Think of it! Is there any one word that can ignite more feelings in your breathing than the word: Home?
Returning home is surely one of literature’s most recurring themes. Yearnings, actually. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus longs to get back to his roots after the Trojan War, but it takes him 10 brutish years. Three thousand years later, Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel struggles with many of the same yearnings. Later still, Dorothy battles both witches and wizards to get back home to Auntie Em.
Home is the one place in your life where they can still say Yes after the whole world has told you No. It may be that gingerbread cottage in the green countryside…or that glittering glass high-rise in the midst of a jack-hammer city…or any one of a hundred different settings somewhere in between. Whatever its skin looks like, its core remains the same. A sanctum from the nattering crowds and noises outside, a temporary escape from the heavy-breathing assignments and deadlines shoving on the other side of the door. Home is that singular location on the planet where shutting the lock behind you can shut out, at least for a time, a world clamoring for a piece of your life.
George McGovern used this theme in his ill-fated 1972 presidential race against Ricard Nixon’s second term. McGovern — a craggy-faced, Midwestern academic — saw where we were headed in the roiling wake of the 1960’s assassinations, jungle wars and street protests. I met him only once for a taped television interview for our North Shore schools. Like I had seen in the eyes of Gene McCarthy four years earlier, here seemed a man who was a turmoil of conflicted passions. He loved his country, but mostly what it had been and not what it had become.
He spoke of our legacy of down-home faith in God, Flag and one another. In sharp contrast to the nation’s post-WWII role as master-of-the-universe and protector-of-the-status-quo. And so his theme: “Come Home America.” Home to our heritage as hoisted on that torch held by Lady Liberty.
McGovern and his open-hands lost. Big time. Nixon and his closed-fists won. Big time. We never did come back home in 1972. Nor any time since….
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