I am powerless—in more ways than one. I drove to my house to soothe the cat. The electric lines were still down, the house was an oven.
I stopped for coffee at the convenience store. The parking lot was full of contract electricians, some all the way from Oklahoma. I walked to a young guy’s truck and tried to make small talk, but he wasn’t having it.
“You don’t deserve air conditioning and power,” the guy said. “I’m working around the clock, and yesterday I took a break and worked my soybeans. And I didn’t have no air conditioning. You people (I thought he meant seniors) think you should get everything. Well, listen up, guy. All the electric grids in the world are going down—only the fittest will survive. I am ready.”
I believed him. He may or may not represent a class of people who call themselves survivalists (white people, dare I say it), but I wasn’t going to probe.
I spent an hour with the cat. She was obviously stressed. A car pulled up, and an electrician, a black man, got out and introduced himself. He was the point man on getting the power restored. I mentioned that a lot of people were stressed out. He had heard an earful already, as had his colleagues. Unfortunately, he also had a few customers who didn’t want to let him in their houses.
“I love my job,” the man said. “I will keep any further opinions to myself. You look familiar. How do I know you?”
I told him I was a writer, most recently about the Tuskegee Airmen. He had been at the ceremony to unveil the memorial to George and Arnold Cisco. He said I was blessed.
And then I drove to Farmer Orville’s house. We sat on the porch, and his wife Quilt Queen offered me more coffee and some Pepperidge Farm cookies. I told them about the two electricians. “What a shame,” Quilt Queen said. “That in 2017 people still hold racist feelings.” She was utterly sincere.
Their neighbor Walt’s giant maple tree had shattered in the Saturday night storm, one long piece of it snapping off and flying like a spear, downing itself just feet from my friends’ kitchen. This turned into a theological discussion. Sure, God tried to kill me; I’m a heathen after all. But He also threw a maple spear at the sacred Missouri Synod Lutheran kitchen, from whence pies and cookies and cobblers emerge.
“Read your Martin Luther,” Orville said. “God don’t choose sides. You are a spectacular sinner, but I am a sinner too.”
And since God or god or Universe or universe don’t take sides, we all are being called—to speak against hatred and injustice. To act: not a comforting notion to most people my age, who “don’t worry, be happy,” and want to eat and be merry and dote on their grandchildren, never mind the grandchildren are facing global catastrophe and may have to fight for water.
And if we don’t speak and act, we deserve the survivalists, who—in case you haven’t heard— managed to elect a President of Hate of the United States of America, even if that president is cheerfully throwing them off the bus.
In chaos is joy—if you have a gun.