Under the Stateside Sun

“Silly season” is an Anglophile conceit. Across the Atlantic, it’s Brit shorthand for that carefree time of year when news seldom rises above trivial and the frivolous assumes gravity.

Were that the American version of the silly season consisted of the same confections.

Instead the menace and insipient violence always lurking beneath the surface of ordinary life here frequently shatters summers’ otherwise lightness. Hawks devour our larks. Vultures then pick over what scraps remain on the bones.

Our silly season has the likelihood of going overboard this this year.

Summer, particularly the hazy heated stretch after July 4th through Labor Day, seems to crank out Americans’ mindless/crazy instincts. While these impulses are ever-present in our country, hot dogs, apple pie, resentments bubbling to the surface supercharge them. Especially the last.

Unlike the other three seasons, summer has little purpose behind it. Spring, autumn, and winter, are generally dedicated to renewal, reflection, and celebration, respectively. Summer gives us too much idle time. Wonder and contemplation, obligation, aren’t present to structure these hours.

What deep-rooted traditions align our lives during summer?

Without guidance aren’t we left to our own devices, our own fancies? The heat, lengthier days under the sun, rarely summons brilliance. To all but the most straight-laced even perversion looks more appealing. Well, at least we’re more susceptible to these deviations. Summer releases our baser selves to frolic … or more commonly loosens our sinister beings.

Aren’t many of summer’s foolish or reprehensible antics less conceivable during other periods of year? Not to say we’re immune to flights of fancy or knucklehead behavior after Labor Day and before summer solstice, but aren’t they less likely because long-held seasonal commitments focus us? Constrict us?

Pervasive idleness and a society as yet immature as ours combine well for such summer combustions. By nature Americans are industrious. Even at rest we are restless. So becoming restive isn’t a leap by any means.

Surely we’ve all noticed a good many of our dumber, more horrific, most incredulous incidents and utterances have erupted while the mercury is agitated and angry. Environment not only parallels our quickened and sharper humors and the fevered thoughts they’ve stoked, but encourage further vehemence. How else to explain the severe spasms currently roiling our nation this most contentious summer?

More so than the inanity the Republicans have allowed their party to descend into, and the escalating tragedies of citizens killed by police and police targeted by citizens, and the sort of baseless politically-driven pursuit that would’ve made Javert recoil, and the very selective outrage of a hashtag movement, what better epitomizes an already beyond comprehension stupid season than the immediately iconic photograph of a single protester on the verge of being engulfed by three heavily armored state praetorians, oh, sorry, Baton Rouge police? Too bad she wasn’t wearing a hijab and a Kent State jersey as well as presenting officers a flower. Wouldn’t this fashion mashup and daisies in her hair have established the connection between eras?

Maybe this updated image will provoke the same disbelief and disgust at the people we’re becoming. The same impetus that once compelled our society forward … until Reagan.

One further point. The photo had been extracted from a video. Behaving as if this lone woman represented an existential threat (No burka so no explosives, right?) police surround then frog-march her off into who knows what fate.

All these flashy musclebound displays of security theater simply add to our anxieties. Promoted as protective phalanxes the public increasingly perceives these measures as symbols of fear engendered fasces.

The September 11th attacks have made Americans feel less secure in general. Confidence we took for granted in ourselves, our institutions, our authorities has eroded. In their stead we now suffer under vigilance anxious to cascade into paranoia. Notice today how the slightest disruptions of civil order prompt knee-jerk responses formerly suited towards the imposition of martial law.

What march or rally doesn’t have an omnipresent show of force by the state apparatus looming awfully close by? Forget the controversial issues. Even the most innocuous ones have enough ready for bear police to look like outtakes from Z or resemble some Latin American junta flexing its muscle.

How is such intimidation meant to reassure us? It isn’t. It’s intended to keep minds and attitudes boxed.

Peaceful assemblies, constitutionally guaranteed manifestations, by the way, are burdened with caveats and conditions. So much so prospective participants might feel by exercising their rights they may be breaking the law.

In some of our narrower precincts they might be correct.

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