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In 1973, Toni Morrison wrote about the horrors of a violent world, and her longing for escape. In 2019, we need to change very little.
In the early seventies, Toni Morrison wrote a short piece for The New York Times about Disneyland. It wasn’t about The Happiest Place on Earth (TM), it was about The World’s Greatest Democracy (TM), her home, The US of A.
In the piece, she addresses lasting racial divides in personal tones. She recounts the white hoops that black people must jump through. She wrote of the plastic horrors of New York and “a friendly conversation (with me) just to talk about her devoted black baby sitter; and me listening with a nod and a smile hoping that my contempt (which I am able to express only by refusing to enlighten her—by encouraging her, in fact, to remain obtuse and white and gothic) will be permanent.”
I suggest you read the entirety of the piece and then read it again. The simplicity of hate and the difficulty of maintaining forward momentum against it, is wonderfully articulated. However, Morrison’s piece also illuminates how little has changed since she jotted down her words. As she noted, 1973 saw “fantasy itself lost its genuineness. The normal lines of communication between sham and reality had broken down.”
2019 is a year where mass shootings occur twice a day, where children are locked up in governmental cages, and one where hate is mainstream, Morrison’s words climb over everything and define all in its shadow.
She articulated about the horrors of Vietnam, a television war, one that you could eat in front of, and the duality of preferring American killers over the killers of another passport. She noted the apathy of redacted immigration, the untrustworthiness of government and renewed racial horrors abroad. She wrote about the apathy of now, “…not just the numbness of watching hundreds of Mexicans — naturalized and otherwise —being kicked back across the U.S. border. Not just the bone‐marrow fatigue of reading about the latest outrage in outrageous South Africa.”
Clearly, Toni’s time is ours. All we need to do is change the names. 2019 is a year where mass shootings occur twice a day, where children are locked up in governmental cages, and one where hate is mainstream, Morrison’s words climb over everything, and define all in its shadow. She notes bristled fatigue of the individual as change is beyond our grasp, feeling both the “weight of old anger, but an inability to contain the new.”
What Morrison covets is a “constant unreality, steady illusion”, a sanctuary from the ills we voted for. She chose Disneyland, perhaps we need to find ours.