By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre 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.
This quote from the William Butler Yeats poem “The Second Coming” — written in 1919 just after World War I — often appears in times like these when the world’s moral order crumbles and more resembles “Lord of the Flies.”
Today human tragedy is on the front pages of newspapers, on television and radio news programs, on Twitter (X) and other social media.
The world is teetering on the edge of World War III as some nations try to pull the world’s superpowers into a conflict that millions of people will not survive.
Today’s conflicts in the Mid East and Europe are made more dangerous by technology that can pinpoint artillery shells to blow up a tank or to kill civilians in large numbers depending on the depravity of the shooters.
The Mid East is the founding place of three of the world’s major religions and has seen its share or wars in the last century not just between Arabs and Israelites, but among Arab nations as well.
The region’s long history of conflicts did not prepare anyone for what happened last week on a Jewish holy day when the terrorist group Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip for years, invaded Israel, killed nearly a thousand people, including families with young children, beheaded some, tortured others and took about 150 hostages back to Gaza to use as bargaining chips.
They not only killed, tortured and maimed Israeli citizens, they used their own citizens as human shields by preventing them from leaving Gaza.
The absence of respect for human life and suffering is inconceivable but all too common in today’s polarized world as the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world talk about killing Democrats and Hamas leaders talk about eliminating all Jews.
The Israeli government, as it often does, retaliates with even more force than used against it, and has the stated goal of eliminating Hamas. That objective means lost Palestinian civilian lives seen as collateral damage.
Once the fighting begins, war produces few white hats.
The wars in the Mideast are often both ethnically and religiously driven pitting the Muslim Palestinians against the Jewish Israelites with centuries of history to solidify the beliefs of both sides.
While religion is not the biggest driver for war, intolerance is, it is in the Mideast.
And the problem with religious wars was aptly stated by former President Richard Nixon when he said “In the long term we can hope that religion will change the nature of man and reduce conflict. But history is not encouraging in this respect. The bloodiest wars in history have been religious wars.”
The Mideast conflict has taken the focus away from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the atrocities the Russians have inflicted on the Ukrainians and their country.
The war in Eastern Europe is more ethnically driven than religious.
Until Putin decided to expand the Russian empire, Europe had been largely free of conflicts since World War II, but like the Mideast conflict, attempts are to draw the superpowers into the chaos and expand the carnage.
While the world’s eyes are on the Mideast and Eastern Europe, the United States government is being held hostage by a couple dozen extremists, particularly in the US House, but also the Senate, who want to see chaos and ensure the dysfunction of government as we know it.
The Christian Nationalist movement is the foundation of some of the extremists, but not all of them.
The House decided to remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and since that time more than a week ago, nothing is moving and that prevents any help to fund the nation’s allies in the two conflicts or to keep government functioning beyond the middle of November.
Republicans and their slim majority in the House cannot agree on a new Speaker and probably won’t until the crisis threatens to explode and Republicans realize they will pay politically for their inability to solve the civil war within their ranks.
One member of the House Republican caucus called it a clown show.
In the Senate a former football coach, Tommy Tuberville, is holding up hundreds of military appointments at this crucial time over the abortion issue, while others like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are holding up key appointments like ambassadors etc. that will have a direct effect on what is happening in the world’s hot spots, mostly to create chaos and hits on their Twitter accounts.
The Grand Old Party appears to be more interested in creating chaos than governing.
At the state level, 19 Republican governors, and we all know governors are experts in foreign policy, criticize President Biden’s handling of the attacks on Israel including New Hampshire’s own Chris Sununu.
Not that long ago, politics was put aside when the nation faced serious threats such as the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC or the beginning of Desert Storm, but no more.
The head of the National Republican Committee, Ronna McDaniel, referred to the latest conflict in the Mideast as a “great opportunity” to attack Biden.
You did not hear Democrats criticizing President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attack, or President George H. W. Bush after he began Desert Storm.
The nation came together to support their leaders’ actions. And you did not see the demonstrations on college campuses and city streets that happened this weekend pitting Palestinian supporters against those backing Israel.
Like the Palestinians and Israelites, much of what divides the United States has a religious undertone incorrectly based on the notion the United States was established as a Christian country.
That would be very interesting because many early settlers to the “new world” came here to escape religious persecution in nations with state religions.
The Constitution guarantees religious freedom as well as the founding principle of “all men (women) are created equal.”
Many on the right are trying to impose their religious beliefs on issues like abortion or LGBTQ+ rights or what young people can read or watch.
And you don’t have to look to the Mideast to see what can happen when religious beliefs become a driving force in politics.
In Littleton, Theater Up received a $1 million grant to help fix up the town’s aging Opera House, which is on the National Historic Building list, through a long-term lease. The group currently uses the building, but its lease ends in May.
After discussions with the town’s selectmen, one of whom is the state Senator for District 1, Carrie Gendreau, and who objected to murals painted on a private building in town earlier this year saying she objected to its LGBTQ+ theme, the theater group was informed the selectmen were not inclined to help pay for a $2,500 building study to determine what could and could not be done in the historic building.
The decision was due to the group’s affiliation with the LGBTQ+ community and complaints about its production of La Cage aux Follies, the award-winning play about a gay couple, the group was told.
Theater Up was also informed the selectmen continue to explore a ban on public art in the community which would certainly impact the group’s ability to continue its mission.
This is religious oppression in reverse, much like the group that tried to block the state from distributing COVID-19 in a new program serving the elderly two years ago.
This is imposing one’s beliefs on those who do not share them.
The second half of Yeats poem is not so well known as the first, but is more telling about where we might be headed and what a “second coming” could really mean.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Garry Rayno may be contacted at email@example.com.
Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for InDepthNH.org. Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.