A memo from the millenial desk #2
September 26, 2019
My name doesn't really matter. It's my experience that I think will be valuable, for I follow the trajectory of most millenials stuck in our time. I hope to garner understanding, in the hopes I can inspire a strand of unity in a divided America.
Contemporary journalists like to paint America's polarization as the democratic/liberal cities juxtaposed to republican/conservative rural areas, but the interests of Americans are more aligned than credence is given.
Although I'm not sure if I noticed it at the time, taking Highway 275 west across the northeastern part of Nebraska as a child, to the place where my grandparents on my father's side started a family, introduced me to silence, real silence, away from the mechanical rhythm of railroad tracks and high-pitched rumbling of the highway near where I was raised. The abandonment of the Norfolk-Merriman railroad in 1992 allowed me finally to hear the world going around, as it did before me and will long after I am gone. At a young age, I found peace in the wide-open skies of Holt County, and since I first discovered the feeling, sitting in a tree stand in the bitter November cold, waiting for the sun to come up and the whitetail to come about, I have very seldom come across one similar.
I spent my youth and high school years building myself into a high-caliber athlete and reaped the benefits of my labor by being recruited to compete for the University of Nebraska. From this platform, I was able to travel all over the Midwest, east to Chicago and west to LA, and innumerable places in between. I met people I otherwise would have never encountered; and witnessed things that, as uncomfortable as they were, taught me about the follies of men (and women) and the atrocities of a society built by imperfect beings.
Mark Twain wrote in his book "Innocents Abroad" that "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
Which is why my name doesn't particularly matter. I suppose every man and women eventually drops the naivety of their youth, traverses the rite of passage to discover the true nature of the world. I learned the world wasn't what people said it was, that we lie to our youth so that they may not be burdened by the human condition. I suppose I didn't need to travel to discover the truth, only to realize it was applicable to all walks of life. The initial reaction to the great American contradiction is usually anger, especially among young people, but we eventually all find out in one way or another, and how we react to such findings determines our outlook on life. It's a bitter journey, as one encounters "prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness" much more often than "broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things." However, as the prominent philosopher and musician Bobby Digital said, "Life is perfect, pay attention to the details."
So what are the details we are missing? Do we live in a world where evil runs amok solely to teach our budding youth the truth of the human condition? My experiences traveling around the country in college and my professional endeavors since have exposed me to a tale of two Americas, and the conclusions are chilling. We are more connected today than any civilization has been in recorded human history, yet our understanding of each other continues on the arduous revolutions, the cycles of history, as if we're still sharecropping and fighting wars of religion.
Writing from Houston, I can report directly on the state of major American cities, they are all essentially following the same trajectory. Residents are being priced out. The city has it's problems, but they are the same as yours, far from the light pollution that blocks the stars. Middle America recently allowed the federal government to march a pipeline across sovereign lands, throwing tear gas and arresting those who made a stand. The point is not whether or not the pipeline was viable, the point is how the government and those who control it, take with impunity.
America is rotting, both figuratively and literally. It is polarizing to the point of violence. There was a dream that was Rome, and this is not it. Give me the most diverse America you can imagine, and every person will at least agree America has deep-rooted problems. There are no easy answers, there are no scapegoats, the politics of America have been down in the mud playing with the swine so long that we are all guilty of at least ignorance and at worst, greed. The cure cannot be legislated, it cannot be forced, coerced or otherwise demanded. We, as Americans, can only seek to understand each other, for society and government exist to guide the masses to enlightenment. That was the whole point, remember? Liberalism came about to recognize and enforce the rights of man, yet we reside in the land of the free with a quarter of the world's prisoners.
History is driven by the fringes and extremes, and the truth lurks in the gray area. I hope to, if y'all will tolerate it, explore the gray areas of American politics, between the things we tell ourselves and the reality of the situation, after all, when we put so much faith in belief our reality rests simply on perception. In our rampant individualist society there can be common ground between Americans. Frankly, however, common ground won't save us, 'tis only the first step on the stairway to sustainability.
In conclusion, dear reader, I write to you from one of the filthiest cities in America, to residents of one of the few places left with a peaceful, clean connection to the natural world. Thomas Jefferson abhorred cities, once writing, "I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, they will become as corrupt as Europe."
Places like Summerland represent to me one of the last bastions of the Jeffersonian dream, where a man owns his own means and meets his own ends. Although I have a lurking fear it is too late, and a loathing for what is to come.
So here I am, like the rest of my millenial brethren, trapped in a metropolis by the economy in an East Texas puddle that keeps flooding. As filthy and corrupting as life in the modern metroplex is, there are good people here too. If there be a silver-lining to Harvey and Imelda, it is the strength that the people have showed in the face of disaster. As it turns out, perhaps the "blue" city and "red" rural Nebraska aren't so different when the floods come. Honest, hardworking people are the majority, never forget that. But like most of the rest of America, our land is becoming our lease, opportunity drops with every hike in rent, and the landlord only grows more demanding. I hope not to see the Elkhorn resemble the Bayou, but the cities are growing and the high-rise blocks the sunset.
From the Dirty South