The icy spell broke records today, reaching temperatures of -13 centigrade, breaking a century old record (set in 1904), so no hot water at home as frozen in the pipes so I went to the office without a bath. This morning I woke at around 5 am and watched ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, a classic film that supplemented the viewing of ‘The Dust Bowl’, a documentary by Ken Burns. Both films show man can be insensitive to his fellow man; people going bankrupt, large corporations foreclosing property, hardworking but luckless families fleeing, driven to poverty due to a natural catastrophe (though man made). Both reveal the indispensability of government especially the Franklin Roosevelt administration who tried to save these people, coming under criticism for being socialist or communist; similar disparagement heard today towards the current government with its health care reform. This month the current debate is whether to extend jobless benefits to the unemployed, jobless after the economic crisis; disapproved by hard people observing an abstract principle, well displayed in both films. Interestingly, the morning news advised its viewers to show kindness to the homeless out in the deadly cold, to take them into shelter until the temperature gets warmer.
This weekend one learns a relative in custody, allegedly for trying to import banned substances into the country, amazingly from the last communist dictatorship still existing today, ruled by a hereditary despot who persists in his quixotic rule; how he got into this mess is hard to understand. One’s first feeling is shame plus the inclination to disavow his relationship, trying to understand how this could occur and trying to act normal despite the known incident, like Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother advised by the Dallas police to change his name and leave the state (he never did). One needs to hunker down and continue living, one is not to blame for the external ills that affect one’s clan, whether a relative accused of a crime (though he should accept responsibility) or one facing exorbitant medical costs. In the face of authority, whether a large hospital or the police, one feels at the mercy of inhuman forces, like dust storms that swept the plains in the dust bowl or the rampage of rabbits or locust in the fields, like a biblical curse levied upon a people. One needs to hunker down, hold fast to the rope, so one is not blown away by the harsh wind.
One is humbled at such circumstances, fearful of fate with merciless gods hurling events that change one’s fortune, unaware of future happenings, like the weather suddenly coming with cruel cold or dust storms across the plains. One is chastened at work, leading a meeting when one could precede with confidence in one’s youthful past, now unsure of one’s moorings, the lack of arrogance to escape the wrath of gods. But one is a Christian, taking solace on the Lord Jesus and the words of the Bible, away from the solace of alcohol when faced with multiple trials. For example, one needs to research bankruptcy (13 or 7), on LLCs, on crowd funding, on anything that will save one’s clan from disaster, on certain illness afflicting loved ones, to request another sibling to avoid exposing one’s dirty laundry, to keep shame from spreading like a disease, like the itinerant families escaping the dust bowl for a new life in California; we the people are the ordinary folks that survive, rising when there is nothing left, to keep swinging for the benches for a hopeful homerun.