Should we be surprised that multitudes of people are reporting bad dreams – worse, nocturnal experiences that are disturbing nightmares? Mental stress for people of all ages has deepened as the pandemic expands into a second year.
Magazines and newspapers have proclaimed 2020 in bold headlines as “the worst year of our lives.” In the midst of these continuing travails, there are reports of a shortage of therapists. During a year of astronomical death tolls and hospitalizations without visitors, many folks are understandably struggling with loneliness and grief.
Recently, a group of North Shore folks spoke candidly about nighttime terrors – with a number of factors elevating the levels of intense disturbance. The FBI reported that 2020 had “the highest hate-motivated deaths since the ’90s.” TV news reports have graphically shown physical violence and assault on people “who look Asian” (demonized by whom, for what reasons?)
Writing in the Jan. 29 issue of Blank Slate Media, clinical social worker Andrew Malekoff deplored “objects used in the name of hate” during the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol that took place Jan. 6 whose intent was to overturn the legal presidential election.
As we await a commission report on the Jan. 6 insurrection, responsible leaders at the state and national levels are concerned about the expansion of more violence (fortunately, with heightened security the QAnon conspiracy view that Donald Trump would be placed in the presidency on March 4 – by any means necessary – did not transpire).
We have major, ongoing, democracy and security problems with QAnon, with its violence and with the people who give it mindless support.
It is not surprising that nightmares are haunting many lives; folks are speaking of terrors, summoned by Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth.” To see that powerful play once is never to forget how societies are destroyed, how murder is expanded and how rogues seek to take charge to repress others in the name of their supposed superior goals.
As fellow Long Islanders reflected on Wilder’s horrors, their nightmares were intensified by the continuing bombast and assaults from Donald Trump. How could they not be disturbed by him after his CPAC speech, his total lack of remorse for the Jan. 6 terrorism that he launched and by his vow to seek again to shape the direction of American society?
It is worth seeing “The Skin of Our Teeth” once – film or play – to develop deep awareness of our predicament and the perils from inaction.
The remarkable analyst and author, Jonathan Schell, who often spoke at Hofstra, properly called his book “The Fate of the Earth.” He argued that it was understandable that most people would avoid thinking about the horrors of a nuclear war (that Physicians for Social Responsibility, with chapters in Great Neck, Roslyn and other North Shore communities, properly labeled “The Final Epidemic” – a scourge that could lead to extinction).
Schell contended that we need enough people of courage to enter a “hell of the imagination” so they could graphically understand the horrors of a nuclear war, and thus be motivated to help find ways to control nuclear weapons and work for a more peaceable and just global society.
Responding to these views, Martin Luther King, Jr. and his spouse, Coretta Scott King (a member of WILPF, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, founded by Jane Addams), argued that as never before all of our lives were connected. We could survive together or we were likely to die together.
It is not surprising that Dr. King, the Nobel Peace Laureate of 1964, helped set the stage for International Physicians to Prevent Nuclear War (the Long Island PSR chapters, Hofstra UCAM, and the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives were part of the group that received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize).
Now, as more of us are concerned about Trump’s continuing lust for power and his toleration of terrorism (his Big Lie will define his life), perhaps we should update Jonathan Schell’s “The Fate of the Earth” and have a film “FRIGHT” to develop a resolve to survive by “The Skin of Our Teeth” so we can help foster more just, inclusive, empathetic societies around the globe.
Despite its nightmarish horrors, “The Skin of Our Teeth” offers better ways forward for civic-minded folks who eschew being perpetrators or bystanders, but who are willing to take initiatives as intervenors.