― Thomas Pynchon, AGAINST THE DAY
The True False Alarm
by Kieran Shea
But then again, if you’re like me, one who intermittently craves dynamiting the bridges of expectation, you don’t mind confronting the average citizen’s beliefs. Secretly you and I relish the prickly role of gadfly, chipping away at all manner of sanctimonious drivel that seems to manifests itself in Herculean form during this festive stretch. Familial or non, you’ve no issue with kneecapping your jingoistic brother-in-law swilling eggnog by the fire, you are fearless calling out that neighbor misquoting Charles Dickens, and you have zero qualms about handing your malodorous aunt a magnification loupe, imploring her to peer closer at the inherent darkness residing her poor, distasteful beliefs. Sure, it can be awkward. Inevitably disappointment and anger pools, and things can get real ugly real quick. Oh by gosh by golly, how the mistletoe and holly stupor is preferred.
For those unacquainted with the violent history of organized labor versus ruthless capital in this country of ours, on Christmas Eve 1913 a ghastly calamity befell the small mining town of Calumet, Michigan. Striking workers of the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company, along with their wives and children, had assembled upstairs at a downtown building known as the Italian Hall for some good will and yuletide cheer. Not long after their merrymaking began, some black-hearted asshole yelled fire and all hell broke loose. Making for the best exit, seventy-four terrified people were crushed and suffocated to death at the bottom of a steep stairway. Among the dead were (brace yourself) fifty-nine, yes, fifty-nine children. And guess what? It turns out there never was a fire.
In these times of ours, this post-truth age of shadowy swine and inscrutable graft, the arguments and circumstances presented in this picture are hauntingly recognizable. Those who are uncomfortable with acknowledging possible corruption at the cores of power and the institutions that beg for our collective trust need to be exposed to bitter history like this. They might not like it. It may cause them significant cognitive dissonance. They may even decide to finally write you out of their wills, but strap them to a chair and make them watch it for their own damn good.