All About Good And Evil
And just in time for Halloween…
Last time, you’ll remember, I had put down my notebook and picked up my laptop to write out some background on Durham. Now, I’m going to go back to my notebook, at least for a little while. Though, honestly, my notes sort of peter out after Saturday, and I’ll have to rely more and more on just my memory (fallible as that may be.)
Anyway, I’m sitting and looking at the little steno pad I was using during the trip. There is a mess of letters and words. I think I can translate some of them into English. Not all, of course. But I’m good at guessing. So...
What I wrote is something like:
“When you think about it, Durham presents interesting problems for the moralist. Consider. It begins in the larger destruction of Native American peoples. Then it moves briskly to the exploitation of slave labor. From there, to tobacco, and specifically to cigarettes, perhaps the most dangerous of all forms of tobacco use.
“And thus we have a perfect, linear progression: genocide, slavery, war, and, finally, a plague of cancer, heart disease, and other ‘smoking related illnesses’ which have spread death and destruction from one end of the world to the other for centuries. Who was it that said that King James I had no virtues but...at least he slit the throat of Sir Walter Raleigh who’d introduced the nasty habit of smoking among the British? Swinburne, I think. Clever man.
“But do we really have cause to uniquely vilify the city of Durham?
“I would submit that we do not. I would submit that every square inch of land on Planet Earth has been the scene of some horrid event, at some time or another. All we need do is a little research, or perhaps invent a time machine, and eventually we will find a murder, a moment of madness, an act of terrorism...even if we have to go all the way back to some squalid Deinonychus, committing an unwarranted killing over a sexual partner, a prime bit of nesting ground, or a favorite bit of glittery rock.
“So perhaps we ought to admire Durham, which is at least honest about its shortcomings, and which has made and is making some effort to overcome them...
“Unlike so many other places...other cities...other locations...which are equally guilty...or more...but whose residents proclaim them pure...and sinless...the product of an urban, virgin birth...
“Even as city hall or the local cathedral rests serenely over the unmarked graves of the dead, the innocent, and the blameless.”
Well, that’s what I wrote. You can see why I don’t reproduce much from my notebooks. I suppose even a friend would say that the above was both pompous and platitudinous.
Sometimes...sometimes...there’s more truth in the banal and the plummy than we care to admit.
But, let’s get away from all that. Next time, we finally come to a perfectly enormous event...at a tiny place that no one had ever heard of.
More to come.
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