There’s a lot of debate these days about the future of America, our values, and our place in the world, isn’t there? The agora it certainly is not, to be sure. Sage figures expounding logic has been replaced by Facebook memes and 140 characters – but I suppose ittle have to do in our virtual world. Outrage and hate – faux mostly, prejudice masquerading as indignation. What is certain is the outcome of this fight will decide our fate – and because we are having it means we are a nation that has already changed.
I’ve been accused of being a romantic; which is especially true when it comes to America, my land which I have scarcely known. Not a ‘realist’, not a ‘pragmatist’. A dreamer, a seer of things as I prefer, not as they are. Of how they should be. “Rose-colored glasses” as if America were as it appears on the glossy pages of Arizona Highways and in the black-and-white stories of Bob Hope and Cary Grant.
Guilty – I suppose. Maybe knowing more about traffic patterns in Prisren than Portland. About where to buy the best meat in Bamako more than in Boston: maybe that has made my nostalgia fictional, nestled as it is among so many stories of human suffering.
What my critics forget is that it is we – the storytellers – who inspire imaginations and motivate people to see things as we see them; to push people to see beyond to what could be as sort of lights illuminating in order to instruct and guide. That’s what I try to do – albeit poorly, as if from a great distance I feel, or from behind a thick veil.
The pristine towns and idyllic villages and exciting cities that we drive through and visit, that end up gracing the pages of our novels or as the backdrop for stories of faith and family – they exist. Sure we clean them up, give them purpose and passion – make them meaningful to fill them with value. But we cannot breathe life into something that is already dead. Corpses hold no allure in the minds of men.
The problem is not, as some say, with the land and the lakes and the people.
Wellesley Girls College teaching generations of women about dignity and propriety. Out of the way diners at the crossroads of old roads feeding men drifting from town to depression town looking for work – unwilling to surrender. Pastors calling together men and women, who come from the farms or apartments or condos, from their hardware stores and office buildings, to hear the gospel and remember the importance of faith and the goodness of God.
The old ways are not defunct; despite the devil’s greatest efforts to pull off the greatest scam of all: a bait and switch which labels them instead tired prejudices in order to discard them definitively.
The problem is we’ve stopped telling the stories, becoming embarrassed in response to the assault of the shameless. No more; because as is the cyclical nature of things, the old has become new again. Celebration!! The debate is not over – “the science is not settled” as it were. And at last, we’re winning again – so now is certainly not the time for temerity. So meme away, ye fearsome warriors, meme away on the online agora for idiots. Extend your voices across a land that you are fighting for. As for me, I’ll keep trying to tell the story of America as she was, as she is and how she will be.