by Jim Powers
To D_ Dead by Her Own Hand
My dear, I wonder if before the end
You ever thought about a children’s game—
I’m sure you must have played it too—in which
You ran along a narrow garden wall
Pretending it to be a mountain ledge
So steep a snowy darkness fell away
On either side to deeps invisible;
And when you felt your balance being lost
You jumped because you feared to fall, and thought
For only an instant: That was when I died.
That was a life ago. And now you’ve gone,
Who would no longer play the grown-ups’ game
Where, balanced on the ledge above the dark,
You go on running and you don’t look down,
Nor ever jump because you fear to fall.
by Howard Nemerov
The poet Howard Nemerov wrote these lines after the suicide of his sister, photographer Diane Arbus, at age 48. A brilliant photographer, Arbus’ life was tumultuous, her images helping to normalize marginalized people.
Today there were four stories in my Twitter feed urging me to be outraged at one issue or another. That’s not unusual on social media. The last seven or eight years have seen social media become an outrage machine. And there are plenty of things to be outraged about.
I’m outraged that a mentally ill young man killed a bunch of kids at an elementary school. I’m outraged that the school had an active shooter plan and didn’t implement it. I’m outraged that law enforcement stood outside the school and didn’t rush in to save kids. I’m outraged that the same law enforcement officers prevented parents who tried to get in to help from doing so.
I’m outraged that our country is well on its way from democracy to fascism. I’m outraged that state governments are making laws based on religious belief and imposing them on all their citizens. I’m outraged that those same governments are reaching into women’s uteruses and violating their constitutional rights. I’m outraged that the U.S. out of fear didn’t directly intervene militarily when Russia illegally invaded a sovereign country.
I’m outraged that racism against people of color still exists in this country, despite the reality that we are all part of a single race, the human race.
And my outrage is righteous. But it’s also a way to manipulate me to play the grown-up game where, balanced in the darkness on the precipice of a dying culture, I keep on running, never taking the time to understand the motives behind that manipulation, and riding the outrage because I have been made so afraid by it that I fear to fall if I look down.
The outrage machine was created to control us. We are constantly running because the folks we have put in power to act for us refuse to do so. They don’t want to solve the problems. That would take away their power. And that is what they seek most. Power.
Disclaimer: Jim Powers writes opinion columns. His views are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of Polk County Publishing Company or any of its publications.