Tracking the political pendulum

Published 6:27 pm Monday, August 27, 2018

“With its Phantoms chased for evermore,

By a crowd that seize it not,

Through a circle that ever returneth in

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To the self-same spot.”—Edgar Allen Poe


Be still, and sense the beginnings of what may soon be evident to all.

In the quiet of the dusk or breaking dawn, you may feel the slightest hint of it. Even within the sweltering, sense-masking heat of an August Delta dog-day, in the slightest of stirrings, on the faintest whisper of a breeze, it is sometimes detectable.

The pendulum begins to swing.

The nation’s mood begins to change, yet again, its priorities and dreams and fears shifting in substance and shape.

From Left to Right, from Right to Left, the political pendulum rests but a while, barely even a dot, really, on the historical timeline. Its inexorable, implacable path of monotony marking on its arc the way stations in time we note as the life path of a nation.

Such was the subject of discussion — not an argument, or a fight, but a discussion, one proving again that such remains possible — the other night among a group of people who hold up gamely beneath the burdens of both thinking and civility. “The pendulum always swings back, Always.” One of the more philosophical of them quite correctly noted, “Those who do not understand that, do it at their peril.”

And the pendulum is once again in motion.

Its next arc has begun, and America’s contemporary history-in-the-making will, as ever, be riding — I suspect not very smoothly — on both the nature of its path and eventual destination.

For there is a smell in the political air, the familiar smell of change. But there is also another — a far more pronounced olfactory detection and that one is the always more ominous scent of danger — as old as cave-dwelling man and as powerful enough to make not only a population shudder, but its nation subsequently shake.

America no longer recognizes itself, nor its people each other.

We are strangers within our own midst. Friend is made enemy; truth is made lie. Dreams are now nightmares, and hope is but a dream.

For lack of a nail this national house of ours could collapse, for as the writer Poe first told us, and as the last two years have surely attested, beneath the pendulum always lies the pit.

This nation needs a leader. And no, that was not Hillary Clinton and no, that is not Donald Trump, and though I hate to say it, neither is there one immediately identifiable — but if we the people can’t find and choose such a leader, then the often fickle gods of history surely will fill the void. It has always happened that way — the rarely perfect track of the pendulum’s swing to and from the way stations, some of which now appear quite dark.

We just witnessed that happen; we might not can survive it, unchanged, again.

Regardless of who wins this November’s elections, regardless of which party occupies the most seats in Congress, this nation will continue to be more divided than it has been at any other time since certainly the pre-World War II years, and perhaps even the pre-Civil War years.

The already present, seemingly daily growing anger will yet build. The already heightened to dangerous levels of frustration will yet rise.

As we have sadly, tragically witnessed, there is always a pilot light flickering within the pit. It is the pilot light of violence which exists beneath the surface of any society and it is being fed the fuel of fear from every corner of ours.

What America most needs, what America screams for today is a fireman — not a bunch of people wearing hats and carrying axes to a costume party where the guest list includes the darkest of us all. American politics is now itself as poisoned, as polluted, as some of its more insidious practitioners would turn its waters. This, for the contemporary thirty pieces of silver we now most euphemistically refer to as campaign contributions.

History lingers but a moment by its measure — its gods are not known for their patience — to await the foibles of men and their nations.

Surely somewhere, in this one there is our oh, so needed fireman. Surely someone has that hose, but we cannot afford to wait much longer to find him.

The pendulum swings. The fires are fanned.

And as the poet Yeats rhetorically asked in another troubled place and time, “what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.