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Pierre Guérin: The Vigilant One (1816)

" … keeping the faith after it's been wounded again."

We all know where to go, where one goes when they're intending to show up. Some bring signs, others, candles. We all bring evidence that we have not forgotten and aren't likely to ever forget. We wonder sometimes if anyone besides us listens. We keep repeating our slogans, our mantras, our prayers anyway. We make mournful noises. Even if we're only making symbolic sounds, we figure that we've made our choices. Perhaps we gather solely to reassure ourselves.

There is no man here, nobody really in charge, no one charged with creating change, nobody who's job description includes empathic listening.
Our congresswoman remains absent, purposefully invisible, deliberately inaccessible, bought already, and sold to higher and more lowly bidders. She's a dedicated part of the problem we protest yet she can't listen, can't afford to hear. We maintain a dedicated dialogue with the deaf. We speak just as if our voices could be heard, just as if every word might change something. We grieve together for what we fear might be permanently past while we grieve those most recently passed. Our country is of who, now? We wonder.

After the service, us grownups cluster around for some genuine, old-time face-to-face conversation. We repeat the latest updates as if they'd make some difference and get introduced to those we hadn't known we didn't know yet. We're partisans, outcasts, working to make some sort of difference, each appalled with the raw material with which we have to work. The courts seem crazy now that they've been successfully downgraded with dedicated federalists. Congress seems uncaring, capable only of pretending to be adults while championing only pseudo causes. We know the problem and it really is them, the neoliberals who always really wanted a king and never really bought into our glittering social experiment. They worship mammon.

Our small city seems riven in two. Half the arterials are blocked off, and getting anywhere seems impossible. We mostly choose to go nowhere, save for the protests and vigils. For those, we'll face most any danger to participate. We'll even delay dinner. Our streets are under construction to create a better tomorrow. We've chosen to encumber our present to liberate our futures. I hope and I almost pray that the separation I see in political perspective might prove to be equally regenerative, that experiencing division might secure a deeper appreciation of why we must come together, of what we always had to lose, such that we'll replace those antique political lights and stop signs with roundabouts, too.

Each vigil seems a reminder that we're still aspiring toward that more perfect union, and that we're presently falling far short. We must keep the faith, which might be why we scream at the sky as if it was affording us rapt attention. It might be. Perhaps this universe is not as indifferent as we sometimes imagine it being. Perhaps it's interested and binge watching, knowing it dare not intervene. It might be holding its breath, praying that we will stumble upon the simplest redemption, the one only we can ever pass to ourselves. The candles we hold give in to the wind. Some spend the whole time relighting their neighbor then receiving a relight from them. Back and forth and forth and back again. What one does after arriving at the vigil hardly matters. What matters extends only as far as choosing to attend. Though it might seem I'm only parading my abject impotence, there's real power in standing there stunned together, keeping the faith after it's been so sorely wounded again.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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