Loosely based off of Mark Twain’s “Two Ways of Seeing a River”
A fly buzzing around the nose, the car coughs, but does not sputter, “We’re Sorry” read the factory letter, a Tower crumbling on TV, an unspeakable slur echoes from next door, a dead man with 3 holes in his black chest in the morgue, a society of discomforts, a damning reality. A retreat is necessary, an escape imperative. The past offers a succinct retreat. After all, isn’t it easy to look back, and dream of a time long since past? Recline the head, close the eyes. Roll far back to a remote escape where the romantic image of a simple life persists. There is a trusty, browning car, chipped and flaked, with a crack shining a brilliant orange in the distant, hazy sunset; a family waiting around a laden table lit by an ebbing ember aglow; a neighbor at the fence who drawls “‘ello, ‘ow you bin?” on the saunter home after hours; a sheriff who’s calloused hand hails to ask “Anything I could do?”; a wizened brown figure licking their inwardly curled lips whilst swaying upon an ancient rocker, muttering tales of a time past; a factory from which spilled a sea of clouds whose reflections shone in the glass waters of the pond teeming with fish; a man whose white undershirt is stained with oil, whose sweaty, ebony skin glistens in the late afternoon light as he carries a crumpled paycheck in hand, nodding “Suh”.
Who wouldn’t wish to return? Upon arrival to the memories of past, the problems of reality dissipate, an easing of the downpour of difficulties that rain down from a personal thunderstorm. One day, the past will cease to deceive. The romance becomes lost in a burst of blinding light. The trusty Chevy did not start start on cold mornings as its mileage was far past the normal quantity; the family was split between capitalist and communist views and argued all dinner about who would clean the ashes from the fire; the neighbor at the fence would return at night drunk and angry about his draft slip; the sheriff was on his way to disband a civil rights protest; the old man in the rocking chair was unable to move after a Nazi bullet shattered his spinal cord and spent his days muttering the name of his less fortunate friend; the factory would pollute the atmosphere with clouds of CO2 and would render the pond inert with a deadly torrent of mercury; the African American passing by was clutching a paycheck only worth half of what his white coworker made.
Knowledge only served to illuminate the darkness held within reality. Perhaps for some, this dark light is a constant within their lives. The astrophysicist, for whom the stars don’t twinkle and glow while lying on sand in a dark desert, but are merely balls of burning gas seen in equations and telescopes. They are seeing the past. They see millions of years ago, but do they appreciate the gift of literal hindsight? Perhaps knowledge of the past is necessary. But can it compare to the bliss of ignorance?
A twisting pang in the gut
An insatiable desire
It has an explanation,
but one that explains nothing.
An endless meal for one
at a table for two
Starving to death.
It was meant to be shared
at that table for two.
It is easy, to look around and wonder why the world is such a shit place. The only time we were ever free of the hate was when we hid in the blissful days of ignorance and childhood. Even then, there were snippets of reality, tower falls in New York, several marines killed by IED, massive bomb goes off in some far off city we don’t give a damn about. Growing up is a slap in the face, and getting old, a kick in the gut. As young adults, we wonder when life was better, as the old, we reminisce of the days way back when jobs were abundant; when life was simple and the romantic image of a battered old truck, a dusty field, a content family gathered around a glowing stove, a trusty neighbor at the fence, persisted in their own reality; where hate was not omnipresent; where the flag stood for freedom and liberty; where turmoil occurred in far off lands; where death was an abstract concept, not a harsh reality.
But we forget. We forget that those jobs were available because environmental regulations didn’t exist; we forget that life was filled with social prejudices, that the battered old truck refused to start on cold mornings, that the dusty field required a day of hard work, that the content family would have to clean out the ashes from under the stove, that the trusty neighbor would come home drunk and angry late at night; we forget that racism and homophobia were rampant; we forget all the atrocities carved into the wall hidden behind the flag; we forget protesters for peace and racial equality fighting police in the streets; we forget the thousands of caskets draped with american flags and the tears each generation shed for their own, personal war.
Reality is damning.
Human progress has come at the cost of millions of lives, both human and animal. Even now, we are slowly inching toward paying the greatest asset in our pocket: the planet. At the end of the day, we must ask ourselves if our progress and enlightenment is worth the price. Perhaps it might have been better to remain tribal? A species that just exists, rather than thrives. In today’s world, we have discovered so much, but for what end? We crawl like ants in a sealed mound, searching for a non-existent ray of light. It seems so odd that a lump of fat would ask questions about its own existence. Why bother? So many questions, no answers; I want those answers, that is why.
I have issues with the Pledge of Allegiance for two reasons: it does not foster free thought and it violates the secularism of this nation. The pledge is taught to children at a very young age and is more brainwashing than a pledge. First graders just beginning school will hardly know what allegiance is, much less what “the republic, for which it stands” is. Six and seven year olds just repeat the pledge repeatedly everyday, like mindless drones, not actually pledging their allegiance to anyone or anything. A society that values free thought and speech should foster an environment where free thinking is nurtured rather than quashed every morning. Americans should have the right to choose whether or not they want to pledge their allegiance to this nation when they feel like they can make an informed decision. In addition to being anti free thought, the pledge is not secular. Our nation was founded on the principle of separation between church and state, and suggesting that this is a nation under god runs counter to this. “Under god” is widely accepted due to the large and powerful Christian majority, a group in which many people would find”under Zeus” or “under Allah” to be objectionable. God was not an integral part of the pledge and was added during the red scares, when the US was at odds with the atheist USSR. A time, I will add, when the US illegally experimented on its own citizens, regularly violated constitutional rights, and treated blacks as second class citizens. It is my belief that the pledge stands counter to all America stands for and I refuse to support the systematic brainwashing of American youth. Everyone has the right to remain seated as affirmed by the First Amendment of the Constitution as ruled in the 1943 Supreme Court case, Barnette v. West Virginia State Board of Education.