Saturday, April 14, 2012

From a Distance

Seen from a distance or through a glass darkly, human communities reveal their invariably amusing character. All depending on the viewer, other words may be substituted for “amusing”—“silly,” “dreadful,” “admirable.” A case in point is North Korea. We get from there within a day news of a rocket that blew up and a ceremony in which two giant statues are unveiled while dignitaries in uniform, and a sole little young man in black stand to watch the unveiling while fireworks explode in the sky above. The little young man watches the statues and probably ponders a future in which his bronzen simulacrum will join the other two. Those watching the ceremony in masses probably think unuttered words: “At least we know how to get the fireworks up there.” The equal silliness of our own rituals entirely escapes us—the contrast, for instance, between sighs of relief because a self-appointed peacekeeper in Florida will most likely be tried for murder—and of a presidential candidate standing tall before the NRA and solemnly pledging to protect our future Zimmermans’ right to bear arms.

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