Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

When the Lights go Out

Old Stonington Light, Stonington, CT

Old Stonington Light, Stonington, CT

A landmark in southern Connecticut, the old Stonington lighthouse was built in 1840 and “retired” from service in 1889.  It has been dark, therefore, for 120 years.  If you look closely at the image, you can see that the tower is empty.  Today, it serves as a museum of maritime and lighthouse history (as well as a photographic target).

I have long been an admirer of lighthouses, not only for their architectural beauty and structural longevity, but also for their pure symbolism.  In many respects, they represent all that is good and noble about humans.  We are at our best when we are selfless, when our actions are driven only by our desire to preserve life and protect others from the ravages of catastrophic events, whether those events be manmade or natural.  And that’s what lighthouses did.  Today’s onboard navigational electronics have essentially made these marvelous structures obsolete, but boaters will tell you that they still prefer to have them around and lit – they like to know that they are there.  They feel more at ease if they can see these pulsating lights, each with it’s own distinctive pattern, even though their electronic gear is telling them exactly where they are.  The light provides comfort and assurance.  They know exactly where they are. 

Eventually, however, most of these lights will go out.  Nothing lasts forever.

But they are not the only “lights” being extinguished in this world.  I watch the news and I’m appalled by what I see.  Without a doubt, the lights are going out.  How can anyone not believe that after viewing what happened in Washington on Friday during the “Million Moron March”?  That phrase, by the way, was coined by one of my favorite comedians (Bill Maher).  I don’t know about you, but I get a little scared when I see tens of thousands of people standing in front of the U. S. capitol saying idiotic, nonsensical things.  It was nothing short of a dangerous mob.

How do you respond to people carrying signs that say:

“Is this Russia?”

“Traitors and Terrorists Run Our Government”

“Don’t Blame Me – I voted for The American”

One woman, interviewed on the nightly news, said that Muslims were taking over the country.  Then, of course, there was the outburst from South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson during President Obama’s address to congress last week (“You lie!”).  This was an unprecedented verbal attack on a sitting president in that chamber.  I can’t help but think that if Obama were white, it wouldn’t have happened.  Too many people are simply refusing to believe that an African American is actually their president.  Joe Wilson was simply revealing his roots.  As were all the morons who descended on Washington Friday.

Make no mistake – much of this is racial.  All of this other stuff is just code – most of these clowns wouldn’t know a socialist from a fascist if one came up and bit them in the butt.  This is just good old fashioned race baiting without the old rhetoric.  Same old crap, different language.  But just as dangerous.  Because, you see, we haven’t changed all that much over the last couple of hundred years.  The bigots are still out there and they’re still very, very loud.  And their lights have been out for a long, long time.


9 Responses to “When the Lights go Out”

  1. Markus Spring

    Bitter having to read this, and even more bitter it is to know that you describe it correctly. I must admit that I didn’t follow all the news from the US in the last time, but what came to my knowledge sounds more than sad, almost tragic. When President Obama was elected, I happened to be in China, and it was astonishing how much joy and movement this event created among also among the chinese visitors of our exhibition. Large parts of the world see this president as a chance for humankind. Sad enough, many americans don’t, and it is bitter to see racism rise its ugly head so high again. That it does this in European countries, too, does not make it more tolerable. Those things make me loose my confidence in future quite a bit. And I always think of that Einstein quote (don’t know it was really him): “Two things are infinite: The cosmos and human stupidity. With the cosmos I am not that shure.”

  2. Don

    I saw that woman that made the statement about the muslims, I can’t believe how people can go through life so misinformed. It is scary, it was like the woman who said the same thing to John McCain last year about Obama.

  3. Carl Weese

    You’ve got it right here. I’ve been spending “quality time” with a camera among some of these folks (you can see results by scrolling back a bit on my WPII Blog) and the driving force I see behind the ‘tea bag’ movement participants in rural southern New England is sheer racism. And not just about the horror of a black President. An equally rabid projection of blame is aimed at illegal immigrants, who, despite all reason or evidence, are taken to somehow be the real cause of America’s economic distress. You can bet that the immigrants they have in mind are not blue-eyed, blond-haired Lithuanians. It is both sad and dangerous.

  4. Paul Maxim

    Thanks to all who took the time to comment. I was delighted by the comment from “washwords”. She doesn’t appear to be a photographer, but she does write a very interesting blog. If you get a chance, take a look (her address is embedded in her comment). She’s obviously more of an optimist than I am when she says that “truth has to help”. When has that ever been the case in America’s history?

    Markus referenced a well known quote from Einstein (about the universe and stupidity). There’s another one that’s similar (from Frank Zappa no less) that goes: “There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life”.

    It’s always great to hear from Carl Weese. This guy has probably forgotten more about photography than I’ll ever know. He actually has 2 blogs as well as a number of galleries, all of which can be accessed from

    He made an excellent point about “illegal immigration” and racism. I hadn’t really thought about that particular angle.

    Interestingly, the more “mainstream” media has started to pick up on this. An NBC interview of former President Jimmy Carter has stirred up considerable controversey. In the interview, Carter states that a “majority” of the negativism aimed at Barack Obama is racially motivated. This, in turn, was picked up by the Today show this morning. They interviewed a white Republican strategist (who said that race was not a factor in any of this) and an African American professor (who said that it certainly was a factor). By the end of that segment, these 2 guys were getting close to shouting at each other.

    Ironically, all of this is not good news for the Obama administration. They understandably have no interest in having any of today’s issues – like healthcare – turn into debates about racism. That would put them in an extremely vulnerable position.

  5. Andreas Manessinger

    It’s depressing. I read this very late, it’s September 27 now, today were general elections in Germany and regional elections in part Austria, and in both cases we saw a devastating defeat of the social democrats, the mainstream left party. On the other hand, the so-called conservatives everywhere go populist, and they do quite well. It really seems that the outcome of an election is in no way connected to the real problems or what answers and strategies the candidates have. Instead proxy-problems are constructed, and then the agenda is set around a problem that didn’t really exist in the first place, but surprisingly enough, the proposed solutions always cut away one more piece of our freedom, one more piece of democracy, one more piece of social peace.

    I’m reading Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s “Hitler’s willing executioners” at the moment, and the parallels between then and now are frightening. German nationalists and later the Nazi spoke of a “Jewish Question”, a “Jewish Problem”, and you can find the same kind of rhetoric now, only against immigrants. We have an “Ausländerproblem”, and just like with antisemitism, everything that is wrong with our society is projected onto “the immigrants”. They take away our jobs, are after our wives, are criminals and whatsoever. Everything is put into the same category, every real problem with a single immigrant is used as an argument against all others, everyone is a scapegoat.

    And while all this happens, we see how concepts get manifest. It’s the same old thing: just repeat something often enough and it will be believed. No Republican believes in that stupid nonsense that Mrs Palin said about “death panels”. It is fully understood that the worst thing that can happen, is a raise in taxes. But they still repeat it. Why? Because it semantically links a project, that aims for a better life for all, with the word “death”.

    It seems to me that it is a fundamental strategy of conservative or right-wing populist parties now, to create concepts in people’s minds. They do this by unabashedly lying. Take Austria for example:

    In Austria it is now generally understood that we have an “immigrant problem”. 30 years of conservative brain-wash have put this in people’s minds as if it were a fact. It is not questioned any more, it has become a belief. In reality we struggle to keep our standard of living, and without immigrant workers, without immigrants who keep the balance between working people and retired, our whole economic system would break down. Without nurses from eastern Europe we were unable to take care of our parents, unable to run our hospitals, the whole health-care system would be impossible. But still, we insist that they are a problem. It really makes me sick myself 🙂

    And the worst thing is, that most of the real problems in connection with immigrants can be blamed to ourselves. C’mon, if you deny refugees the right to work for a living, how can you be surprised when some go criminal? Fact is, those fear-mongers in politics are not surprised. They try to provoke problems instead of solving them. The outcome is frightening: in Austria they have managed that today the concept of “drug dealer” is almost synonymous with “black immigrant”. Great achievement, and the general public believes it.

    Well, you are not alone. Believe me, you are not 🙂

    • Markus Spring

      Andreas, unfortunately one has not to be astonished at all that it happens. Sad enough, in multicultural environments like Berlin you find a clear negative ranking among the immigrants themselves, and outburst of violence between those groups. From what I saw in a number of countries, this principle of fear of the unknown, foreign (person) unfortunately seems to be quite universal. But it is definitely a question of socialisation and civilisation to get over this.
      The sad truth however is, that those who want to achieve or keep the power need to communicate simple solutions – and as you’ve observed correctly, nobody cares about truth (nota bene: the german elections today were won by parties promising tax reduction, in spite of the obvious fact that the government will need more, not less money). And one of the simplest answer if you are in search of a scapegoat is to blame someone who is different, in terms of language, color, habits, religion and so on. This always works, proven over the millenia. And if you are as skilled as the British were in their colonies, you play with those animosities and make the colonized ones fight themselves – and they do, in Sri Lanka even 60 years after the British left. But I digress.
      It is a well known fact that power has a tendency to corrupt. Truth usually is easy prey for lack of powerful (sic!) defenders.

  6. Paul Maxim

    Well, Andreas and Markus, it’s interesting to see that what goes on here is not all that different from what goes on there. I don’t know that it’s terribly comforting to know that, however. I’d like to think that somewhere in this world there are people who gather as many facts as they can and then make a rational decision based on those facts. I don’t care if they’re on the “left” or on the “right” so long as they think before they act. I suspect, though, that that is asking way too much of the world’s citizenry. And that don’t bode well for any of us.

  7. Andreas Manessinger

    Yup! I suppose that’s the way how civilizations fall. I mean, there was no rational reason for the end of the Roman Empire. Many have predicted what would happen, they gave the proper reason and they gave good advice. Nevertheless we ended up with the Middle Ages. Or take the First World War: it was pretty clear what would happen when Austria declared war to Serbia, but we still did it. I suppose I should finally read Barbara Tuchman’s “The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam”. I wanted to do that ever since I read “A Distant Mirror” so many years ago. Not that it would be comforting though 🙂


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