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The Summer of Our Discontent

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

One of my favorite books of all time is John Steinbeck's, "The Winter of Our Discontent." The title character, the book's protagonist, almost leaps off the pages of Steinbeck's novel written in 1961.

He could be standing in any office, grocery store, or bank today. This story centers around Ethan Allen Hawley of New Baytown, New York, a former Long Island aristocratic class member. After his father lost the family fortune, Ethan ends up working in the grocery store his family once owned.

Well, if you haven't read the book, I won't spoil it for you. But, needless to say, Ethan, listening to his family and friends, spurred on by hate and discrimination turns in his new boss (an Italian immigrant Ethan is sure doesn't have papers). He engages in corrupt dealings with businessmen and politicians, all of which leads poor Ethan to lose not only the integrity, humility, and humanity he once possessed but, in the end, nearly his own life.

When I think about what's happening around us today, I am saddened as many good people faced with the perceived loss of stuff (power, prestige, and privilege), are becoming Ethan Hawley's.

The recent Affirmative Action ruling limiting college admissions based on race serves only to do one thing...protect the Ethan Hawley legacies in this country. Yet, it doesn't stop there. If we think about how many refugees and immigrants are subjected to exactly what Ethan did to his new boss (the person who acquired the grocery store due to Ethan's father's bad business acumen), all because he wanted to blame the man's immigration status on his own father's failure.

And when we think of how states like Texas and Florida are banning books in school libraries and school curriculums all in an attempt to tell history, by hiding history - well that's exactly the corrupt posture Ethan found himself in when dealing with the corrupt businessmen and politicians he turned to.

The Winter of Our Discontent was a bestselling novel because people understood the story of Ethan and the moral failure that led to his actions.

I just wonder why so many people are falling for and turning to the same moral failings and being led by the same businessmen and politicians.

One of my favorite quotes is, attributed to Edmund Burke (but he didn't say it), but was spoken in 1867 by John Stuart Mill who said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Is this the Summer of Our Discontent, and can we face our continued moral failings by doing nothing?

And So It Goes...


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