Funny How Falling Feels Like Flying
“The past isn’t dead. In fact, the past isn’t even the past.” Thanks to William Faulkner. The future is a mystery to us because it is unknowable. But so too is the present mysterious because we cannot know the future or how the present will play out.
So, we have to ask: What is our present? What might it augur for the future? Many are saying that this presidential election is crucial, that it will determine the nation’s fate for some time to come. This is, of course, conjecture and a conjecture based on the assumption that we are faced with a choice between two competing, even incompatible options, with one those options representing “progress” and the other representing “reaction.”
Leaving aside the personal qualities – or lack thereof – of the two major parties’ candidates, this assessment assumes that our nation is “on the rise,” that it is getting stronger, more secure, and freer; not that it is actually getting weaker, less secure, and less free. If the latter is a more accurate picture of our nation’s status and prospects, as most Americans seem to think, than the idea that we are confronting a choice between “progress” and “reaction” obscures the most important or what should be the most important issue: How do we restore the nation’s health? To pose the choice as, “How do we continue our progress?” when we are not and have not been progressing is to court, even to guarantee, further failures. Or if we mistake superficialities – such as electing the first black president or the first female president – for real progress, we also facilitate or guarantee further failures.
One of my favorite songs, from the soundtrack of the movie Crazy Heart, contains the line, “Funny how falling feels like flying – for a little while.” While the argument that this presidential election is crucial because our allegedly healthy political order faces a reactionary threat is a comfortable argument to make, it is more likely that we are in danger of thinking that we are flying when, in fact, we are falling. And if this is the case, then once again the slogan, “Yes We Can!” will morph into the slogan “No We Can’t!” Looking back to 2008 confirms that “falling feels like flying.” It is also confirms that it feels that way only “for a little while.”