Think about it. Think about how the Why question helps distinguish us as Americans. Some of us take what is for granted; while others need to know why it is. Neither is right, and yet the Why people may be on to something.
Here in 2017 there are so many afflicting Why questions. Why did we end up with a Trump? why do we still debate climate change? why do we spend so much time talking about fantasies like “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld?” This last Why needs attention.
Fantasies [or myths] have always been part of the national discourse, like Homer’s “The Odyssey,” Dante’s “Inferno,” and Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland.” But there may be something distinct about today’s discourse. Newspapers, magazines and college classes invest inordinate amounts of time probing these mythical characters, and dissecting their struggles almost as if they mattered.
Perhaps they do.
Perhaps the real and the mythical worlds have flipped. What we have traditionally taught as the real America has lately switched into one darker than we ever imagined possible. Much of it happening with a six-month flurry of Tweets, Executive Orders, and Blood-and-Soil rallies.
It’s as if walking down State Street, the traditional American [steeped in the old assumptions about schooling, ethics and social justice for all] just bumped into this latest American [frustrated by how those traditions have made him feel marginalized]. Suddenly, out there chin to chin, they realize they don’t really know one another.
A lot of pushing and shoving between these two America’s. Which means a choice. Either engaging in political acceptance or political resistance. But wait. Most Americans have neither the time nor the stomach for actual engagement. What then?
Could this be why so many of us engage virtually rather than actually?
Virtually through these mythic worlds which are replete with virtual kings and gunslingers…. heroes and villains….dreamers and doers. If there is any truth to this thought, let the record show America’s foremost dreams and doers have always had a recurring mythic lure about West.
Columbus dreamed of crossing it….the Pilgrims dreamed of founding a New Jerusalem in it… Jefferson dreamed westward with the Louisiana Purchase….Teddy Roosevelt embraced its wilderness….Reagan envisioned us as a Shining City for the world to see on its hillside.
Ever since the election there has been little discourse of such mythic visions. Rather, a sense of carnage has taken their place. Perhaps, then, we turn to these mythic stories about good and evil, because in them we find some of what is missing out here. A compelling virtual reality where we can still remember and realize our best mythic selves.
Filed under: Uncategorized