Posted by: JDM..... | April 4, 2013

Finger traps…..

and their allegorical kin.….

I don’t know what made it all come together like that, but I put down the morning paper and thought of a childhood novelty toy. I was thinking of those simple tubes woven of reeds. When you put one finger into each end, the harder you pull to extract them the more firmly you are held. I was reminded that there are situations in life when the best way to win is to let go and stop fighting.

That isn’t an across-the-board principle, of course, as there are also circumstances in which the opposite applies. Tenacity has its rewards. The trick is to recognize the difference and respond accordingly.

 photo fingertrap_zpsd09a96db.jpg

The analogy, whether one lines up on the Pull Harder or the Let Go side of any particular issue, seems painfully apt today, and I suspect the solution lies not in applying more effort to one’s chosen approach, but in reviewing how one has parsed the perceived differences in order to arrive at a position in the first place.

This is not a new concept, and there is value in dusting off the wisdom of the ages from time to time just to see if it still fits. Strange as it may seem, it almost always does. The traditional Southern story of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby, told through Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus character, is in fact an ageless concept of unknown origin told by numerous cultures around the world. The tale can easily be tweaked to parody today to a “T”. Our fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and much of our most treasured lore were all born as some sort of social, religious, or political allegory. After all, before early forms of writing were developed, and then until literacy began to enter to province of the common man, teaching and the commerce of ideas was accomplished exclusively through demonstration and story telling.

Take Congress, for example. Petrified for several years now, pathetically few of our elected representatives demonstrate the wits of a five year old removing two fingers from a penny toy, and as a society, we seem to delight in flogging that equine corpse. Is it Congress that can’t recognize the differences between pulling harder and letting go, or us? From national issues such as gun control to local life-changers such as an immobilized Board of Selectmen in some crossroads community finding themselves incapable of deciding between a $200 dollar budget for the Animal Control Officer or $250.

Gun control versus the Second Amendment, gay marriage versus Judeo-Christian tradition, in fact, religion in general versus not just secular viewpoints but versus decidedly anti-religious viewpoints, are just a few of the current headliners.

In a broader sense, however, it is not so much specific ways of living, speaking, and thinking that are under attack, but control over those very activities themselves. The net result seems to be that, regardless of the issue being argued or defended, we resemble ranks of chromosomes lined up mid-mitosis, but instead of simply dividing and going about our respective ways, we are linked by intellectual and moral finger-traps, each fighting vigorously to move while at the same time determined to prevent any movement in the other except into one’s own camp.

Biologically speaking, life would end immediately should such a perversion take place. I don’t understand how we can believe it would be a winning strategy socially and politically. Hell, it wouldn’t even work in a game of checkers.


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