This is the land of the free. But it’s also the home of very little brave anymore. And whatever brave there is rarely withstands the test of time, no matter how brief that time may be.
For half of Americans have become a rather limp lot. Champions of change for change’s sake. Arbiters exclusive of reason. Advocates of futility.
We pledge our allegiance to what we were when. We forfeit our Declaration to those who grow well beyond our shadow. We bully our way to the back of the line.
And we radiate hate like the power of the sun.
Comedian-satirist Jon Stewart held a high-profile rally on the National Mall some years ago. During his closing homily, he directed attention to a jumbotron wherein a live C-SPAN feed showed a jam of cars funneling from a broad berth of lanes into a narrow beltway tunnel. His point was that Americans of widely varying beliefs and countless daily trials somehow peaceably find a way through such gauntlets under countless unspoken “you go then I go” compromises. And so goes the nation each day, Stewart asserted.
Of the same promenade, Mr. Stewart also proclaimed that though one car might sport a bumper sticker supporting the NRA while another supported Obama, the very same “you go then I go” compromise would remain largely intact, regardless of how disparate the views.
But the actuality is bumper stickers are not nearly wide enough for whole truths. If they were, such truths might read something like, “Uncle Joe may have raped you but get over it and celebrate the baby.” Or, “G*d and I don’t want f*gs like you in our state.” Or, “black kids who can’t afford to eat means more for my little darlings.” If the incest victim or the gay man or the African-American family were behind the wheel, I wonder what would happen to those other drivers during Stewarts’s analogous trip into that dark tunnel.
As it stands today, a significant sum of those other drivers are now United States Senators, Governors and House Representatives. Men and women who willingly wield hate and fear with such aplomb that they are chosen to represent it with indefatigable charm for millions of frothy constituents.
I admire and enjoy Jon Stewart. But America is not a bumper sticker. Nor is it a race into a tunnel, a sketch comedy show or a manifestly partisan rally with a careful feel-good proclamation. None of that makes for yummy fodder at reality restaurant. And to excuse and exclude oneself as a “comedian” while excoriating “media” for perpetuating this mad political machination is, well, rather dense. Accountability is standing in the shoes you tied this morning, not stepping on someone else’s toes later that afternoon.
It’s more than reasonable to laugh things off when remarkable talents like Stewart make a worthy assist. And so it’s been for many of us as a potent remedy for withstanding a great deal of senselessness. But as Rome burns, so to has the laughter.
America has become a cauldron where religion, race, class and gender get whipped to a fiery brew of hate to be bottled, capped, shrink-wrapped and shipped coast-to-coast, day after day, year in year out. Hate grows like bamboo and gathers like moss, perpetually hastening its claim on America’s quiet towns and vigorous cities.
All is surely not lost. But a frightening majority certainly is.
What would we be as a nation were our arguments civil? Rational? Equitable?
Why do we elect and reelect those who truly do not represent us? Or those who blatantly misrepresent the good that lies in wait?
Why does religion mandate fear and dismiss its own need for revision? And why do we not recognize the dupe and demand a wholesale retraction for spoon-fed intolerance?
Why does the color of one’s skin still eclipse the content of one’s character?
Why do the haves deny the hand of the have-nots?
What are we asking for each day as we awake? Are we asking for better? For more? For different? For the same?
Are we determined to disagree? Or are we ever willing to unite?
Thus, this is where the blog ends and where some semblance of a personal exorcism begins. Maybe it’s but my very own polemic mess.
Regardless, this is not a request to agree with what follows. But whatever differences exist, let us hope they are not the powder in the gun but instead the conduit to a new conversation.
America is the dark wood where the great idea recedes.
Where a noble soul oft drowns in dust.
Where child voices vanish to skin and bone.
Where freedom stings.
America is the family sleeping on the step outside the patriot dream.
The heal of the boot on the head at the curb.
The heart played out.
America is where noise rejoices and deeds fall deaf.
Where a Capitol Hill cradles consequence.
And shutters common good.
America is too the amber wave of grain and fruited plain.
The majestic mountain and spacious sky.
Yet, the course from sea to shining sea must correct.
Or thine alabaster cities will not gleam.
Nor will such human tear go dim.
America is the very rich against the rest.
The unarmored against the empire.
History versus contemporary.
But America is not long departed.
Audacious must be the designation of fight against the privileged ill.
And so She can be won from such masquerade en masse.
She can again be thoroughfare for freedom’s beat.