Once Upon A Lifetime -- Namely Ours

Most of us live in America. Usually grateful for the chance. But if someone not American were to ask, “How do you picture yourselves in the world?” what image might you use? I submit there may be only two from which to choose. As a great frontier OR as a small life raft.

Each image is somewhat fundamental to our perception of ourselves. But which is more valid? For generations — and now for ambitious capitalists and candidates — the frontier image perfectly captures the American cowboy spirit of rugged individualism. But then, as our world and its frontiers have shrunk, there are those like the President who talks about “we’re all in this together.” Together as in a stout little vessel struggling through an ocean of domestic and diplomatic crises as great if not greater than ever in our history.

No doubt about it. A frontier is the splashier of the two images. And it made sense for the first few hundred years. But now in a complex age of globalization, it’s hard to believe any one nation can ride alone tall-in-the-saddle. In the last 25 years, every act of terrorism, financial meltdown, and international competition has made even the cowboys on Wall Street and K Street realize, yes, “we’re all in this together.” Something like a life raft in which everyone survives best if everyone else does.

But wait! This image isn’t so very new and different after all. It was Benjamin Franklin who warned his ambitious fellow freedom fighters: “We must all hang together, or we will assuredly all hang separately.”

I’m guessing that, in their passionate rugged-individualism, some of our capitalists and candidates may have forgotten that piece of all-American advice.

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  • The frontier and the raft are not mutually exclusive cultural phenomena. In the American west, there were numerous examples of communality for survival: barn-raising, volunteer firemen, quilting bees, wagon trains, posses, church gatherings, etal.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Aquinas ~ You're right, both images had a role in our early years. Now I think the raft is more right than the frontier. Naturally, most lusting capitalists and candidates would disagree with m e

  • From a small village in the center of Canada we fully concur with Mr. Franklin and his viewpoint as expressed to the founding fathers of the country to our south "We must all hang together, or we will assuredly all hang separately." ... though we feel that American's of this era are still somewhat 'slower' on the uptake .... Narcissim and other factors keeps the majority from 'realizing' that we are truly a "Global Village" .... and many of us who live in other locales 'experience' the 'fact' that we are indeed far better off than many tens of millions of your countrymen Jack .... America is a 'Shining Beacon' to hundreds of millions living in third world squalor ... but for several hundred millions of us living better than the majority of Americans it is rapidly becoming a 'blighted' neighbourhood in the Global community ... The lack of care for the 'Average' & especially the millions of 'Poor' citizens in the areas of Education, Health and Housing is a reflection of a society rapidly decomposing ... many 'forces' are arrayed against the 'Tired, Poor & Huddled Masses Yearning to Breathe Free' ... America has allowed the rampant capitalism of the age of the "Robber Barons" to come back to full flower ... Your 'Supreme Court' and most of your 'Congress' along with a compliant 'Media' are almost in 'league' .... and are less than what is required to deal with so much collective misery ... You have elected a President who is 'trying' desperately ... but one branch of three trying to push the burden of Sisyphus up hill against so much is tough for those of us living in 1st world countries to watch ... we wish you well ... but indeed if ever there was a need for many 'Good Citizens' to step-up in America ... that time is now!

    A Geezer ... {Who feels compassion for those most human of souls such as yours Jack who 'Hang Together' in pursuing the lofty ideals America aspires towards}

  • In reply to Geezer:

    Geezer ~ I just wish more of my fellow American Facebookers and Bloggers would read your objective take. Contrary to the gunslingers here...your sober reflection is what I relate to. And yet the battlecry here still often sounds like the losing gambler who's sure the next roll will put him back in the game. Not without reassessing the game...!

  • In reply to Geezer:

    Geezer, you gotta get a blog on ChicagoNow. You have a way with the phrase.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Aquinas ~ How right you are!

  • Aquinas & Jack you are both quite kind ... I protest though ... for this Geezer would be naught but a 'Foreigner' to many of the visitors to Chicago Now {I observe the repect they give anyone not considered "American" ... and I would no doubt also be subject to their 'Get Rich Quick' spam posts ... I prefer to read the thoughts of men who are less 'jaded' ... Men like yourselves ....

    Herewith we offer the sort of commentary that would enrage a 'Less Liberal' lot ... and surely find me branded an enemy of the state b far less enlightened men than yourselves .....

    Weekend thoughts that came to a Geezer residing in a small village far removed from “America”. This day he read of rumours of wars & rumours of war, active misogyny, an election victory by a demagogue, storms laying waste peoples lives & communities, same day denial of climate change, a litany of accidents and large numbers of deaths by explosion, accidents and neglect … We also read of distraction stories about elite athletes and an impending reiteration of a tech item that will house no unfortunate, feed no child, cloth no ill clad person. This is the way the world exists for many a John & Jane Doe and their offspring on this Sunday in ‘America the Beautiful’ …

    Americans are living in a society in decline. Infrastructure, in providing adequate clean water, elimination of billions of gallons of untreated sewage, repairs to tens of thousands of miles of urban and rural roads and bridges, the massive upgrading/rebuilding & fixing of rail & air transportation nationwide, and so on, has been in need of attention for more than four decades - and Americans are paying scant attention to these problems. They are ‘distracted’ by vile old men who want to maintain a status quo of telling women what they can or cannot do … and blocking access to a health service that should be a universal right.

    The wealthy corporate executives who ‘silently’ back this type of evil are not the least concerned as returns on investments are their only priority they do not want to give the least for those who are the most affected by their total absence of social ethics and well being. The country will not recover until it can end the ‘drainage’ of funds to the backers of Wall Street ideals and also put to rest the Military Industrial Complex's domination of a vast swath of the resources of America. The people must force by voting turnout and preferences to elect leaders of the country at all levels that will take on the task with immediate action.

    America may not survive if it does not [as part of this renewal] start to build the many thousands of schools staffed with adequate numbers of well trained teachers that it needs … and provide universal health care as a right and not a commodity sold to those who can afford it. They must elect only those who will start doing what needs to be done to tackle all the infrastructure problems as lightly detailed above and not elect any who seem to keep offering lame excuses. They desperately need to do this and defeat the evil men & women with power and obscene wealth who are dictating what they can via bought politicians and owned media.

    The problem remains that the overwhelming mass of illiterate and ignorant masses {who are kept that way by deliberate malfeasance} are 'pitched' that their true needs are best found with a new cup of coffee or a different burger not to mention their face book accounts and smart phones and iPad's ... The madness continues unabated while the society moves ever closer to a point of horrific discrepancies and a ever bleaker tomorrow where hundreds of millions of citizens will be living & dying in an ever polluted country and will be perpetual slaves to a few hundred thousand wealthy & gated community dwelling plutocrats ... Decency and the public good are not an “ism’ they are required to carry the label ‘human’ with any respect …

    Nothing spouted by a “Right Wing” media in America that is an active voice for the privileged and immoral … will give answer … and perhaps the American public is so weakened and propagandized that they too will slip into the pit of human despair that has historically accompanied such tales not with a bang … but a whimper.


  • In reply to Geezer:

    Geezer ~ You're right. Your eloquent words would be rejected by most here, starting with my own dear brother and his country cub peers. They have no sense of history or of the world. Only their small protected lives which, like ancient Romans of wealth, assumed/prayed would last forever. It didn't, did it....!

  • In reply to Jack Spatafora:

    No it didn't Jack ... though you and I both know that our grandchildren deserve better ... I got to sing "Happy Trails" with 'Roy & Dale' when I was akid .... and I truly believed in a better tomorrow yet to come with good health and occupational opportunity in a relatively unspoiled environment ... now I dare not infer that tomorrow holds such promise for future generations ... sigh!

  • In reply to Geezer:

    "Happy Trails" was regularly a part of our Saturday matinees. Not only do I share your doubts about the future...so have several research studies back here in te US. It's not really being pessimistic, it's simply being realistic. Rome "declined" over 500 some years. It's easy to think the US will take less

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