Friday, February 5, 2016

Taking America Back--From What?

photo by mandhak / flickr

Looking out at the political landscape today and the talk, talk, talk that we hear from candidatesI  am reminded of the geographical terrain in other days. In Medieval times the old maps were filled in the margins with drawings of all sorts of creatures: wild beasts, serpents, sea monsters, lions and dragons. In fact one map called the Hunt-Lenox Globe of 1503 scribbled across the unknown territories: “Here be dragons.” 

These scary creatures would fill in the unknown blanks where people had never ventured. Not knowing what was out there—this was the map-makers way of saying: There is very bad stuff out there. Dangers ahead.Who knows what demons might just gobble you up?  It took explorers a long time to discover the wonders of a larger world and slowly see their fears evaporate.

Sometimes I wonder how much progress we have made. At every venture forward there have been those that say: “No. No. Here be dragons.” Many turned back afraid that the trackless lands and seas would hold unbelievable horrors. 

photo by Stuart Rankin / flickr
Lewis and Clark were no nay-sayers. They are included in our list of American heroes. They struck out from Saint Louis to learn what was on the other side of the safety of their maps. There were warnings galore. Indians who would scalp you without notice. Disease, plague, hunger, Grizzles and rattlers were out there and winter was coming on.

Yet Lewis and Clark joined that noble band who dared to defy the mythical dragons. They found their journey long and arduous. Men and their horses died along the way. Yet—if we visit Saint Louis today and look up at the Golden Arch it is a reminder that maybe the old map makers were dead wrong. The Louis and Clark journey westward began in May, 1804. Their trek ended at the Pacific Ocean November 16, 1805.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could, in this time of fear-mongering and hand-wringing to be part of another generation that dared to defy today’s mythical dragons. I have been trying to discover the roots of the multitude of fears that so many of us lug around daily. I fault the politicians, the pundits and social media with much of the fear that infect us all. The seeds of our despair are many. Economy. Certainly. Yet if we look at the facts we are not in those terrible days of the depression. The Dow has bounced so much lately and yet that rate is double what it was in 2004. Records show it stands around 17,000 today. Ask the old timers how this age compares with the bare 1930’s of dust bowls and soup lines across there country. It is true that many of our people are out of work and many cannot find jobs. Yet—what is the employment rate today? It stands at 5.0%. In 2010 the unemployment rate was 9.8%. 

photo by Edith Zwagerman / flickr
But someone says what about ISIS and the dangers to our land? We have not had a concerted terror attack on our country since 9-11. Thanks to the vigilance of many people. Yes, there have been scattered terrorist attacks by individuals here and there. Yet most of the murderous attacks have come from our own citizens. Many say there is more fear out there than their was after September 11th. I find this very strange.

All this weird talk of “taking America back to greatness”—fails to remember that we are still the strongest country in the world. Where are our dragons? Millions of decent folk flee the horrors of their home land hoping to find safety for themselves and their families here. Why are we shutting our doors so tight? I passed a new house going up this week ion my street. The brown-faced Hispanics were hard at work in the rain. There are no dragons in my neighborhood.

I am no Pollyanna. We do have a long laundry list of changes that would help us all. We must be vigilant and we must be careful at every point. But whenever we hear all these fearful folk fanning the flames—we need to say: “Dragons—where?” I have not seen one lately.

William Inge wrote a play years ago called “The Dark At the Top of the Stairs.” It was a play about the convulsive changes taking place in our country in Oklahoma in the 1920’s. In the drama a Mother tells her little boy to go on up to bed. Minutes later he still sits on the steps. Sighing, she asks: “Buddy why are you so afraid of the dark?” “Cause,” he said, “I don’t know what’s up there and what might get me.” The Mother shakes her head, grabs his hand and says: “OK. Let’s go up the stairs together.” And they walk up the stairs into the dark. Wouldn’t it be something if liberals and conservatives denounced all those that fan our fears. Let’s join hands. Let’s walk into the unknown darkness together. We don’t need to make American great again. It’s already here. And the dragons are nowhere in sight.

photo by Morgan Burke / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

No comments:

Post a Comment