New year, new things

The mercury has been zipping up and down in our part of the country. A few days ago, it was -13, and here we are today with the high at 55. It feels mildly schizo. And it’s rough on the motivational side of staying sane. I had to beg for new, warmer running gear for the rest of the winter, for instance. One recent run ended with purple toes. Not like, lavender, or bluish, no. Deep dark purple. Hadn’t even noticed they were completely numb until I jumped in the shower (because it was right before Christmas and there was NO TIME for cooling down), and then an ear-piercing yell later, realized what was up. I’d post a picture, but that kind of thing is icky, let’s be honest.

Big kid and I finished Breaking Stalin’s Nose, which is a pretty swift and completely unsettling story. It’s like reading 50’s sci-fi, until you realize, no, this sort of thing actually went on. In the 50’s. On and on. Then my husband and I started watching the Aldritch Ames mini-series, as well as the remake of House of Cards, which is really excellent, by the way. The original, with Ian Richardson playing the role Kevin Spacey now so ably occupies, was just as unsettling.

I wonder what it is about those sorts of stories that draw us in so well? Is it the act of drawing back the curtain to view the inner workings? Perhaps. All at once, we know it is true, and yet it isn’t. By that, I mean there are small pockets of people who function in such bubbles of reality, but that they cannot exist outside their small realms. That’s why I tend to read dystopian or utopian setups with a certain amount of salt dashed across. There is push and pull from extreme to extreme, but we (perhaps being 70% water?) tend to follow gravity and established routes.

I think that’s why dictatorships are successful mostly in small pockets as well. Without going into some dissertation-style talk, I’ll just theorize that the sheer volume of the USSR was what “doomed” their particular experiment. People will be oppressed and led by the nose, sure, but not everyone – so with the inertia in the middle, the oppressors on one side, and the resistance on the other, eventually the push and pull will set everything back into the middle territory, even with a lot of war, strife, and instability in the meantime.

So yes, I discount the notion of a global dictatorship. One such as in, V for Vendetta, now that might work for a bit longer, except you can’t count on previously stalwart, fiercely independent, somewhat volatile people to suddenly settle down and be docile because they’re scared. Here in the US, there’s a lot of factionalizing and partisanship over who’s really a “patriot”, what constitutes being a True American (say that in your head however you like, it still doesn’t carry gravitas)…well the list of who’s better than whom could go on a long time.

Realistically, we’re a nation founded on restlessness, low attention span, impulsivity, and willingness to chuck aside our Sunday papers in outrage when Something Bad Happens…by golly, we’ll go make it right. As long as it’s in a place where there’s a good reason to be. But that’s another discussion. The official line when we go overseas to bring truth, justice, and democracy to those who need it (whether they want it or not) – is that we are winning hearts and minds. Depressing, but true.

But here, in the homeland, in spite of our pioneering ways, our desire to pull up stakes and move around every five years, and our insatiable desire to read headlines instead of knowledge…people are pretty much ok. Not great, not terrible, but ok. I have a feeling I’m pretty much ok, because frankly, I don’t have a ton of energy left over from trying to turn my kids into something better. On one hand, there is a long list of what I’d like to eventually do, if I ever have any time or mind for it…on the other is the desire to lie around and eat chocolate. Admit it, we’re all pretty much the same. And it’s ok, because once in a while, we manage to actually cross something off the list…and then we go and have a piece of chocolate for a reward.

The difference lies in what you do when the pressure is on. The distillation process, if you will. We all know, deep down, what we would do if push came to shove – some of us would do as the neighbors in Eugene Yelchin’s tale do, rat out the guy next door, because then we can have his apartment. Even though I am a bit of a cynic, and I know that those people are out there, and I watch for them as I would an approaching hyena…I believe that they are the minority, and that we’d get the pull back to moderation from the opposing force on the other side. It just depends on how big the inertia mass is, I guess. How many of us would do absolutely nothing?

I’m one of those impatient, distractable, passionate American types…I know what I believe I’d do, where I’d be, and it wouldn’t be sitting around, but it’s a large unknown, isn’t it? The US is a varied, enormous patchwork quilt of people who often forget about the rest of the country (I live in a state that some parts of the country believe is a myth) – much less the rest of the world – but we aren’t (all) bad people, any more than anyone else is (I’m pinching my fingers to keep from listing any dissenting examples). The Soviet people weren’t all bad. North Koreans certainly aren’t…just their strange dictator is.

Obviously this is just my meandering brain going down the route illuminated by the books and tv we’ve had around here (my husband binge-watched the Tudors over the holidays, while I gnashed teeth over the state of womanhood in those days) – life is so uncertain and weird at times…we can’t help but sit and have little philosophical discussions to try and sort it out. That said, opinions welcome….