What and where is America? (first draft)
by Livy Tinsley
Artists have long seen America as a retreat from the outside world, a quiet place where one can allow inspiration to flow. Spiritualists believe it to be “the promised land,” a spiritual center of the soul where the inner life can grow unhindered. Aging hippies, already drowning themselves in capitalism and BMW’s, have long since abandoned the idea of changing the collective consciousness of mainstream culture and have turned inward on some pseudo-quest for personal enlightenment. Red-necks think of America affectionately as a place made up of Oklahomans, where Men are Men and Women are Women, where that perverted foreign stuff is at a safe distance and a gun rack in the back window of your truck insures your status as a good red-blooded, right-to-bear-arms American. It’s got all the nobility of the “Grapes of Wrath,” sadly without the soul. Native Americans, well they’re not really here any more although we do like to use their imagery to paint our history. But since their voice is a very small one nowadays we need only to listen to it when it’s good for tourism. Newcomers to America often believe it fits with one of the pretty pictures they see through the eyes of one of the first two groups. And if their focus is narrow enough they’ll be able to hang on to this rose-colored glasses view for much of their time in America. One thing they can be sure of is that they’ll be speculated about by all the veteran Americans or should we say natives.
Other newcomers might see America as a great place to invest in land and property. Theirs is a black and white, unquestionable motive and deserves no further analysis. Vegans and vegetarians figure it’s a great place to preach and practice their culinary beliefs, all the time despising their less enlightened neighbors for partaking of the flesh. Within this group and perhaps within all of the groups that we will mention are the hypocrites, those who pay lip service to everyone else’s beliefs but have no rituals of their own. This subculture is the saddest because they are in a sort of of limbo much of the time, suspended animation, fearing being labeled as this or that, pigeonholed into reacting instead of acting.
But the question again is what and where is America?
To be honest I’ d have to say that America is all of these things and, at the same time, none of them. All of them because everyone here subscribes to this or that philosophy or non-philosophy. And none of them because these groups are purely images, cartoon caricatures of what it really is to be human.
The real problem with all of these groups is that none of them get along with one another. And that is a sad statement about “the promised land.”
There is an upside to this diatribe, hope. Because there are a few folks in this community who believe that being good and helpful and caring to their neighbors is important, a priority, there is hope. Yes they are the minority but if you look closely you will see one, no doubt smiling and chatting with another like-minded soul, giving them time to speak their minds and then responding with grace and understanding and truth, not filibustering and bulldozing with their own agenda. You might also see one helping an old lady cross the street, (an old idea, but still a good one) or giving an out-of-towner directions to the nearest gas station, or even offering a quiet warning to children playing too close to the street, even though they’ve been warned many times before.
This brings me to the final group in America and one who wears that word “hope” like a party hat. The children of America will see us through if we let them. Catch them when their not looking, they’re constantly performing great acts of goodness. Not all of them mind you, you have to remember that their parents fit into one of the other groups mentioned above and have already been working on their children’s heads, or just leaving them in front of the TV, guiding them toward their version of the light.
My guess is that if you were to ask the children what their hopes for America are, they would say something like: A place where the world might look to see that the “melting pot” wasn’t just an industrialists plot to lure poor citizens of the world into his factories.
All we need is a universal truth, one that binds us instead of dividing. Instead of asking, “what is it that makes me different from them, ask yourself, what is it that makes us all the same.
There are a lot of answers.