Tonight, the moon is at its closest, and brightest, for 68 years.
Not until 2034 will it reach the same latitude and illumination; a timely reminder of the immensity of our solar system and the epic proportion of the speed, distance, and relativity of the innumerable spheres of rock that orbit in space.
Ours is one of those spheres. (To be precise, it is an Oblate Spheroid.)
We all live on this same, revolving rock, with the same, beautiful moon to gaze down on us. If that moon, this Supermoon of tonight’s reckoning, was able to speak as it gazed down in its immense glory, what would it say?
I struggle to find an answer to that question. Last Tuesday night, the world changed. Around 25% of American voters opted for a man whose ‘USP’ has been the discourse of misogyny, racism, homophobia, intolerance and exclusion. Five months prior, UK voters totalled 52% for ‘Brexit’; catalysed by populists who, affronted by the influx of ‘outsiders’, decided that we would be better off On Our Own.
But what is ‘our / us’? What does that term actually mean? And what makes such insularity advantageous?
I am British-born, but I have Polish ancestry. My grandfather was an escapee Polish soldier during WWII, who fled Nazi-capture and was finally transported, with some considerable danger and jeopardy, to the south-west of England by the American navy. Here, he settled, welcomed by the local community, to begin a lineage of his own, on English soil.
Does this make me ‘un-us’?
I have never felt excluded, or Other (apart from the incessant forced-explanations of my ‘foreign’ surname of Kalas as a child). But in the ‘birtherism movement’ of Trump’s imagining, perhaps I am more ‘other’ than I thought.
There seems to be a strange concomitance between the commemoration of Remembrance Day, and tonight’s Supermoon appearance. Millions of lives were lost during the World Wars, and all wars, in the name of nations’ rights and humanitarian atrocities. And the universe has made its lunar-representative present; bright and imminent, at this very moment.
My own ancestor, Father Edmund Kalas, was a Catholic priest during WWII. Born in 1899, in Bydgoszcz, Poland, Fr. Edmund trained at a seminary in Gorka Klasztorowa before moving to France to become a parish priest. There, he helped the resistance movement by facilitating paratroopers to re-join the Polish army by escaping over the Pyrenees. Soon after, he was captured and sent to the POW camp, Mauthausen.
At Mauthausen, after refusing to declare Hitler as his God, Fr. Edmund was beaten, and burned badly in the camp’s furnace. Still, he continued in his priestly duties, tending to the suffering and the dying with the Holy Oils for the Sacrament of the Sick that he had on his person. When Fr. Edmund witnessed a fellow prisoner being beaten by an SS-man, he intervened, grabbing the guard’s stick and knocking his pistol from his hand. As Fr. Edmund knelt, giving the prisoner his last rites, he was himself condemned to death by stoning.
By his very own supporters.
Though his horrified comrades ‘threw’ the stones that they were ordered to direct at his now-naked body, the stones ‘missed’, and the camp captain took over, throwing bolders until Fr. Edmund died a martyr’s death, praying all the while.
Father Edmund Kalas, prisoner 28187, died on 7th June, 1943. He is currently part of the Servants of God II beatification process of the Second Group of Polish martyrs of the Second World War, a “group of victims of hatred for the faith”.
‘Hatred’ is a word used more now than ever before, in my lifetime, at least.
Like our medieval predecessors, individuals prepared to stand for their principles, integrity and selves, have become vilified, ‘other-ed’, and, at best, cast aside. Dreams of the first female US president – the most powerful leader of the globe – have been dashed. Instead, ideologies of exclusion, walls, self-interest and greed, have Trumped the stakes.
Have we somehow returned to a pseudo-medieval world where advocates of anti-populist movements are trampled and quashed?
Must we sacrifice more martyrs to return this Oblate Spheroid, this rock, this world, to a state in which it can survive the brutal universe?
Now is a time to come together, to remember the martyrs of the past – from the ancient, through the medieval, to the current day – and to hope, and to activate, a newly illuminated world.
Because this universe, this immense and overwhelming cosmos, will not wait. Humanity must take note. The signs are there. The stories have been told.
No more martyrs. No more hatred.