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The Mask of the Red Death
Author: BobR    Date: 05/25/2017 13:33:06

THE "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal --the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.
- "The Mask of the Red Death" by Edgar Allen Poe

We humans all share the same planet. From space, there are no boundaries, save for natural ones (the oceans, rivers, and high mountain ranges). There is a tribalism that we pass on from generation to generation, however, that seeks to divide us, to compartmentalize us, to instill an "us -vs- them" conflict that is unnecessary and harmful. Our xenophobic and racial and religious and cultural mistrust of "others" is like a scourge upon humanity. Even acknowledging its existence does not preclude us from engaging in wars both big and small. So much energy and time and money is employed in perpetuating it, that it prevents us (or perhaps at least retards us) from attaining those heights which would benefit us all.

But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within

Americans in particular are prone to this. We divide ourselves by race and class and region, perpetuating myth and anger at one another. We claim superiority over all the world while studiously ignoring our failings. We ignore the horrors occurring daily around the planet - in Africa, in the Middle East, in parts of Asia... Only when fellow European (i.e.: white) humans suffer do our hearts feel the pinch. That pain pain fades quickly as we return to celebrity and sport, as we allow ourselves to be sedated by the soporific lure of network TV. We clamor to build borders around our country to keep the undesirables out and our treasures in.

It was toward the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence.

Even within the walls of our country, however, we are building fences. The rich keep getting richer and the middle class keeps shrinking. As more wealth defies gravity and falls upward into the offshore bank accounts of the wealthy, the poor become ever more destitute, and the majority of the populace grabs onto whatever they have, and cast suspicions up anyone they think might be trying to alleviate them of it.

And the revel went whirlingly on, until at length there commenced the sounding of midnight upon the clock. And then the music ceased, as I have told; and the evolutions of the waltzers were quieted; and there was an uneasy cessation of all things as before. But now there were twelve strokes to be sounded by the bell of the clock; and thus it happened, perhaps, that more of thought crept, with more of time, into the meditations of the thoughtful among those who revelled. And thus, too, it happened, perhaps, that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence, there were many individuals in the crowd who had found leisure to become aware of the presence of a masked figure which had arrested the attention of no single individual before.

Thus, there grows suspicion in the fertile soil of imagination, and he who can plant the seeds of distrust may harvest the crop of allegiance which grows from it. Republicans in general, and tRump in particular have been the major benefactors of that mistrust, as voters go to the polls and choose those politicians whose positions are outwardly against those voters' best interests, because those politicians are better at the propaganda and sowing of mistrust. Whenever there occurs a grotesquery (such as a mass shooting), the suspicion immediately becomes terrorism, and liberals are blamed for not engaging in extreme tribalism.

The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers around. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in blood --and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror.

This feedback loop of tribalism, mistrust, fear, and lashing out creates the situation we are in today. When Bob Dylan wrote "when you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose", it foretold the situation we are now in, where desperate people cling to religious extremism with the hope that the reward they could not find in this life will be granted them in the next. That desperation does not respect borders or class or the subtleties and commonalities of the three major Abrahamic religions. The walls go up in a vain attempt to keep the desperation out.

Then, summoning the wild courage of despair, a throng of the revellers at once threw themselves into the black apartment, and, seizing the mummer, whose tall figure stood erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave-cerements and corpse-like mask which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form.

We elected a "man" who claimed he would build a wall to keep us safe from the marauding hordes of brown people looking for jobs and economic opportunity. He claimed he would bomb a geographically incongruous band of pillaging modern-day vikings led by their bastardized vision of religion. He claimed he would protect our economy from the less conspicuous and consumptive lifestyle of the rest of the world. He has done none of this of course. The wall would be paid for with the meager earnings of lower middle class. He has kept out Muslim doctors while the terrorists infect the minds of our disadvantaged and pliable youth via the internet. And his budget, health care and government proposals all favor the wealthy and big business. As a final insult, he has invited the "red menace" within the walls of the castle, and provided access to the highest office of power.

It's time to reboot and find a different path forward. The path we are on now has hit a dead end.

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.



55 comments (Latest Comment: 05/26/2017 00:24:08 by Scoopster)
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