Long Night

America should spend these long autumn nights doing some serious soul-searching. Put on some gentle music. Brew a pot of tea. Light a candle. Think about being a nicer nation.

No longer referring to people as “aliens” in our legal documents would be a good step forward. While we’re at it, let’s bury the phrase “Homeland Security” somewhere in the yard. Nothing good can come from printing such paranoid words on a letterhead. Why do we want to keep people out? So they won’t take advantage of our generous health care system or successful public schools? More than ever, this country needs new people. New ideas. New demands. New demographics. Imagine if America threw back its shoulders, waved a friendly arm in the air and said to the world, “Come on over! Let’s make better cities and trade new things!” Instead, there’s talk of electrifying our fences.

We are governed by a unique mixture of the timid, the negligent, and the cruel. Talking points. Minute-by-minute poll numbers. Corporate drones who no longer show any flicker of humanity, who are so dead inside they can no longer perform the most rudimentary duties of governance. Many of us are fed up, some of us are making some noise, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Imagine having a President who thoughtfully responds to the unprecedented outcry of hundreds of thousands of his citizens, many of whom are angry and frightened. You can almost see him sitting at his big desk with the flag behind him, arms carefully folded and looking hard into the camera with a knitted brow that indicates his resolve. “I’ve heard your concerns and I share them,” he’d say. “Now here’s what we’re going to do about it…” And he’d have a plan. Or at least some empathy. He would acknowledge us. Instead, we hear only silence. And as the hour grows late, I’ll settle for a President who simply tells us that he will not tolerate having his citizens punched, dragged, pepper-sprayed, and locked-up by the State because they are unhappy.

7 thoughts on “Long Night”

  1. lesley says:

    insightful. very beautifully written actually. i don’t know that i fully support what you’re saying, but in theory, it’s a lovely thought and this music reflects that very nicely. i like this a lot.

  2. James, my virtual friend, you inspire me. I love your blog, your photography, your passion for life, and your love of our country. I say that even though I don’t relate at all to your view of our country. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been around on the orb longer than you and I’ve seen these cycles come around before. I’ve seen where it all leads. First, I think we are a kind country. Up there with the best of them. I’ve seen an enormous amount of kindness up close and personal lately with turkey dinner giveaways and free oil changes for single mothers at our church last week. I’ve witnessed kindness and a great health care system as both my wife and father were in the hospital last week. I see a better nation than you see, where even our poorest have a higher standard of living than many on the planet – and for a reason. Two thoughts for you. First, we are a nation but what ties us together as a nation? Common what? And if we invite everyone in, including people who don’t share the common what and are even hostile to the common what? then how do we maintain what ties us together? (Not original to me, but excellent questions from Pat Buchanan – who you should be reading.) Second, why didn’t you want that reaction from the President regarding the Tea Party when we were out expressing pain on the course we’re headed? The Tea Party and OWS share an anger and a dread of the future and the path we’re on. We differ in root cause and solutions. Think about the reaction that the Tea Party got for their efforts to improve our course. Keep writing, man. Yours is an original and talented voice.

  3. Dawn Watson says:

    This is a beautiful thing.

  4. James says:

    Many thanks for the incredibly generous words. Randy, thank you for taking the time to share your perspective. More than anything, I want to hear from other points of view and find common ground.

    I’m happy your experience with our health care system has been a good one. Mine has only been tragic. After losing many people close to me, I’ve only witnessed the predatory side of it, as I watched my family worry about the cost, fight with insurance companies, panic about their options, and in some cases secretly avoid treatment because they were so scared of what it would do to their premiums. Nobody should profit from another’s illness. I do not have insurance because I cannot afford it, and I worry constantly. I do not think my inability to afford insurance means that I am lazy, although this is what many politicians tell me.

    In my short time in Helsinki, I felt the psychological benefit of knowing that you will be taken care of and it will not bankrupt you, no matter how much money you have or how sick you are. Affordable health care should be a right. But America is much larger than Finland and any other nation which has a public health system (which is pretty much every country except America and the third world), so I’d prefer to see locally administered public health care systems rather than a single bloated and intrusive national machine.

    I’ve driven 75,000 miles wondering what ties this nation together. In the end, I believe it’s the chaos and diversity of this country. This is our strength. Inviting people with opposing points of view will only make us stronger. Inventing boogeymen and drawing the blinds only makes us crazy.

    But if I had my way, I’d destroy all nations and states. They are fictional artifacts that cater to our worst instincts of tribalism. Cities are real, coherent things. I’d much rather see great cities left free to compete with one another for residents in an open global market with very little government intervention. But this vision might be a ways off.

    I will support OWS as long as it doesn’t sell itself to FOX News, MSNBC, etc, or any political party, all of which are clearly owned by the corporations they are protesting. I also trust that it will not scapegoat our President (although he’s maddening) and that it will remain as open, noisy, and diverse as the country it represents.

    Thank you for the thoughtful note, Randy. I really appreciate the conversation.

  5. I appreciate the conversation as well, and your experiences in health care here and in Helsinki. I enrolled in my work health policy for 2012 today. $10k in costs, at least. I do it to protect my family as best I can in this system. I think it was a mistake decades ago to evolve into an employer-based system, and I thinking it will be wrenching for a country of 300 million to make a radical change. It will require a better leader to achieve that than we have now.

    All of us want that peace of mind you eloquently described. Four ourselves, our families, and yes our neighbors. Many, myself included, are highly skeptical that our government is capable of providing it in a sustainable way. We’re broke. The brokest country on earth. And we want that insolvent entity to take on our health care? I still believe we are a kind nation, care for each other, and want the peace of mind for all of us. We just differ on how that can happen. Stay healthy, please.

  6. I’ve also witnessed kindness and a great health care system as both my wife and father were in the hospital last week. I see a better nation than you see, where even our poorest have a higher standard of living than many on the planet

  7. ramsay says:

    Fantastic. I’ve got to tell you, even though our healthcare system is flawed, we might have one of the best healthcare systems in the world for the poor. The middle class is where we are lacking. People with something to lose. It’s unfortunate, but the poor and the rich have nothing to worry about. The middle class however does.

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