Political Education

The Lottery

The Lottery“, is a short story by horror and mystery writer Shirley Jackson. It was published by The New Yorker magazine in 1948.

“The Lottery,” tells the story of villagers in a small town who gather together in the square for the town lottery. The lottery box holds slips of paper made from a list of all the families and households in the village. The town elder running the lottery, Mr. Summers, reminds everyone about the lottery’s rules. He reads off family names and the head of that family comes up and draws a slip of paper. One villager, Mr. Adams tells another villager, Old Man Warner, that people in the north village might stop the lottery. The Old Man says that giving up the lottery would mean a return to living in caves.

The lottery seems to have something to do with the economy. Old Man Warner quotes an old proverb: “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” After all the names are called, everyone opens their paper. The villagers buzz that Bill Hutchinson “got it.” Mr. Summers asks how many children are in the Hutchinson family. Bill answers that there are three. Bill’s wife Tessie cries out that the lottery wasn’t fair.“Be a good sport, Tessie,” says one villager. Another says, “All of us took the same chance.”

Five papers, one for each of the Hutchinsons, are put in the lottery box. Mr. Summers calls each name and that member of the family draws a paper from the box. When the Hutchinson all open their slips, they learn that Tessie has drawn a paper with a black dot on it. Mr. Summers tells the crowd to hurry up. Each of the villagers picks up a stone and closes in on Mrs. Hutchinson. She stoned to death while crying out, “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right.”

Over seventy years later the cry is ‘we must reopen the economy’ as in “Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon” Desperate to have the economy vibrant in time for his reelection campaign, the president and his followers encouraged states to open businesses, bars/restaurants, and schools too soon while making light of masks, avoiding large gatherings, and social distancing. Now we are suffering through a second wave of Covid-19 cases and a second wave of business closures. Trump and his allies directly oppose medical advise and now the people are paying for it with their health and their lives.

On August 24, 2020, the Washington Post cited a CBS News released a poll conducted by YouGov that showed that about 3 in 10 Americans think the number of deaths from the coronavirus so far is acceptable. The Post article states “for most Republicans, there isn’t a line in the sand past which the death toll is too high”. As in Shirley Jackson’s dystopian village, there are those in our society who think we should just “Be a good sport” After all, “All of us took the same chance.”

Thanks and a tip of the hat to MarkyBon for the image “It’s a Lottery”. See more of MarkyBon’s art at https://www.flickr.com/photos/94272988@N00/with/14794343/.

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