Have yourself a merry little

Waukesha is about 100 miles away from us up here: a place that people mark as your quintessential American small city — although for those who still associate it with “Happy Days,” it was never quite that, either. It’s not the kind of place that makes the national, let alone the internal, news. Most of Wisconsin likes it that way and the number of times we’ve been part of broader news coverage in the last year is truly disturbing to a lot of people. “We” prefer to be quiet and get on with things.

By which I mean that we prefer not to sit in our cars and cry when the radio gives us the latest count of casualties in the children’s hospital ICU.

The editorial pages are full of anger, the air thick with it, the conversations in the lines at the coffee shop and the movies and the grocery store bristle with outrage. Wisconsin needs a death penalty. Lock him up and throw away the key. Everyone speaking and everyone silent knows precisely how four dancing grannies, a bank teller about my age, and an eight-year-old spectator could still be alive.  We need real legal penalties. We need a functioning bail system. We need better mental health care. We need better schools, better families, a better president, a better governor. The apocalypse is coming. Marana tha.

Outrage is easy but answers are hard. We have always already rejected every solution.

Our prisons are old and decaying and jammed full and nowadays, coursing with COVID-19. With no political will to renovate or build new, we literally can’t pay people enough to staff the facilities we have. Not only can’t we pay people enough to work in the mental health area, between the people who fear the mental health system as a locus of false imprisonment and those who see it as a shield for every sort of lying malefactor, its future is not hopeful. We want to be tough on crime and we don’t want to hire more judges or court clerks or public defenders. We want dangerous offenders to be kept off the streets and we are increasingly critical of the cash bail system. We want inner city families to be strong without jobs or public transportation to take people to them or housing protections and we want people to reject certain categories of addictive substances on force of will alone even as the rest of the state drinks itself–legally–into oblivion.

I don’t know the solution either. I do know that ideology predicts the crime and the outcome and ideology also feeds the outrage that keeps us predicting the crime and the outcome.

It seems to me, though, that what we can’t look in the face is the increasingly destructive fantasy of individual well-being as potentially separated from the whole. It’s easier to look away from everything that’s wrong on the margins of the picture than to acknowledge that while a large group of people is happily cheering the approach of the holidays and dancing in the street, a man with a history of domestic violence can leave the scene of a disturbance and destroy not just lives, but our convictions that we deserve a certain kind of life untouched by destruction, whatever the cause of it.

It’s the increasing apparent lesson of the last two decades at least. As long as one of us is not okay, all of us live at risk. There is no “we,” only we.

~ by Servetus on November 24, 2021.

23 Responses to “Have yourself a merry little”

  1. I didn’t realize Waukesha was relatively close to where you live. Such a tragedy! If only the outrage could lead to concrete reform action…


    • Closer both physically and culturally / demographically than Kenosha. (Fifty miles closer physically, but a lot closer in terms of population, attitudes, etc.)

      This is one of the cases where the amount of things that would have to change would be so large as to defy possibility. I really don’t know even where we would start (which is, of course, why editorialists keep proposing easy solutions).

      Liked by 2 people

  2. The first time I wrote here, it was after the attack on Charlie Hebdo: a terrorist massacre at the headquarters of the satirical newspaper on 7 January 2015.
    We are still writing about “all of us living at risk”, sure Serv!

    Liked by 2 people

    • “whatever the cause of it”!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I wasn’t claiming that this was anything new. I was more responding to a series of assertions and prescriptions made in the local press, which were directed at “how to deal with those people”. In the famous words of Pogo: “we have met the enemy and they are us.”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. […] Have yourself a merry little A l’article de Servetus, je renvoie 2 articles de Corinne Morel Darleux , parus dans Reporterre ( le quotidien de l’écologie), le 14 mai 2020 et le 24 septembre 2021. https://reporterre.net/Comment-vivre-dans-un-monde-qui-semble-irreel https://reporterre.net/Comment-vivre-dans-un-monde-qui-semble-irreel https://reporterre.net/Comment-vivre-dans-un-monde-qui-semble-irreel https://reporterre.net/Au-temps-du-coronavirus-ou-est-la-frontiere-entre-fiction-et-realite Categories: Interrogation sur un thème […]


  4. Voici une rapide réponse à votre article.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We rather than I is the only hope.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I used to give one of the final lectures in modern world civ on “failures of the nation state in the face of globalization” and I talked about things like the environment, pandemic disease (even then, wow), terrorism, intellectual property, etc. But it’s increasingly obvious we’re failing at home. “We vs they” thinking (racism, class issues) are the root causes of events like the one I’m mourning, and yet “we vs they” seems to be the solution that most people come up with — imo perpetuating the very problems they are complaining about.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ve been mulling the question What is all this Lawlessness? lately. I’m sure there are many factors but as I sit in my small town and read the news I’m astounded. The shootings, stabbings, rapes and murders in broad daylight. The gangs of people hitting stores and just grabbing and running. The ridiculous videos of criminals with black garbage bags emptying shelves in drugstores-what is going on here? I don’t feel well informed enough to write about it but I do wonder. I always look forward to your perspective, it makes me see things differently, more clearly, even if there are no actionable answers.


    • It’s really everyone. The local news showed a Ring cam video last night of a woman who was clearly upper middle class (based on stylish haircut, brand clothing, etc.) walking up to the front porch of a local house and picking the pillows off the bench there. I mean, what is up with that?

      What I always used to tell my students in world civ was that governments can’t really act heavily coercively in any meaningful war for very long. They have to rely on the population to basically follow the laws (for whatever reason they do that — out of religious or ethical conviction or whatever it is) because the state cannot be watching everywhere, all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, the state can’t do it all. I’ve always thought it was a basic unspoken agreement of living in a society. In recent months it appears as if many people feel society is beneath them. I thought it may be about the pandemic but the longer it goes on the less I believe it has anything to do with that. Entitlement, the word that keeps coming up for me. You can see I’m all over the place in this. It confounds me.


    • No, it’s something that I’ve seen argued in a lot of editorials recently. Americans have given up on the notion of the “common good.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • But, what does that leave?


        • The social theory that we were all sold since the Reagan years was the idea that the best outcome is achieved by everyone pursuing their individual self-interest. (It will not surprise you to hear that I think that is bullshit, at least in its most extreme form.)

          Liked by 1 person

          • Whatever happened to the common sense of Everything in Moderation – including all manner of ass-hattery….?


            • I was thinking this more or less this week, after all the photos of politicians in Christmas gear with their families brandishing their weapons. Just because you can, should you always? The issue seems particularly acute with regard to weapons — because everyone can buy a gun, we all should. Or something. It inevitably turns into a “this is why we can’t have nice things” situation.

              And then I saw this editorial, which perfectly expresses my feelings and experiences, and says something similar.


              Liked by 1 person

              • What a great piece of writing! That is also how I grew up with guns. This is going to sound incredibly old fashioned, but the more I think and/or read about what is plaguing our society now, the more I come to believe it is abundance that destroys common sense and drives us to find excitement outside the boundaries of law and society. Multiply that by brains doped up on social media hits and nothing is sacred any longer.


  8. […] We’re going to have to find a way to talk about it. Before there is no more “we.” We’ve been headed that way for a while. […]


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