J. Edward Rollinson: What have we come to?

Published: 05-25-2023 3:46 PM

I have been the astonished observer during the past three years of a world where people seem to no longer like each other. I’ve seen families divided, people yelled at in stores and social media vitriol reach an all-time high.

A video I saw some time ago convincingly compared the state of our social fabric to the Stanford Prison Experiment. I was surprised again to hear a politically liberal colleague comment: “Either you’re for bodily autonomy or you’re for vaccine requirements — you can’t have it both ways.”

What have we come to? What happened to our principle of dialogue, of disagreement as the foundation of a liberal democracy?

Then I spent an afternoon at the Three County Fair in Northampton. There I felt a new form of astonishment, but one that gave me hope rather than desperate concern.

In our city, this center of political activism and tribal divisions, I walked into an oasis of harmony and simple happiness. Farmers had come down from the hills with their teams of oxen, modified trucks sporting American flags competed in a truck pull. Northampton residents milled around, looking at prize rabbits, showing their kids the antique tractors, eating dry burgers along with hundreds of T-shirts bearing, let’s say, unusual political themes.

Truth be told, I could not distinguish among fairgoers; all were there for old fashioned and (mostly) wholesome fun. I couldn’t help thinking of the German and Allied soldiers who came out of their trenches to sing Christmas carols and play soccer. May this spirit spread. This does not look like a world that needs less openness and love.

J. Edward Rollinson

Hadley

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