Indifference Just Gets In The Way

Screenshot 2023 06 01 at 3 59 07 PM

I’ve ranted about indifference more than a few times in this space.

The belief held by far too many people in this country that they can’t do anything to change society or that they’re too busy to even try. Or both.

But if you don’t want to read my opinions on the subject (and there’s no particular reason you should), how about Tom Hanks?

The actor and filmmaker eloquently addresses the issue of indifference in America in his commencement address to the 2023 graduating class at Harvard, wrapped in a patriotic framework (somewhat surprising) with comic book touches (not surprised).

Truth, too, has a nemesis, equal to any color kryptonite. That, like a feral hound, is never too far off the path, in the weeds and the shadows. Lying in wait for the lethal opportunity to bring truth down. And that beast is indifference. Which will make moot all the permanence found in truth. Indifference will rust away the promise of our promised land. Propaganda and bald-faced lies will erode over time, idolatry and imagery lose luster and effect.

Ignorance and intolerance can be replaced by experience in the wink of an eye, but indifference will narrow the vision of America’s people and dim the light of lady liberty’s symbolic torch.

Indifference makes citizens into indentured servants, held in labor by the despots and tyrants whose default setting is cynicism. Who outlaw dissent and ban art and dialog and books. Who grab power any way they can, enabled by the subterfuge of their co-conspirators, rewarding the rational of the complicit, and surging into the vacuum caused by the indifference of a people who have been made weary by struggle.

So weary that they lose hope and are left to yearn to be saved by the fiction of superheroes.

Everyday, every year, and for every graduating class, there is a choice to be made. It’s the same option for all grown-ups who have to decide to be one of three types of Americans.

Those who embrace liberty and freedom for all.

Those who won’t.

Or those who are indifferent.

Only the first do the work of creating a more perfect union, a nation indivisible. The others get in the way.

In the US we probably have a constant 30% of the population in that middle category. Currently they’re known as MAGA but in past decades have had plenty of other names.

I have no idea how many might be in third category, the indifferent. I suspect it has been shrinking lately, given the possibilities for social disaster thrown in our collective faces over just the past few years. Just maybe not shrinking fast enough.

Anyway, Hanks’ entire talk is worth 20 minutes of your time.


The picture is a screenshot of the video from YouTube. I’ll save you a trip to Wikipedia: the J stands for Jeffrey.

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