We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

America, America

Written By: Charles - Oct• 11•20

Fall and the RBG Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Peanut butter and bread. For Rigel’s pills. Working for now. Kate’s conversation with Annie and her other sisters. The polls. The bugs me a lot distrust I have of them. The black, black sky and the stars, the millions, the billions of stars. Clear now.

Been thinking about America, this land I love, this nation, my nation. Our nation. Will we transform into a large simulacrum of Britain? A once mighty country brought low by its own perfidy and a too rapidly changing world? I hope not. The Plastic Hour article by George Packer gives us this one chance to turn away from that fate. We need to take it.

Not sure when I first knew I was an American. Maybe during one of the Decoration Day parades in Alexandria? Or, when Mom or Dad would talk about World War II. Mom on Capri. In Algiers. Her signal corps job. Dad dropping flour bombs on troops in training, flying folks on the Manhattan project. Air taxi. Talking about flying.

Maybe it was late at night when the TV stations turned off and the flag would wave, the National Anthem playing in the background, then the ironic screen image of a bonneted Indian Chief. Not sure.

I do remember the first day I learned our nation could be bad. It was in the summer of my seventeenth year, the same year my mother would die. We were in Canada again, Stratford, Ontario. The Shakespeare festival with its then new theater shaped like a crown. Those road signs with a crown on top of the number.

The Black Swan Coffee House sat near the Avon River in a green sward. Before Starbucks, before Dutch Brothers, before Caribou Coffee. Back then coffee houses had folk music, tables with candles. Were often dark, gloomy places. No chains that I recall. Independent small businesses dedicated to a counter culture before the one that emerged later on those same 1960’s.

I went alone. A place filled with foreigners. I felt brave. Got hot chocolate, coffee hadn’t entered my life. Sat down at a table by myself, took in the atmosphere. No coffee houses in Alexandria.

A singer came on stage and sang a protest song. Against the U.S. presence in Vietnam. It shocked me. An electric jolt. They’re criticizing my country. MY Country! I was an outsider there. An American. No one was thanking us for beating Hitler or stopping Japan. The singer said leave Vietnam to the Vietnamese. I did not know we had troops in Vietnam. I did not know that two years later my voice would speak the same words.

There were those other ways I learned my country. Watching American TV. Going to drive-ins for a hamburger, fries, and a milkshake. Paying close attention to the Greatest Spectacle in racing, the Indianapolis 500. Listening to the Dodgers on transistor radio while I delivered the Alexandria Times-Tribune.

Those times I got on the Greyhound bus at Mr. Stein’s Tailor Shop. Fruit on my lap. Headed across the vastness of this country to Oklahoma. On the train later headed to Arlington, Texas. This nation filled my nostrils as bus exhaust. As a conductor checked tickets. As I watched Illinois and Missouri roll by the window. Merrimac Caverns. Frankoma Pottery. The Tulsa Turnpike.

The United Auto Workers Union represented the parents of most of my classmates. Its decisions, its bargaining had a direct and positive effect. A house, a vacation place, a car, medical care, retirement pension, affording college for their kids. I left town before the U.S. Auto industry began to shrink in the wake of foreign competition. But, even those troubles reinforced my vision of American life.

Our life in these United States has been the envy of the world. Now journalists from other countries write articles pitying us. My early immersion in American culture, we each had our own, feels warm and fuzzy, a cloak of identity that wrapped around my psyche, shaping it, nurturing it, so a vital part of me feels sad when I read these opinions.

There’s more but I’m written out for this morning. What do you think of as the American Way?

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