Let me give you my answer right up front. Yes, some of us are headed for what might seem like hell. I hate to have to think that or say that, but these days, it pays to be frightfully honest in whatever we write or say, so here it is.
Some of you are headed for what will seem like hell.
But that’s not all of you. All of you are headed for a difficult future, but you have always been headed for a difficult future anyhow so what makes this any different? Well, probably that it’s going to be more difficult than what you had experienced in the past. You might not have much money at all. Your job may evaporate. People you love might become sick and die. All the bad things that visit realistic nightmares could well happen.
What would you expect? Somehow, a virus has landed on us that has a special facility for attacking old people (like me) and killing us in a very short period of time. I would be worried about that except I am doing all that I can not to get it and I have succeeded so far and so have you or you would not be reading this.
That is a good piece of news for all of us, I believe.
Political signs point to an impending defeat for President Trump. I would say he has earned that, but people who love him (yes, there are those folks) are desperately worried about this and see it as a sign of collapse of the America we all love.
You can believe that if you have to but the fact is, keeping every Civil War Confederate General statue on its pedestal would not make things better, just as taking them down would not make things better. That is because statues, particularly in a nation where people are so ignorant about history, are mere symbols.
Real change happens inside of people, not outside, where the statues sit.
That is why I am not pessimistic about this nation of ours or its prospects for the future. I think we have just watched the biggest crowds in history move into the streets to demonstrate for justice in the wake of the very public murder of a black man who was in the custody of the very people who should have been protecting him.
Of course people went into the streets to protest that. Why wouldn’t they? Those protests were symbolic gestures so far beyond debates about civil war statues I am at a loss to explain how people missed the point.
Well, we have always been a national full of people who miss even the obvious points. It’s not that we have our heads stuck in the ground; it’s that we have our heads stuck in a media universe that is loud, always turned on, generally misled and so damaging to our need to be thoughtful.
The cure for that, of course, is to turn it down and become thoughtful.
What kind of America do you want? It is literally your decision.
The same America that carried us to this point? I don’t think so. We want an America that lives up to its own mythical description of itself, where all people are equal and the pursuit of happiness is guaranteed by our laws.
I have a story to tell about statues.
In my younger years, I never let a year pass without a visit to the battlefield at Gettysburg, where there are more statues than you could care to count. Each of them tells an important story, but not the story most people think about. It’s not about generals, tactics, technology or inhumanity.
It’s about sadness.
I wish I could say my heart stirs when I see the flag blowing in the wind and hear a brass band blasting away at the national anthem. It doesn’t. At Gettysburg, from the entrance to the place to the hill where Pickett’s charge utterly failed, and (I have walked up that hill and heard its ghosts talking to me) what you are looking at is a nation that was so confused it was willing to grind up its sons in the pursuit of competing mythologies.
What came out of that is the same imperfect America in which we live today.
Our obligation is to continue that struggle to meet the ideals that created that place.
We will be fine as long as we keep that in our hearts and heads.