Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Fascism, Ferne, and the Ten Commandments

© 2008, Karen Van Fossan

I shouldn't start this story with Ferne. I should start with the vandalism. The crime. Impeachment. No offense, Ferne. But 98-year-old women don't make headlines very much. Anyway, I have to start this story with you. This story is all because of you – your habit of living uphill. See, mostly, I'm a bicycle person. I'd rather be a boat person. But you and I live in Bismarck. You, at the top of the highest hill. Me, at the bottom. Which brings me back to my bicycle. I am not in love with uphill biking. As far as I'm concerned, it sucks. (Have you heard that expression?) It sucks so much that sometimes I don't bike – I walk.

And that's where it started. For me anyway. I was scaling Hillside Park. On my way to you, Ferne. Finding every shortcut I could find. Squeezing past fences. Winding around the springtime trees. Darting through parts of the park I otherwise wouldn't have known.

And that's when it happened. Bam! I was face to face with...something. At first, I thought, a gravestone. But, Ferne, do you know what it was? The Ten Commandments. And I don't mind telling you, I gaped. I gaped hard.

But that gape was nothing. Compared to this. By now it was winter, the coldest day of the year. Huffing and puffing, my eyelashes freezing, my fingers turning stiff in my gloves, I wound my way through Hillside Park – making my visit to you.

And here we go. Another bam. The Ten Commandments, vandalized. Footprints on the ground. Spray paint on the monument. One simple word. “Fascism.”

So I ask you, “What does 'fascism' mean to you?”
You lean forward in your easy chair. “What?”
“Fascism,” I answer.
“Oh,” you say. “Fashion?”
I inch myself closer. “Fascism. You know, the political term. Does it mean anything to you?”
Yes, it means plenty. Italy. Heads of state. World War II. Even Bush.

“Now, why hasn't he been impeached?” you like to say.

Then I read you the news. The hardest news we can get. So you can go, “Oh,” with 98 years of compassion in your voice. And later when I'm gone, say a prayer.

People say that nursing homes are lonely, Ferne. People don't want to hear what elderly women have to say. But if you could meet the person who did graffiti on the Commandments – I guess I'm just wondering. Would you and she have plenty to discuss?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rock on! (Get it, "rock" on??) Love this blog!!!

David said...

I'm not sure I understand how a set of rules can be fascist. We all live by rules of some kind or another, don't we? Does that make us fascists? I guess the fascism comes in when a person tries to force their world view on others. In that sense it may be more fascist to deface someone else's point of view than to erect a monument to one's own.

Julie said...

LOVE it!! In my opinion the city should put up a monument for EVERY religion or take the Christian one down!

David said...

Oh, the city put up the monument? Now I understand.

Karen Van Fossan said...

Oops! I'm sorry I wasn't more clear. Yes, Hillside Park is a public park. I've heard the suggestion that many people could gather there and make offerings from their various spiritualities, religions, or non-religions. I wonder what that would look like...

Kris said...

Call me politically incorrect, but I love it. Get the religious crap off public land. Enough already!
And I don't want to see a bunch of religious symbols & monuments for everyone's religion or spiritual practices. None of them belong on public land. (I'm agreeing with you, Julie.) Sorry if I offend, but i am not wal-mart...

David said...

Yeah, I agree. That thing needs to come down.

By the way, I heard the agnostics were also planning a monument, but they couldn't decide where to put it...

Karen Van Fossan said...

And even if they did, the existentialists wouldn't be convinced it was there...

Chris Alexander said...

As for the vandalism of the 10 commandments…. I guess a lot of people see religion as one of those things that fool people into believing so that they will act in a certain manner. A type of brainwashing or fascism…something that holds people back or down or stops them from being who they truly are. Ironically I believe the exact opposite…The 10 commandments came to free the people not enslave them and the gospel message is all about wiping out anything that gets in the way of being who you were created to be…that’s true freedom…freedom to live, not to let death and fear rule who and what you do…so I guess those people who think religion is fascist and I have a lot to talk about.