“The Path of Totality”
You’ve got to love that phrase, “The Path of Totality” --- it’s just got such a great “science-fiction-y” ring to it, doesn’t it? Of course, today’s the day and everyone is having his/her own personal Neil deGrasse Tyson moment, buying “Solar glasses” or making pinhole cameras out of cereal boxes. There are some (climate change deniers, for example), of course, who don’t believe it will hurt to stare directly into the sun during the eclipse and will burn their retinas out. What fun!
I’m not all that excited about the whole eclipse thing and may well spend the afternoon in a nice cool, dark theater catching “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” (is there a movie without Samuel L. Jackson?). But I am enamored of this phrase: “The Path of Totality.” It has such a ring to it. And all this hubbub about the eclipse did lead to a 3rd grade flashback of my first trip to the Hayden Planetarium in NYC where we watched “From Dusk to Dawn” and I was totally taken with astronomy (I can still identify a handful of constellations beyond Orion and the Big Dipper). I also love the mythic culture of Solar Eclipses. As noted in the August 18th NY Times:
According to Dr. David Dearborn, an astrophysicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., “If you were the Greeks, before they came to have an understanding of eclipses, you might think it was a bad omen, something the gods were telling you you had done wrong,” he said. “If you were the Chinese, you thought dragons were eating the sun. If you read the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ — which is a really boring read — but if you scan through it, you’ll find lots of instances of eclipses, all related to other bad things,” he added.
And the August 2, 2013 National Geographic said:
If you do a worldwide survey of eclipse lore, the theme that constantly appears, with few exceptions, is it's always a disruption of the established order," said E. C. Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California.
And that got me to thinking about this eclipse in conjunction with our current political situation. And here’s what I’ve come up with.
For Trump and his supporters, the years 2009-2017 were, essentially, one long and horrific Solar Eclipse. The incursion of a Black moon (BaLack Obama) had blotted out their bright, White sun --- “a disruption of the established order.” In the minds of Trump and White Nationalists everywhere it was “all related to other bad things.” Like primitive peoples, they raged and screamed, fearing their world might, in fact, be coming to an end! Look, just look, at what was happening --- increasing numbers of students of color on campuses, immigrants teeming into the country and taking all of our great landscaping and fruit picking jobs! And then, Health Care! They remembered how, as the last British troops leaving Manhattan in 1784 boarded their ships the military band played “The World Turned Upside Down” and could identify with those heroic Anglo-Saxon redcoats. And now, the statues of the Confederacy were under attack, too! The Obama Eclipse had, indeed, unearthed the fear and anger, the resentment and desire for retaliation in the White Tribe that lived in the United States. And they found their Shaman in a combed over huckster from the isle of Manahatta --- and he would lead them back to the “normalcy” of Whites on Top.
After 18 months of campaigning and 200-plus days of his Presidency, Donald Trump has shown us who he is and what he’s about. The Charlottesville crisis put the real Trump front and center, once again, and his colors (color?) were proudly flying. Do not, for a minute, believe “Now he’s finally done it.” We have thought that those countless times before --- from his birther crusade to his campaign announcement (“they’re rapists,” etc.), to the Access Hollywood bus, to the attacks on McCain and the Gold Star family. No, he is the Sun King for a segment of this society that clings to the White tribal belief that “America the Beautiful” was baseball before Jackie, separate schools and lunch counters, and second class citizenship for anyone who has too much melanin in their genetic make up.
So, while today’s Solar Eclipse is a fabulous day for Science, let’s not forget that the Bigot in Chief is trying to carve his own “Path of Totality” across the country at the same time.
Another "Path of Totality"
Here's another "Path of Totality" we have seen since January.