Hippos have not taken well to the North Shore. It’s fair to say they’ve made zero attempts and zero adaptation to our environment. So what’s wrong with us? What are we doing that is unfair or hostile to the innocent and dignified hippopotamus? I wake in the wee hours worrying about such questions especially at a time when my District has to elect a new County Commissioner after the job about did in the last one. Many among us hold the hippo crate is best filled with calls for community and leadership. Up here that’s a challenge, one not unlike trying to find a Grand Marshal for a frog parade with a rousing finale of Cats on Carts. How do we govern the ungovernable or manage the unmanageable? How do we get fiscal responsibility in bed with spending your way into prosperity? When does the individual acknowledge and then accept responsibility and realize that a thing is not free or without costs simply because others pay for it?

I thought, seeing as how a local election and tax time arrive here this season like twiddling thumbs, I’d take a look at the hippo crate for an update on contents. There is a long standing recognition of the need for honesty in politicians and an enduring acceptance of an appearance of honesty and integrity being good enough. I won’t name names. There isn’t time. But instead of going into name-game at all I prefer to look at my own potential foibles. If, for a happy instance, I take the score of another imperfect human and find them wanting what do I accomplish? Am I better if I have others sound worse? Truth be told, I suspect most of us stink at a lot more things than we shine at. Take an example. Say a citizen verbally runs down an office holder for personal flaws does that show model citizenship from a perfected being who controls their health, weight, finances, and habits to a four-square plus sign? Well, I doubt it. Seems, I’m not shy to say it, the screamers I see don’t appear to be doing a particularly fine job of getting on with their lives. I kind of think they find personal shortcomings best blamed on others. It’s easier. We sympathize with the victim, including self-victimization. That the victim creed holds for-life status shows, I think, more than the creed holder finds comfortable to admit. The danger to an individual is twofold in lessening personal responsibility and encouraging passivity to sit back in a status others are responsible for and should fix.

Even here along the rustic, low density, artsy, and cultured North Shore a person can talk politics and taxes without examining the contents of the human hippo crate. Peeking in the crate (the whole pack is a bit much to take on) it’s easy to spot the things that make the hippo crate what it is. The biggest hippos disgorge meals of masticated hate, racism, and phobia at anyone saying words counter to theirs. “Words hurt” they will tell you, but obviously not if they are the ones calling hater, racist, phobic at others. Then it’s OK. In a way that sounds suited to preschool tussling they might then assert it is justified self-defense as if perception of a presumed wrong was all that was needed to attack with oversize accusation or physical force. The hippo crate is packed with assertions and righteous indignation. But in among all the hyperbole and vitriol you’ll not hear much if any questioning. The hippo crate is packed with thick thigh denunciation for who knows why? The exact cause of the upset is in the other. The one accusing is free of a burden to substantiate or explain. Outrage rules. Where that happens you don’t need due process or civility.

I find the hippo crate especially objectionable when it spews out (you should look into African legend about why the hippo goes on land and twirls its tail when defecating) the Nazi fascist line as justification to silence and marginalize other positions. I’ve said before I could take people to places where Nazism and fascism did their work. Under the Clock in occupied Poland would be enough for most. To flip the word out as a do-all bludgeon to demean and shut others up is a true disservice to the thousands cruelly used and tortured to death by those with supremacist views and ways. I’ve said that people who bandy Nazi and fascist as terms should be able to say in detail the historic policies behind those terms and be able to tell jot on jot how policy then is equal to a policy now. Frankly, if they can’t or won’t they are acting (albeit while denouncing it) Nazi like good as any party fanatic or SS. Unquestioning adherence doesn’t ask questions of itself OR of those it denounces.

When Nazism did not immediately get its way it took to the streets demonizing others for their beliefs and lack of doctrinal cooperation. The tactic is the same whether the credo denounces the Jew or the racist. The tactic tramples others for a supposed higher good. The hippo crate is full of dangerous stuff. The urge to do good can do a lot of harm. If you look see around you might notice that proclamations of peace, of peaceful intent, or of restoring peace are part of every conflict. Love one another can mean that or it can mean someone wishes you to be unwary of their real intent. How many died as a result of a treaty between the Soviets and Nazis and how many perished in the peace of the Killing Fields? 

A calm look tells me that quick answers and assurances are not near enough. The issues and ironies are too great. Did you know, for example, that Adolph the Nazi icon relished deceiving his soft “Christian” world and lamented its people lacked the virtues he saw in Islam? The hippo crate is full, but not with wisdom.