Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Luggage Problem in Ferguson and Baltimore

As hypochondriac Joe Banks prepares to go off on his epic trip of self-discovery in Joe Versus the Volcano, he meets a strangely-intense, focused person who hears his needs, and nods sagely. “That’s very interesting,” he assures Banks. He pauses a beat, then, stressing each word, says, “as a luggage problem.

What this fellow’s internal life is like, one can only guess, but so sincere is his regard of anything worth thinking about as “a luggage problem,” that it passes with scarcely a chuckle. To him, luggage is the central concern of life.

We live now in a society of such fellows. Oh, each has his own particular baggage, to be sure, but each proclaims with equal stress and sincerity that his luggage is the critical, essential part of any journey, not to be left behind in the pursuit of any other goal in life.

In the wake of any disaster, there comes a raft of baggage-salesmen. Some are selling police, the POTUS or Congress as bad guys. Some are selling gun-control to solve the wreckage left behind by riots, others want more cameras to watch us all as we navigate the waves of violence. There will be trunks of relief concerts, duffels of oil-price conspiracy, pullman cases full of the dreck that washes up after any disaster.

Like Joe Banks, we can accept the assessment of someone else, take on baggage until the ship sinks beneath us, nearly drown in the rain of day-to-day living in the global media storm. We can, as he did, swear that, wherever we go, we’ll take this luggage.

Or we can cast it away, make our own assessments of what is important and real. We can live our own lives, instead of throwing them away for someone else’s goals. We can stop trying to convince each other that our luggage is the best.

Then we can regard the power of nature (including human nature, of course), as Joe Banks does when he has nothing left in his life but his luggage, and say

Oh, Lord! I forgot how big…