of them from our part of the State. People who truly believe their vote was stolen, or who simply cannot stand the fact they are in the minority, will poison the whole electorate if empowered beyond their actual numbers.
The wild geese, either resident or migrating, can be both enjoyed and ignored. But we must not ignore those who imbibe conspiracy theories or seek to harness the nation with their delusions of a better past and predilection toward violence.
edwin beck says
Bravo, Cam. Another gem. If I may be so bold to share a couple thoughts gently based upon your physical themes. First off: there’s your courage, riding under those honking Canada geese – but also your having the nerve to look upwards at their interesting formation. Their G.I. patterns (at least personally witnessed on the ground) can provide a nasty harbinger of one’s head-and-shoulders should the leader announce something like, “okay, let ‘er lose, each poop-filled goose!”
And my other thought – near-equally disgusting – deals with the House and its newby, George Santos. Where in the world, we ought to be asking, were the Dems (here I get to use “asleep at the wheel”) when GS was running and their incumbent candidate was destined to lose by a mere couple hundred votes. It would have been so easy to to uncover that guy’s lies in advance of 2022’s vote last November. He was belting out some unbelievable due-due (taking liberties where those geese were portrayed), and their random nature should have signaled something like honking geese, suspiciously not presented in any formation. Just random bragging, like the kid in school (you) could never trust with his “facts.”
Cam Miller says
Yep, I’ve wondered that too — both, why we don’t get spattered more often, and how the Dems let it go by? Curious on both accounts.
Tim Long, Just Up the Hill from Lock 15 says
Dear Fr. Cam,
This is wonderful prose, and as support, we’ve lately been reading Wendell Berry’s “Hannah Coulter” aloud in the evenings, and I’ve again been pulled in to reading Hunter Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72”. Both of which seem particularly relevant to you observations herein, both also being voices from the edge. For further insight, I recommend Timothy Snyder’s lectures on the politics of eternity vs (sort of) the politics of inevitability, as to why it is we are so routinely (figuratively) spattered. By the geese…
Cam Miller says
Thanks Tim. Wonderful prose is a gift of wonderful beauty so I’m just passing along the gift. Be well.