Fort Myers Florida Weekly

What to do now




I hope history repeats itself.

It never does, of course, but sometimes the patterns do.

For example, the reprehensible and deadly arrogance, stupidity and vitriol of some leaders — of their governments and employees — along with the willing blindness of large numbers of cheering supporters, has often been countered, however slowly, by what I would only describe nowadays as the New Silent Majority: Those Americans who ultimately shove them aside in the voting booth, without saying much beforehand or even afterward.

It’s countered by countless acts of courage, generosity and selfless decency on display in every American community now, every day. The volunteer mask-makers. The food sharers and consolers to the grieving. The artists who perform for no pay to remind people that goodness and beauty exist in the world, and let them see it in themselves, taking hope. It’s countered most courageously of all by the doctors, nurses and other caretakers, by the grocery store employees, the garbage collectors, the police and firefighters who don’t get to stay home in isolation.

We are a people who have slipped the bonds of our periodic stupidity and callous ambition to become better.

Our nation embraced slavery before it was a nation, beginning in 1619 at Jamestown, Va., and continued the practice for almost another 250 years; we attempted the genocide of Native Americans right through the 19th century, aggressively in Florida; we arbitrarily seized part of Mexico and made it America in 1846 right up to the Arkansas River at the Royal Gorge, about 30 miles from where my grandfather homesteaded on land that had belonged to the Utes; we refused to let women vote until a single century ago; we tolerated lynch mobs that murdered almost 4,000 blacks between 1877 and 1950, including 331 in Florida, ranked No. 1 per capita for that infamous status, according to the Equal Justice Initiative; and we couldn’t pass a “Civil Rights Act” of any consequence until 1964, a century after the Civil War ended.

Most inexplicably to me: We were the most significant power on the planet to help win World War II in an essential battle for the mind and soul of humanity. Yet we embraced a liar and petty tyrant at home, a former Marine Corps officer who lied about his war record and lied to Americans every single day starting less than 24 months after the Germans and the Japanese surrendered. His name was U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Republican from Wisconsin.

McCarthy destroyed lives under an anticommie banner from 1948 to his death in office in 1957. The real commies, those who killed people they didn’t like and had been doing so since 1917 — they had it easy, in those days. All they had to do was steal some atomic technology and sit back to watch us screw around, stepping on our own toes for years.

But we put a stop to the mess, finally.

Here’s the most important thing about that history and all those occasions: The America celebrated by the Statue of Liberty survived wars, pandemics, prejudice and discrimination, sexism and religious bigotry. Painfully and slowly, we have always moved forward. Eventually.

May that pattern repeat itself, now, and may we be part of the pattern.

But how?

That’s easy. Vote, of course, but more immediately, grab a charity you can support and do it, for your favorite restaurant, the poorest people you know, or the longest unemployed living on your street.

Let me just take the arts, which I celebrate.

In Palm Beach County, the Cultural Council supports the arts, and therefore human beings and especially children who react to painting, singing, acting and others like drought-time flowering plants react to water. The website,, gives you a number of ways to help both groups and individuals in the arts, especially children.

In Collier County, you could support Steffanie Pearce and her non-profit effort to bring “quality music education to at-risk youth” in a program called Harmony Choir. The general manager of the Gulfshore Opera and a former international singer (a soprano), Ms. Pearce and others have long since realized that singing for children is like being touched by an angel. So she sponsors an after-school, and now school-out, choral program that can change lives.

In Lee County, the Alliance for the Arts ( has programs for adults or children in stage or visual arts that can change their lives, too; and so does the Laboratory Theater of Florida ( “It is no small thing to take a theater dark,” says Annette Trossbach, producing artistic director and founder of he Laboratory Theater.

“The sheer logistics of the task are staggering and it must be done while your heart is breaking. We don’t create art for the money; we create it for the same reason we breathe — we simply must.”

Just as watching or listening to the arts should be done (especially for children) for the same reason we breathe — to live, and in their case to grow.

Yes, we have to eat first, stay healthy and maintain a safe retreat for all. But to do it in any way that makes life rich requires art.

In Charlotte County, Arts Plus ( aims the arts including music at students of all backgrounds and ages — as they say, “unleashing creativity, transforming lives and building community through outstanding and accessible arts education.”

From one tip of the Sunshine State to the other, those claims are demonstrably true based on research no one disputes. The Florida Keys Council of the Arts, for example, supports children, individual artists and programs that put voice and face to the beauty of the Keys from Key Largo to Key West. All of us can help do for one of the most storied and beautiful places in North America.

But people still, sometimes, strongly dispute the need to pay for the arts.

When they do contribute, however — especially in a moment like this one — Americans put the worst of our past behind us, and carry forward the best of it. ¦

One response to “What to do now”

  1. Marilyn Santiago says:

    If it wasn’t for literature, music, dance, arts…. we wouldn’t have made it through this pandemic. Thanks Roger, always on point.

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