Jay Meehan: ‘The center cannot hold’
“The center cannot hold.”
Sometime during the night the gyroscope deep within my cognitive centers went on the fritz. Focus lost its balance. Concentration lay barely beyond reach. Just as I would get a grasp of whatever issue was at hand, another would interrupt without propriety. Parliamentary procedures had jumped off the ledge. Order had left the building.
To keep my faculties from totally spinning out of control, I held a line-up of the usual suspects and quickly identified two of the more notorious: political correctness and the “war on football.” See what I mean? Even when order is located, an undercurrent of chaos looms.
I’ll lead off with a plausible identification of terms. I’m pretty sure that’s where most of our differences can be found, somewhere in the bushels and pecks of apples and oranges.
First of all, I am not afraid of learning that one of my specific cultural choices offends a fellow member of my species or, for that matter, an entire clan within the tribe. I’m very seldom married to the notion in question and am usually able to modify behavior in order to smooth the waters.
What makes these changes seamless, I suppose, is that I never take the act of having it brought to my attention as an attack upon me personally. Which goes back to the concept of learning. As I mentioned, I’m not afraid to learn, which at its core, is changing behavior.
A favorite recent example of this was my discovery that the term “Anasazi,” when used to identify the cliff dwelling peoples that disappeared from the Southwest around 1300 A.D., was viewed as insulting by their descendants, the current Pueblo tribes of the area.
What I “learned,” in this case, was that the term itself had roots in the Athabasca language of the Navajo and roughly translates to “ancestors of our enemies.” Well, I quickly transposed, wouldn’t that be somewhat akin to the English having a word for we Irish that we found objectionable? Oh, that’s right, they already have a lexicon full.
So, I no longer use the term. I opted for “ancestral Puebloans,” which, at least in the current literature on the subject, appears to be the consensus of choice. But that’s my choice. If asked, I would explain my process, but not inflict it upon the group as a matter of course.
Now, if others who knew better chose to flaunt the term in a pejorative manner, well, they would certainly run afoul. They would have my complete attention. And that’s how I see “political correctness.”
Now, as to the “War on Football,” I find that notion to be as pathetic as I did the perceived “war on Christmas” as attributed to Starbucks when they redesigned their to-go cups. Now, I’ve done it! I’ve introduced religion into the conversation. And, of course, when you get right down to it, that’s at the root of all of our differences.
To those on the right, the separation of church and state is an oxymoron. But to the rest of us, that’s exactly where we find the bedrock of our freedom. It’s as apparent in our opposing views on right-to-life as it is in these various culture wars.
Where they find the cohabitation of God and science to be blasphemous, we see it as a most natural and logical love affair. All is one, as it were. It’s the quantum religion. If the Higgs Boson, which is responsible for attaching mass to other particles, isn’t holy, then one must question all else that has been declared sacred.
Likewise, if a body of medical research continues to link the repeated head injuries incurred by football players with lasting brain damage, then one must question the irrationality that views those results as part of a great Chinese conspiracy against the American way of life. Just sayin’.
Let my testimony further reflect that, as a lifelong sports fan, I am as guilty as any when it comes to cause and effect. I celebrated the resounding hits my son would put on opposing players even when the effect would be that neither would move for moments on end and x-rays would prove positive. Damn Chinese!
Again, the malfunctioning gyroscope notwithstanding, the attempt was not to sermonize but to briefly examine.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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