I’m leaving from a place of gleaming towers and crumbling schools, a place with a building boom and a busted budget. I will return because it is home, but for a while I will be in another place called home.
I have travelled small distances with great frequency of late. This month there has been four states. There has been the business of compliance. There has been a goodbye. More than ever I am weary of driving and think only of being in a particular place. This week the place is Marion Ohio where the ills are great and one does not have the affluence we have here in Chicago that allows an ignorance of it.
I wish I had a particular thing to write about, a certain thought to express. But I do not. I will travel from the city to cross numberless fields and familiar rivers. And I will be sad as I think of our nation.
I will view the landscape and speak with the people and think how did we get here. Where did the hate filled rhetoric come from and the mass shootings and the fractured politics, and the me only philosophy? When did being a patriot mean loathing the immigrant and forgetting we are the daughters and sons of immigrants? When did progressives begin taking the donations of corporations that care for the bottom line more than the lives of those who reside within the borders of their homeland? When did we become America the ugly?
It is ironic I will see things like stunning architecture, water falling over rock, painted barns, family homes, and bundled hay lit up by the sun. I will see these and wonder at the ugliness of a once beautiful people who inhabit these landscapes. And I will wonder why when talking with fellow Americans there is no such ugliness and think upon how did we let the system of brutal discussion and hate get the best of us. I think of this and perhaps I have an answer as inadequate as it is.
Rugged individualism is a fallacy. We have always been a people of community because as people we can be nothing else. But communities have always been knowable. Now we reside in systems larger than we are and we have witnessed a demagoguery that comes from individuals that seek to control this system. Nowhere is that more evident than in the coming presidential election where we have one candidate content to make the system ignorant and too unwieldly for the people and communities it represents and another content to behave like a monarch. Whatever happens in November, it will be a sad day for America.
I wish I could say I had anything to look forward to when it comes to our governance, but at this moment I do not. Until we are ready to come together and destroy the likes of what our political parties have given us, we will remain in this place. Voices of reason will go unheard until we realize it is we the governed who control governance. When this begins to happen we can again begin to inhabit the civility that recognizes give and take. It will not happen this year though as neither the tyranny of a self-inflated ego or a servant of the bureaucracy will allow for it.
But one day it will and the beauty of the people will match its landscape and we will again be America the beautiful. Until then we can only long and pray for that day.