The Fabric of Our Society

By Tom Yemm
About a quarter-century ago, I acquired a beautiful shawl; hand-woven by a friend, an elderly woman who was both an artist and at whose home I had gotten married in Vermont. As precious as this weaving was to me, I put it into service, on a sofa where, soon enough, one of our cats got her claws stuck and damaged it. Not knowing anyone who repairs woven goods, I put it away and awaited a conservator of this delicate and evocative fabric.

We all know that our own social fabric is also damaged, and very much so. Is that the best metaphor? Sometimes I think that living tissue is an even better one…Regardless, whatever is broken won’t be fixed unless we do it ourselves.

Some in Stratford will recall, fondly or in exasperation, when perennial gadfly George Mulligan would decry corruption at Town Hall, in the public forum, and call for the FBI to investigate. Just as tirelessly, I would point out to him the obvious: the cavalry isn’t coming; whatever ails our local republic continues to drain away our vitality until we all do something about it.

Those who know me are aware that for many years I was involved in conservation: of the Shakespeare Theater, the Historic District, and the White House. A few successes, more than a few failures. For a while afterwards, I was convinced that only by acting politically could Stratford be transformed for the better, and working alongside others from both sides of the aisle, we had some successes there as well. In the end, however, it became all too clear, that Stratford’s country club and plantation politics were just too ingrained to be budged. Nothing has happened to disabuse me of that sorry conclusion.

And then it got worse. The national social fabric became so tattered that—well, you know the story and do not need me to retell it. Compounding injury, the pandemic arrived and tore at our collective “shawl” so much as to make it nearly unusable.

What am I talking about? Have you driven a car on the roads in the past two years, and watched as road-rage and the behavior leading up to it becomes more the rule than the exception?

Have you viewed the vitriol of the debates about mask wearing, whether it be online or IRL—in real life? Insert your own example here, but suffice to say we’re in a real pickle.

What can we do to repair this fabric, to regrow this “tissue” without which society dies out and becomes a war of individuals against each other? I’d love to call upon a surgeon–or a weaver–but I believe each of us has some of those skills; we just need to practice them.

One of the highlights of the dark days of 2020 was when someone would call my name, at the supermarket, or on the street, and tell me they recognized me beneath the surgical mask. And I did the same. One thread at a time…

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