I am a fan of science fiction/fantasy. Have been from my earliest years, and now that I am in the early years of my second half century, I find my reactions to many goings on framed within the plethora of metaphor clusters I acquired in my sci fi literature explorations. Understanding this about me is relevant to the extent that 1) I truly believe in the force–for good and ill–as a framing spiritual metaphor for the divine in life; and 2) I often understand the import of present affairs in light of these framing metaphors. So it should surprise few that I found myself processing some events of the last few days through the lenses I acquired in my explorations of science fiction.
I found myself particularly disturbed last evening as I watched and read about the events unfolding in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan. Watching and reading about the events in Ohio and Wisconsin, I was particularly fascinated by the response of the citizenry to the proposals by the governors of both states to disintegrate or diminish greatly the rights of government employees to organize and maintain membership as unionized workers, to strike when the membership deemed it necessary to do so, and to bargain as a represented entity for wages, benefits, and conditions of working. I feel a deep connection to these two places and the events unfolding there for a few important reasons: I was born and raised in Ohio, I completed my bachelor’s degree there, and have been teaching at a private university in Ohio for 21 years. I earned my Doctorate from the University of Minnesota, and spent my first 6 years as a terminally degreed professional teaching in the University of Wisconsin system and living in Wisconsin. Minnesota and Wisconsin were, for me, wonderful places to live and learn: the people were a pragmatic yet progressive lot. These states can claim proudly as their own Hubert Humphrey, Robert La Follette, and more recently, Al Frankin, Donna Shalala and Herb Kohl. So it was no innocuous event to see 30, 000 plus people gathering in the Wisconsin capital to protest the proposals to bust the state employees unions by the newly elected governor. Layer this on top of what I had observed the same day in Ohio, as John Kasich proposes to strip the rights of government employees’ unions here–and the thousands of teachers, police, municipal workers, and university employees–gathered at the Statehouse to speak in hearings and monitor the actions of the governor and the senate, and I not surprisingly found myself mentally flashing to a sci fi scene that crystallized the import of it all for me.
The flash was deeply vivid: at the end of Terminator (the first movie of the trilogy), Sarah Connor finds herself in the desert, well pregnant with the child around which the action of the three movies revolves. She stops at a gas station to fill up the tank of her jeep, determined to take herself and her unborn child far away from the forces which threaten both her, her child, and the future of the planet. The final scene shows her driving out of the gas station and down the road toward the mountains. And, over those mountains to which she must escape, we can see the brewing of a violent storm: sky dark purple, lightning and thunder flashing with menace, inevitable in the ominous threat it holds for her and all of humankind.
And then another flash: the Dark Times. The episode in the time line of the epic Star Wars series, when the Dark Side of the force takes hold in the galaxy and the Empire rises to epic prominence to oppress forces of good in the galaxy. Epic events and overwhelming force suppresses and quashes all signs of resistance and protest.
And I realize, the only one talking about what is happening in these two states in any informative forum like news or punditry on a national scale is Ed. Our Ed who we sometimes viewed with amused tolerance, or maybe even disdain, because he was so willing to scream about anything that threatened, as he calls it, “the soul of this country.” I now feel the full force of the two by four hitting my forehead. It is the Dark Times. We have driven well into the storm over the mountains. We’re going to have to live this in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, and the force only knows how many other states until we come out on the other side in 2012. Where we come out is ours to determine, I truly believe. But we better well now set ourselves to the reality that this storm is going to rage for quite a while until then, the Dark Times will not go away because we (or the other arms of the media industry) refuse to act like they are here or acknowledge its significance.
Everyone brace yourselves. And pay attention to Ed.