America, America

83  bar falls 30.00  1mph E dew-point 66  sunrise 6:21  sunset 8:11  Lughnasa

Waning Gibbous Corn Moon

“The English people believes itself to be free; it is gravely mistaken; it is free only during election of members of parliament; as soon as the members are elected, the people is enslaved; it is nothing. In the brief moment of its freedom, the English people makes such a use of that freedom that it deserves to lose it.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Oh, man.  Just spent time on the phone, then online with a customer service tech for a web-based service to which I subscribe.  There’s gotta be a better way of establishing my bona fides.  With accounts and subscriptions all over the net my passwords, user names and security questions get mixed up sometimes.  In this case I think the problem was partly their end, partly my brain.  I haven’t solved it, but I lost energy for it.

Instead, apropos of Rousseau above, I made telephone calls to candidates for the Sierra Club. I’m not a fan of the telephone, but a large part of that, maybe all of it, is me.  Phone solicitations, unwanted callers annoy me and I do not want to annoy others.  That’s my rationalization, in fact, it is part a sort of phobia about contacting people I can’t see, in a way that comes as a surprise even with caller id.

When it comes to politics, persuasion has a key role, but I have developed an unreasonable and idiosyncratic reluctance to persuade–or to be persuaded by–another person.  I’m quite ok with persuasion in writing, public speaking, as part of a protest, but one to one I loose patience with the process.  This is a hangover from the sixties and one it is high time I eliminated.  My work with the Sierra Club this year is an excellent opportunity to challenge these predispositions.

America.  The Woollies spoke Monday night of America, though most seemed to want to collapse America into the United States, a distinction I try to keep fresh and bright.  The United States is the political entity created by American revolution, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  It has and grants legal authority.  The United States is, largely, our government. Congress, the President and the Executive Branch, the Supreme Court, all the state governments and the corpus of laws, rules and regulations these all create and enforce.  We, the people are responsible for our government, not to our government and crucially, we are distinct from our government.

America exists at the crossroads where a farm elevator rises out of vast fields of wheat.  America emerges at high school basketball games, bass fishing tournaments and baseball games.  America gets together at church socials, VFW meetings and suburban soccer games.  America has a geography, topography, a meteorology.  The United States does not.  America has churches and bowling leagues, softball games and croquet on well manicured suburban lawns.  The United States does not.  America has a history found in MacGuffey readers, Walt Whitman’s poems, Lincoln’s speeches and Frederick Douglass’s.  Moby Dick and Hester Prynne, Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett.  Sooners.  Gold rushers.  Mountain Men. Suffragettes.  Temperance workers.  This is America.

Those four corners with gas stations or drugstores or cafes, those long streets with bungalows and those with Victorian era mansions, the cars and trucks on the highways, Country Music and Bluegrass, Jazz and Gospel these express American culture.

Culture blends with the land to create an idiosyncratic way of living recognized easily by others, but often not well understood by those immersed within it, just as the fish doesn’t think about water and humans give little thought to air.  Thus, the world knows what it means to be American better than we do.

This question or topic deserves more probing, greater depth.  It goes to the very definition of ourselves in the world.

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