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No Trumpet

by Sal Moriarty

From Wikipedia: The boiling frog is an apologue describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.

Don't wake me for the end of the world unless it has very good special effects. from “Prince of Chaos” / Roger Zelazny

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine. R.E.M.

You know, I don't remember anything about September 10, 2001. I lived in Little Rock, Arkansas in your average suburban neighborhood. I didn't like living in Arkansas much. Lots of nice people and a pretty state, but I never fit in. Nevertheless, it was my home when the world changed (I guess) forever. We all lived in one world at midnight on the 10th and another world entirely by midnight of the 11th.

Since 9/11, we've endured two decades of war, one rancorous election after another and mass shootings on a seemingly weekly basis. We lived through the housing meltdown in 2008 (most Americans still don't realize how close the world was – hours – from a catastrophic economic meltdown). Then, of course, came COVID. I had folks much younger than myself ask me repeatedly during the pandemic if I had ever seen/experienced anything like it. Well, no.

That seems to be the norm for the 21st century: uncharted ominous waters...on a daily basis. I am not optimistic about the future.

For me, the most distinct characteristic of the 21st century is the hatred many Americans feel toward one another. It is the primary driver of my pessimism about our future. Even during the Civil War (ironically named) the drum beat of hostility between citizens was not broadcast 24/7 directly to devices in the hip pockets of the population. I suspect the momentum of technology cannot now be halted and we are incapable of dealing with it rationally.

In other words, technology will dictate we continue listening to talking heads (rich people we don't know with a financial interest in keeping us at each other's throats) as they tell us how evil many of our fellow Americans are...and we'll believe them. Al-Queda never hated Americans as much as Americans hate one another. That can't bode well for the future.

Of course, I've heard my entire life these are the end times. You don't grow up in southeast Texas and go to a Southern Baptist church and not get a steady dose of that stuff. Not to offend anyone's religious beliefs, but I don't think that approach serves anyone well. I got in trouble in Sunday School class once for asking the teacher, “What's the point of going to school if it's all about to end?” I wasn't trying to be a wise guy. Seemed a reasonable question. I thought they had answers. Turned out, they did not.

Maybe these are the biblical end times. It certainly feels like something is winding down, but my guess is it will be far more prosaic. In the same way we experienced Afghanistan and Iraq, but continued watching Friends and filled the coffers of Marvel Comics franchises and bought six-dollar coffees and adapted to phones that weren't actually phones at all, I suspect we'll do more of the same. This is 21st century America. There could be plumes of smoke rising from explosions across the length of the horizon and cat videos on TikTok would be no less popular. Into the future with a whimper, not a bang. No trumpet.


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