A time of growing cruelty

In a recent post on her blog, Alice Walker writes about how the FBI has called Assata Shakur a terrorist. At one point in the post, Walker, being a poet, diverges from commentary on current events into a meditation on the prevalence of cruelty in the United States today:

“What is most distressing about the times we live in, in my view, is our ever accelerating tolerance for cruelty. Prisoners held indefinitely in orange suits, hooded, chained and on their knees. Like the hunger strikers of Guantanamo, I would certainly prefer death to this. People shot and bombed from planes they never see until it is too late to get up from the table or place the baby under the bed. Poor people terrorized daily, driven insane really, from fear. People on the streets with no food and no place to sleep. People under bridges everywhere you go, holding out their desperate signs: a recent one held by a very young man, perhaps a veteran, under my local bridge: I Want To Live….”

In recent months, I’ve been trying to understand why I feel there is something morally unsound in our society recently — and yes, I know that every era thinks their time is morally unsound. But every era does have its own particular moral unsoundness, and I think Walker is on to something: our time is a time when we are increasingly tolerant of cruelty, even amused by cruelty.