The Transylvania Times -

Can The Center Hold?


August 28, 2017

The opioid epidemic is devastating communities across the country. The North Koreans continue to pursue their nuclear weapons program. At a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., one woman was killed and nearly two dozen others injured as a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

At times like these it seems as if things are falling apart, or as William Butler Yeats eloquently wrote in “The Second Coming:”

“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.”

Until this last year, many Americans thought the days of the Neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan and similar organizations, if not behind us, were certainly waning. The idea that one race is superior was acknowledged to be anathema to the American belief “that all men are created equal.” For multiple reasons, the ugly specter of organized racism has risen once again.

What should be done, not only in battling this resurgence of racist organizations, but also the opioid epidemic and the multiple other problems this country faces?

In times of crisis, those individuals, communities and nations that calmly assess a situation before acting are those that are most likely to be successful. The person who gets in a potentially fatal car accident is more likely to survive if he does not panic, makes a quick assessment of his health and acts accordingly than the person who panics and acts hysterically.

It’s a little different for communities and nations. Quite often there are numerous causes for each problem. For example, the rise of white supremacist groups is the amalgamation of many forces: an increasing population of other races and ethnicities in the United States, thus raising questions, if not fears, of living in a nation in which whites are no longer the majority; an individual sense of powerlessness, both economically and politically, and previous social isolation. The latter two issues are somewhat resolved for the individual when he or she joins a group; they feel more empowered and less socially isolated. The latter is true not only for white supremacists, but also for those who belong to street gangs of various races and ethnicities; they seek to be empowered and part of a group.

So what is one to do?

Individuals should reflect upon whether or not he or she is part of the problem. It is easy to point our fingers at others for faults we ourselves may possess. We should look at ourselves to see if we are contributing to the problem in any way and if the actions we take move us more towards a solution or exacerbate the problem.

We should stop transforming events to fit into our political and social narratives. If people do something wrong, we need to recognize that wrong even though we may side with them politically.

We should practice empathy. If we truly attempt to place ourselves in another’s shoes, we would be less judgmental, more understanding, more civil and highly more likely to achieve some common ground upon which we can proceed.

If we employed these traits, then we would be heading in the right direction in addressing many of our national problems.

Of course, self-reflection, empathy and seeking an objective reality are despised by extremists on either end of the political spectrum. That is why, as Yeats wrote, they “are full of passionate intensity.”

When the center does not hold, calamity strikes. One need only look at the Civil War, in which many Southerners were opposed to secession, or the rise of the Third Reich to see where extremism has led.

“The Second Coming,” written in 1919, presaged the atrocities of World War II. But it is not limited to just that time. If the “center cannot hold,” then it’s quite possible “darkness drops again” and a “rough beast” will find its “hour come round at last.”


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