I was going to write, this week, about the recent American election, but there have already been enough words committed to paper about that, and anyone interested in the outcome and its meaning has probably already had his or her fill of articles trying to parse what it all means.
I will instead note that the election was filled with enough fear, hatred, loathing, recriminations, vituperation, and distrust to make George Orwell’s dystopian world of 1984 look like a bedtime story. Decency, honour, compassion, and respect all seem to have gone into hiding, leaving the field open to the baser instincts of people on both sides of the electoral divide.
And then I began researching, writing, and editing some of the stories in this week’s paper. In the course of my work I came across a minister who made a very real difference in local communities; two young boys who took it upon themselves to spend part of their summer holidays cleaning up a stretch of Loon Lake; and a couple who decided to celebrate the fact that the Village of Clinton makes available, free of charge, a clean, (usually) well-lit, and warm washroom for the convenience of the travelling public.
I talked to a teacher thrilled with the success of his school’s senior girls’ volleyball team, and their hard work and dedication. I spoke with a man who is passionate about preserving the grasslands in our region, because of their importance to so many species. And there is a review of a play that only came to be because some three dozen local peopledecided it was an important thing to do; important enough that they collectively gave hundreds of hours of unpaid time to present something that will bring pleasure to many.
It brought home to me the fact that fear and anger and hatred are easy. They require no effort, beyond the emotion spent in expending them. They accomplish nothing.
So if that is easy, what is hard? Well, doing something, such as understanding the needs of a community and ministering to that. Spending holiday time cleaning up the detritus left by others so that a cherished place is made better. Writing a letter to say how much you appreciate something that many probably take for granted. Dedicating hours of time to practice and matches to help your teammates, while juggling heavy course-loads at school. Being a voice for an ecosystem that cannot speak for itself. Giving up your time to present a theatrical production that will be enjoyed by hundreds.
At the end of the 1979 film Murder by Decree, Sherlock Holmes says to his injured companion Dr. Watson, “You’re right. There is decency; if nowhere else, in that battered breast of yours.” Decency is not showy, or glamorous. It does not draw attention to itself. But it is a vital part of the social fabric which binds us together rather than drives us apart, and we ignore, or overlook, that at our peril.
Do not let fear, anger, and hatred win. Look instead at the decency, honour, compassion, and respect that goes on around us every day. If enough of us do that, we shall make the world a much better, and happier, place in which to live.