Saturday, November 25, 2006

Train of thoughts. Raw.

Yes, that’s right, raw. Why so? Because it’s Thanksgiving eve, and people are never quite as sickeningly inhuman and rude as they are on mass transportation just before a holiday.

The contrast is remarkable – and shouldn’t be encountered without remarking on it. Tomorrow, most of these people will be all smiles, all lovey-dovey with loved-ones, fat and fucking sassy with some of the best food ever eaten by any human being at any time in history; they will be downing glass after glass of red wine – yea, “eating, drinking, and being merry;” they will engage in all manner of self indulgence and entertainment; no vanity will be unbowed-to.

But today, a mere 12 hours before, they are savages; devoid of manners; suits, smiles and stiletto heels putting a thin veil of beauty over jaws of razor-sharp malice.

Though Thanksgiving is an American holiday, it’s not just in America that people are like this. For, goodness knows, in most places the pleasantries aren’t bothered with – people are Darwin-bots without any finesse. But in America, where the good actually does show up to make the bad a bit more bearable, this curious dichotomy is woven as a thread throughout our identity.

I think of the love-hate relationship America has with the world. It’s natural for history’s ne’er-do-wells to resent such surpassing blessing as America has known and shared. But there is an element of our character that isn’t all that good – there are jaws of razor-sharp malice lurking beneath the shimmer of our finery. Just like the human race itself – darkness lurks behind light; bad waits to take a shot at good.

And it does take its shots. I’m thinking just now of....well, let’s consider the context of that first Thanksgiving. There is always more to history than the history books tell, and history’s list of truly innocent victims is, I would wager, much shorter than the list of pretenders to the title. Yet, on the face of it, it, it looks like a very large number of our new neighbors on the Continent really got the shaft. And then they got herded onto reservations. Darkness.

And then there’s the story of Haym Solomon. This gifted and motivated businessman is said to have nearly singlehandedly financed the American revolution. Motivated by his love for the cause of liberty, and armed with singular acumen, he apparently loaned a pretty good sum – his entire fortune – to the cause. Yet he died penniless, it is said. And his widow, who tried to collect on the nation’s debt to her late husband, was left emptyhanded. Sacrifice rewarded with injustice. Healing repaid with crucifixion.

And speaking of the American revolution, have you ever followed up on the fates of those who, by signing the Declaration of Independence, really stuck their necks out to give us the freedom to eat, drink and be merry at this (and at every other) time of year? Singular sacrifice rewarded by…ruin.

How about what happens to a kid who answers the call of his nation’s military. When he returns after putting his life on the line every day for 2 years, and having to do the unspeakable for the cause of liberty, and perhaps sacrifice a limb or two in the process, is met at the airport stateside by a bunch of rich college students -- who have never missed a meal -- who spit on him, curse him, and call him a “baby killer.” Yeah, thanks a lot, kid.

How can this be? How can it be that for every loyal individual, every selfless hero, every fair player, there is a cheater, a liar, a usurper waiting in the wings to steal, kill, and destroy the fruit of goodness?

And, how did it take me so many years to disabuse myself of my naivete to this reality?

And yet…through the little earphones connected to my iPod shuffle, I hear…singular excellence. I hear the vision and hard work of a man that resulted in a product I derive great joy and inspiration from, that presumably sold enough copies to set him and his family up for life. Surely this endeavor required sacrifice and honor on his part to bring to fruition.

Are there any laws of nature that can be derived from this phenomenon? Can it be that, the more noble the cause, and the greater the sacrifice and risk, the more selfless the endeavor, the more likely it is that good will be rewarded by evil, at least in the realm of time? That darkness will seem to triumph over light? That the wicked will dance on the path broken, plowed and paved by the blood, sweat and tears of the righteous?

But the righteous won’t stop being righteous – paying the way, paving the way, easing the way for the multitudes who follow, giving barely a collective thought to what it really costs to make their lives so wonderful.

This is the cost of greatness. I have reminded myself to give thanks to those who pay it.


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