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.
I hope America stays up all night with these thoughts, pacing the floor and making promises to be a kinder nation. Here’s a good song for that kind of late night soul-searching:
Nobody could smoke a cigarette like Linda Darnell.
Snapshots from my classroom.
Stories from the white spaces on the map.
A dub field of mid-century blues.
Love among the ruins.
Lonely gas stations and motel neon.
Her best friend was a little battery-powered radio.
He felt close to her while he drove, his insides vibrating like a teenage dream.
Somewhere Roy Orbison plays on a battered old radio.