Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Something Lost




Something Lost

It was a day like any other.  We stood beside our desks in school, placed our little hands over our hearts and pledged our allegiance to a starry flag, believing what we'd been told: our country was exceptional, our country was the best.  But we were sent home from school early that November afternoon so we knew something wasn’t quite right.  I ran through the back door and raced down the hallway to find my mother crying in front of the television.  The lady on the screen was wearing a suit of vibrant pink but on our black and white set it appeared light grey and oddly streaked with something that looked like dirt.  My mother cried all that cold weekend and my father’s jaw was set in what I now know was an effort not to do the same.  As parents used to be able to do with their little ones, they kept the details from me.  I knew something bad had happened, but I didn’t know what.

They say our country lost its innocence that day.  Trust in our government, so strong during the great wars, began to chip away like so much old paint.  Conspiracies swirled around the death of our President.  Soon black men were being shot with fire hoses in Southern streets, their bodies thrown to the curbs like trash.  One hero was blown apart in a Los Angeles hotel dining room, another was picked off a balcony in Memphis by a bullet guided by a hatred both historic and insidious.  The dreams and hopes of many were put in the ground along with both men.  More innocence dead.  More body blows to a idealistic country.

Sheltered on my shady street, my own innocence remained safe.  When your parents love each other, and love you - when you’re white - innocence is a relatively easy thing to keep tucked away, pristine in a unpierced heart.   Hard as it may be to believe,  it has taken the events of this past year to drain the last drops of that golden elixir of innocence from my soul.  There’s a little left, but it’s not measurable.

This past year I watched my fellow citizens embrace a man so imbued with hate and mendacity he wore them with utter pride, never bothering to cloak them in neutral colors.   I watched as supposed men of faith called this man, “God’s choice”, urged Christians to elect him and, even today, stand by his every action with disgusting, inexplicable, devotion.  I have heard the vilest words come, not from the more expected dark corners of our culture, but from the highest pinnacle of our nation’s government.  I have watched as lies are praised and paraded.  I watched a president speak to our nation’s Boy Scouts in a way that was shudderingly crass, maddeningly crude.  Only this week I have seen this man’s repulsive narcissism nudge the world closer to an annihilating war.  Only yesterday I saw an evil swarm of his champions, now hoodless and emboldened in the sulphurous light of his support, bring their dark hatred to the sunshine of Virginia. 

Any innocence or idealism I may have secreted away during my youth is dripping away with alarming speed.  I thought we were better.  I thought we had learned.  I thought that those who taught me the ways of God believed the words that they spoke.  I thought there was a line that couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be crossed.  I now know better.  

This blog has always been a place for me to revel in the beauty of life.  It’s been hard to write these past few months.  Oh, don’t misunderstand me.  I know the beauty is still there.  I see it; I appreciate it.  It gives me comfort.  But to write continually about my joys and loves as I’ve done for the past nine years seems, at this moment, almost trivial.  At present we are in a battle for our souls, individually and as a country, and this battle weighs heavily on my heart and mind.  

A wise women recently said, “We don't think our way to hope. We take the actions, and then the insight follows. The insight is that hope springs from awareness of love, immersion in love, commitment to love.”  For myself, that’s all I know to do.  Each action I take, every activity in which I engage, I am endeavoring to do them with love.  Caring for The Songwriter, Edward and Apple.  Caring for my colorful little cottage.  Cooking meals.  Filling old vases with flowers.  Knitting.  Reading.  Making myself a cup of tea.  Sharing a smile and a friendly word with strangers even when I myself am worried and anxious.  Helping where I can, listening when I can.   Surrounding myself with brave people who know what’s at stake, who lift me up, make me laugh and bring a flicker of hope to my heart.  And perhaps as important, letting go of that which gives me pain.

Once lost, I’m not sure innocence can be regained, or even if it should.  But hope is different.  As Emily told us, hope is a thing with feathers.  It may fly away in a storm, but that doesn’t mean it will never again flutter down to perch in our souls.  That is what I wish for all of us in these days as we remind ourselves that what we are witnessing is not a great America.  It is not who we are.  It is not normal.  It is not Christian.  It will not last.  

28 comments:

  1. I'm despairing. And yet we do have to regain hope and act to make this better, to realize the American dream and hope it wasn't just a myth. Not just a story told to protect the rights of some to make their fortunes.

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  2. It will not, it CANNOT last. There are too many of us who live in the light and are dedicating our very souls to bringing that light into the world.

    Thank you for your clear vision of what is, and mostly for the hope that lives on about what can be, and what WILL be. Innocence may not be regained, Pamela, but hope is eternal.

    Love always wins. Hold onto that.

    With appreciation,

    Kay

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  3. Bless you, Pamela, for not turning away from this dark time, but instead writing with such clarity and wisdom. I too remember that dark day in November; I was ten. In spite of all that followed, there still were bright hopes. It’s difficult to absorb where we have instead traveled as a country. I agree that we are in a battle for our souls. It is a time of decision, whether or not we recognize its true and lasting import. We must reach higher than we have ever before reached.

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  4. Your words describe my experience of past and current events exactly. I have only to add, as I'm sure you know, that our parents' ability to protect not only our innocence but safety as well, was rooted in class and race privilege. I have a sense that our country is facing an almost impossible choice: Accept the truth of our bloody history and find the capacity to make radical changes or continue down the road to violence and destruction. I pray we make the choice of love, hope, respect and community.

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    1. Which is precisely why I added the word "white". I am well aware that others in my town were not as protected and it grieves me still today.

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  5. Thank you for your eloquent message. You sing my song.

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  6. I am the mother of a mixed race American family and my heart has always longed for a better United States for my children. Anonymous describes well what has always been the case in our country. Too many white Americans don't wish to see that our white privilege, built on the backs of our black and brown brethren, continues unabated. Our fellow Americans are in denial. Many of them will remain so. It is my fondest hope that we make the correct "impossible" choice and that ALL white Americans stand up for ALL our brothers and sisters of color and persecuted religions because they cannot fight
    this alone. It is our duty to educate ourselves, to speak out, to lead the way in fighting for the truths of racism and bigotry to be acknowledged before anything will truly change. The current occupant of the White House will never rise to this challenge because he doesn't understand the problem. So it is up to the rest of us to embrace the task. Thanks for your efforts, Pamela.

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  7. Thank you for this column. Yesterday I picked up my mother from her assisted-living home. She was watching a PBS documentary about the rise of Hitler and Nazism. She said, "How could that have happened to such advanced people." I said, "Mom, it may be happening again." We must speak, write, act. To do nothing is to be complicit with the evil among us. And within us. Thanks again.

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  8. My father fought against evil in France, was rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk, witnessed the Battle of Britain from the Romney Marshes in Kent, marched through the jungles of Burma with evil at his back. He is 97 years old and I can't imagine how he feels to see the rise of the right. He lost his youth as did my mother (from the bombed streets of London, enduring the Blitz for endless years) She is now gone and part of me is pleased that she at least isn't alive to see these events. Why can't we learn from our recent history, our collective memory gathered from parents and grandparents and in the case of my cousins daughter from her great, great uncle. I have no answer's and watch in misery. I consider myself a citizen of the world and maybe that is where we have gone wrong, with the nationalistic fervor for just one country in a world of many. Thank you for this post Pamela and thank you for the blog. Australia and indeed the world are caught up in America's shame and indeed we have our own increasingly vocal right wing spurred on by America and it's evil. We will beat it, as my parents did not so many years ago.

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  9. I am reading Al Franken's book and his telling about his childhood and why he became a liberal democrat. The fifties and sixties are gone, is my thought while reading. 'It' has become unleashed. I fear for my grandchildren. And everyone remember the Native Americans. The saddest of times.

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  10. Thank you for these words. I am saddened by what is happening and I so appreciate your column.

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  11. My late great aunt had a friend who use to say "be careful of your words and actions. For you will have to explain yourself to God on judgement day." I'm very sad and disappointed with my fellow Americans these days. We have leaders who wallow in selfishness and greed. They encourage the behavior we've seen by their silence or their weak and pitiful speeches. Is this their interpretation of making America great???!!!
    Bea

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  12. What a beautiiful and heartfelt post Pamela.

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  13. Thank you.

    NancyO.

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  14. Charlottesville is my hometown and UVA my alma mater. I cannot even begin to describe the hatred, violence, and evil Nazi verbiage that was spilled on Friday and Saturday. Armed militias in body armor and touting weapons our cops don't have were pervasive--they even had snipers on the roofs! Virginia is an open carry state so what they were doing was "technically" legal. Naizs yelling the N word and creaming "kike" and other antisemetic epithets--right up to the doors of the UVa chapel--is free speech.
    C'ville is a peaceful, liberal and egalitarian town, and that is why we were chosen. Do not believe Trump's implications that the violence was the result of outside leftist agitators. People from out of state did come in to defend us, but it was the residents of Charlottesville shouting on the barricades, and residents of Charlottesville who were killed and injured. Our Governor, Lt. Governor, and Congressman stood up and said in plain English what happened here. They used the words Nazi, KKK, white supremecist, and domestic terrorism. All true!
    Thank you, Pamela, for being a consistent voice for sanity and peace. You are right, it is a time for all of us to stand up and take action, in any and all forms. I am so proud of the residents of Charlottesville for standing up for what is right. RESIST!

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  15. Yours is the only voice, of all the bloggers I follow, to be brave enough to speak up for your country. Bless you - THIS is the American voice I recognise. It is particularly frightening to sit just north of the border, powerless to contribute to change, with the knowledge that what happens in the US will impact this country.....the whole world, really.

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  16. We all need to contact our elected officials in the House and Senate, and tell them that this man most be impeached now. He, and is his closest advisors, seem to be deliberately trying to destroy the whole framework of our American democracy. We can't wait till 2020. Thank you so much for your post.

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  17. Thank you for this post - well said! I know Charlottesville and the beautiful UVA as a haven of thinking people. To have this horror happen there is more than painful. This is not the USA I know.
    Mary

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  18. In an odd way, watching Charlottesville made me feel better. The images of those stupid boys with tiki torches looked like they had just crawled out of Mom's basement and were reenacting a video game. The internet makes it easy for them to get together but the nation saw them as losers who attract mentally defectives and I believe this will fade quickly. The response has been so overwhelmingly against them, they, like Trump, will serve to rally the forces for good.

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  19. Pamela, I completely agree with every single word you have written.

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  20. I pray for a return to innocence, or even level headed thinking. My despair comes not only from this man who should not have the right to represent our country, but the seemingly level headed people that support their decision to vote for him! How can this be?
    Thank you for your wisdom and perspective. I so appreciate your posts.
    xo,
    Karen

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  21. I applaud you for articulating what many think, but perhaps don't say...

    One of my favourite quotes from Shakespeare is this:

    "Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak knits up the o'er wrought heart and bids it break."

    I noticed after some of the gun massacres in America many bloggers (whom I read and liked) made comments along the lines of: "there are no words". There are words. Words are very powerful and good people must speak out.

    Thank you Pamela for standing up for real American values.

    Sue

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  22. Read this and thought of you : https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21726696-u-turns-self-regard-and-equivocation-are-not-what-it-takes-donald-trump-has-no-grasp-what-it

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  23. Your post is sublime! I wish you would share on Facebook. Many people need to learn about your beautiful writing.

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  24. Having grown up in the shadows of WW2 we often heard discussions on why the German people could have been complicit in the Holocaust. We'll, isn't it ironic that those questions apply today. Actor Richard Dreyfus in recent years has made a plea for a return to the study of civics. I would add to the need for history and general knowledge. Our current leader is an example of being only knowledgeable and proficient in what advances his agenda. He has no subtlety or nuance and fails to comprehend a world outside of his ego. It's time for us to stop listening to rhetoric and judge our leaders by how they act and do. We don't need a president to have a beer with. We need a smart, courageous leader who embodies the best of us. Thank you for your post. Allegra

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  25. While I started reading your blog because of the beautiful images, poetic descriptions and especially the book recommendations, I am heartened to read the posts that show you are just as horrified as I am about our current leadership. It feels so strange to read the other blogs I love and see no acknowledgement of what's happening. So thank you.

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  26. I have long followed but I wanted to say thank you for this beautiful post. This is a difficult time, a heart wrenching time. This is certainly not Christian and certainly not who I always believed we were as a country. Thank you for your beautiful words!

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I love to read your comments! Each and every one! Though I'm always reading your comments, I may not respond in the comment section. If you want to write me directly, you may do so at pamela@pamelaterry.net. Thank you for reading!