It’s Time to Start Thinking About It

When I was a teenager, I’d often sit in my car in the driveway of our house out in the country and listen to The Beatles, usually Abbey Road.  And usually at night.  I’d smoke cigarettes and pop No Doz and analyze every sound in “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”.  I thought maybe there was some deep stuff hidden in there, especially in regards to the abrupt ending.  In the summer I rolled the windows down and flicked my ashes on the asphalt my father made me help him seal every summer, underneath the basketball hoop I was never any good at using.  Sometimes I put in Sgt. Pepper and tried to suss out the meaning from “A Day in the Life”.  I knew much younger than my friends what Albert Hall was, and where Lancashire was.

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Of course, some teenagers in this world of ours have to worry every day about finding clean drinking water, or whether they’ll be shot by a bullet from an AK-47, or be stolen and raped by Boko Haram.  All told, it’s probably pretty rare to be able to sit by yourself in the front of your Dodge Daytona, smoking Newport Lights and pondering why George didn’t sing more.  Such is life, I suppose.  Not that I’m brushing off the discrepancy; in fact I loathe it.  But what can be done, I wonder?

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Despite living in a very prosperous nation, and being born of the least harassed skin color and gender, many people like myself have still experienced extreme depths of sorrow and deprivation.   I have experienced such a thing.  Between the ages of twenty and twenty-five I developed acute alcoholism, which culminated in “hitting bottom” during a weeklong stay at a true fleabag hotel, in the most deplorable conditions I could have imagined. But listen to this: some of my most distinct memories of that week are watching “Rugrats” on the cable television and listening to a Barenaked Ladies CD on repeat on the boombox I had brought along. The lowest point in my life still involved what others might consider creature comforts.  Naturally, this does not diminish the pain or seriousness of the event for me, but it’s worth pondering.  What does “hitting bottom” look like to a Sudanese refugee?  Perhaps I am simply mistaken about what “hitting bottom” means. Maybe, but probably not.  Probably it’s complicated.

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I have an avid interest in the American Revolution.  I don’t think I could be called a “buff” of this period; despite having read extensively about it and visited many of the main  sites associated with it, I simply cannot remember many of the essential details.  I forget things, which I think automatically discredits me from being a buff.  But I find the Revolution fascinating without end.  I quite often find myself breathlessly declaring, What tremendous courage these men had!!  How could they have committed to this? Would I have had this within me, to risk all for this freedom?

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The Civil War and the World Wars were, no doubt and to varying degrees, important wars that fought for (again, to varying degrees) important freedoms.  But we have fought for nothing approaching the towering consequence of history since our Revolution–and certainly not in the modern era.  No doubt the men and women that go to fight for us now are brave, hardy folks, whom I respect–but they fight for nothing important, and certainly not freedom.  They have courage–but to what end?  To whose end?

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In high school, I worried about fitting in.  Cliche, sure, but there it is.  I wasn’t angst-ridding over it; I began high school somewhat timid and scared–perhaps somewhat worried about what troubles my short height might find for me–but I quickly developed a confidence I’d retain through most of my life, and have gone through most of the rest of my life forgetting I am short.  But still, I was concerned about fitting in, would I be popular?  Would there be girls?  Would I be made fun of?  Gosh, can you imagine–with all the pressing weight of human history behind us, and such shocking decisions ahead of us, we spend our most visceral years worrying about nonsense?  I spent hours trying to roll my pants legs properly.  I never got good at it.

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See, listen here:  what’s happening now isn’t normal.  This is not just a “my party lost” situation where I’m bitter at the incoming president.  I think we all feel it.  There has been a shifting.  There has been a change.  The Rubicon has been crossed.  Now, there’s no way to know, quite yet, what path the future will take.  It’s still possible that everything could be fine.  But with each passing day, that looks less and less likely.  It is painfully easy to see a future where very few American boys sit in their sports cars in their parents’ driveways dissecting Beatles tunes.  It is becoming much easier to imagine other, darker futures.

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I just now, at the age of 38, got myself a family.  I had given up on that notion for awhile, but now I have one.  I have lately begun imagining what we will do if the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan.  There is nothing more important than them.  How will we stay safe?  At what point in the news cycle do we decide we need a plan?  I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I also don’t want to be the last one to have a bunker to go to.

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I have spent many years marveling at the courage of John and Samuel Adams, George Washington, Thaddeus Kosciusko, John Trumbull, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson.  They saw what they had to do.  They risked their very lives to steer all of human history.  I have wondered what I would do in their position, never imagining a similar moment could happen in my lifetime.  I am by no means suggesting that moment is here.  But I can imagine it now.  Can you?

2 Responses to “It’s Time to Start Thinking About It”

  1. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    Fuck that’s good! This is an onion with layers that are both easy to see and the more I think about the more invisible layers there are. I’m without a doubt going to be thinking back to this post for the entirety of his Presidency. I hope I’m smart and brave enough to recognize when the correct moment is.

  2. It is very scary. I think about my family all the time, thinking about what might be in the next couple years. I can only hope that those other people in power wake up and smell the danger.
    This piece of yours is so well-written that I had to read it a couple times, once in the middle the night when I was half asleep, and then this morning I read it again to get the full jist of if. Kuddos to you!!!

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