Letter From The Train 01 03 16 Optimistically riding into the future…

New Year 2016. National Cemetery at Antietam. War Between The States.  Racism. States’ Rights. Martinsburg, WV Obama  Crossing the Rubicon  Racism   Homophobia  Xenophobia  Koch Brothers  Rockefeller  Carnegie 

It is nearing noon on Sunday, the 3rd of January.  I have discovered I’m having no difficulty thinking of this as 2016.  Usually, I have trouble turning  the date, thinking of it still as last year.  Not this year…

I seem ready for 2016 and what it will bring.

It feels like a fresh, blank piece of paper, ready to have events written upon it.  For me.  Events have already been happening out in the world and the story of the year has begun to be written.

It still feels fresh to me.  Unsullied…

To make sure I was on time for my train, I drove a rental car into the city.  It gave me time to think.

Driving past the National Cemetery at Antietam, I thought about the Civil War.    Not so long ago I read an article that southern states are re-writing the history of the war so that it was not about slavery but about states’ rights.  I thought the victors got to write the history of a war but apparently not in this case; some revisionists are successfully revising.

Unlike some friends, I find no endless fascination with the War Between The States. 

Driving past Antietam this morning, I felt a wave of sadness not so much because of the war but because of the harsh legacy slavery has left us, a legacy from which we are still recovering.

Returning from picking up the rental in Martinsburg, WV I listened to an interview with a youngish African-American who was involved in Obama’s election campaigns but now is in local politics in Atlanta, I believe.  He spoke of the bitterness he felt at the treatment of Obama while he has sat in the White House.

Unfortunately, I think some of the political obstructionism from Republicans and Democrats that we have seen in the last seven years has been because Obama is black.  It is never said but it lingers in the air around him. 

He crossed a line that has never been crossed.  Electing a man of African-American   heritage crossed the Rubicon and the world will never be the same.  And some resent one more step into a future that will prevent the past from ever being reclaimed.

For a country so young, we obsess about our past, ever yearning for “good old days” that were never quite as good as they are remembered.

Growing up in mid-century America, I can look back and see endless examples of racism, covered in polite mid-western turns of phrase.  There was homophobia and xenophobia mixed with middle-class snobbery. 

One of my sociology books in middle school proclaimed that being American citizens allowed us to stride the world with the same ease and pride that Roman citizens could within their empire.

I’m not sure the Roman Empire was exactly something that young Americans should have been taught to admire.  While remarkable, it was a cruel world that had little regard for human rights.

Minnesota was not as bad as some places I visited.  The first time I visited Oklahoma my hair was shorn for a role in a play at the University of Minnesota.  The second time I returned, it had grown longish.  The same checkout women at the grocery store who had been so nice to me when I had been shorn, shunned me when my hair was longish, not long, only longish.

In Arkansas, a friend fretted for me because I was “a long haired blonde white boy from the North” and they didn’t much like them kind there.

The world is no doubt a better place.  Obama was elected.  We are scrutinizing actions of police toward people of color.  Questions are being asked and young people are sloughing off their parents’ bonds, as every generation does.

We are in, as we have so very often been, at a critical juncture, a country feeling around for its future, as we always have done.  It has been attributed to Churchill that he said:  you can count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have tried everything else.

It always seems like we are trying everything else.  But history has taught us that somehow we manage to do better each generation than the last.  While we have the Koch brothers today to vilify, in the past we have had Rockefeller and Carnegie.

Against all the odds, I am entering this year optimistically, eager to find out what the future has to hold, for me, for the world, the country and for you.

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2 Responses to “Letter From The Train 01 03 16 Optimistically riding into the future…”

  1. Bruce Thiesen Says:

    2016 may test your sunny outlook.

  2. tombers Says:

    Yes, it’s true. It’s already being tested. I read the news this morning.

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