I Say My Hell Is the Closet I’m Stuck Inside

Michael Bettencourt | Scene4 Magazine | www,scene4.com

Michael Bettencourt

There is so much to write about as I scroll through my COVID news feed, but I find it difficult to say anything fresh and liberating. There is no value added being the one billionth person calling out 45 for his gargantuan mess-up of the response to our most current plague, and the narrow vocabulary of the trolls, ideologues, media and punditocracy makes it difficult to find intellectual off-ramps and scenic overlooks where one can feel the sting that comes with new skin and new ideas.

Feels like we’re inside Dave Matthews’ “So Much to Say”:

    Cause here we have been standing for a long long time
    Treading trodden trails for a long long time
    I say my hell is the closet I’m stuck inside
    Can’t see the light...
    So much to say, so much to say, so much to say, so much to say
    So much to say, so much to say, so much to say, so much to say
    Cause here we have been standing for a long long time
    Treading trodden trails for a long long time, time, time, time, time, time, time

Some might say, of course, that it’s a fool’s errand to muck among the trolls and traumas, the idiocies and ideologues, and better to do what one can on one’s path to lessen cruelty and brighten misfortune, especially if it’s local and limited.

Well, yes, compassion is always and everywhere a good thing to practice, but I don’t accept the underlying belief that the power of good works accumulates somewhere and will deploy itself to deflect the avalanche to the side just in time to save the village, that good will outgain evil and that those who do evil will get their just deserts.

In fact, I often feel that doing good works is the real fool’s errand because it underestimates the savagery and soullessness of the enemy—and enemy, not adversary, is the proper word. An enemy like the one we face in this country today, which I would name as the Republican Party and its leader along with every person self-named as Republican and conservative, should be destroyed since the party has shown no sign that good intentions will change its intentions or that moral arguments will argue it into sanity.

Admittedly, I have not done extensive research on how it should be destroyed, but I don’t forswear the motivating anger that governs this desire to destroy what I consider my enemy.

We live in a time when anger may be the healthiest de­fense against our current craziness.  Even in our pandemic times, the rank stupidity of so many things fans itself out in front of us every day.  I watch 45’s face purse in disgust as he denounces immigrants, but I don’t see any similar outrage on his face when reports come in of massive lead contamination of Ameri­can children.  I hear the thuggish drawl of Lindsay Graham speak about the beneficial trickle-down of tax cuts for the wealthy, but I don’t hear any denunciation of the conditions that put the United States high on the list for rates of infant mortality.

These atrocities go on, but it’s not just a list of the aristocra­cy’s faults.  We, the “ordinary folk,” the pluribus, have forgotten how to be skeptical citizens, forgotten that people in power should never be fully believed or trusted, for­gotten that when people want a Mussolini to make the trains run on time, democracy is dead.  This goes especially for our condition today: social distancing and all of its attendant assertions of state power over individuals might need to be tolerated to curb COVID-19, but we need to make sure that these powers remain temporary and contingent and do not get added to the already over-stuffed armamentarium of executive power.

Many, many years ago, I wrote the following: “The touchstone for this anger must be the Constitution, its enumerated liberties, its energy for equality.  Instead of Peter Finch’s ‘I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore,’ we should be shout­ing, ‘I’m mad as hell, and it’s time I started acting like a citizen.’  If our anger drives us to that rather than either violence or self-loathing, then it’s possible to regain the democracy that the Constitution makes us promise ourselves.”

I no longer believe this. I think we need stronger measures. I’m not sure what they are, but I do know we need them. And now.

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Michael Bettencourt | Scene4 Magazine | www,scene4.com
Michael Bettencourt is an essayist and a playwright.
He writes a monthly column and is
a Senior Writer for Scene4.
Continued thanks to his “prime mate"
and wife, Maria-Beatriz.
For more of his columns and articles,
check the Archives.

Scene4 Magazine: Perspectives - Audio | Theatre Thoughts  | Michael Bettencourt April 2016 | www.scene4.com



©2020 Michael Bettencourt
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