Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Death of the Idea that is America

Visiting America itself gave us the sensation of having stepped into the television, into something bigger and better. For a time when I was a teenager my father worked in the coal industry in West Virginia. He would return with stories about new things we could not imagine, like cable television with 50 stations. Packed in his suitcase were running shoes for us, in styles that had not arrived here yet. That was more than 20 years ago.

Things were changing long before this election. Trips to Asia are now more likely to startle us with modernity. Bangkok, Singapore, even Mumbai have shocked me on visits over the last few decades, not just the wealth and development but also the music and fashion and public transportation. For all the intractable problems in our region, there is a sense of forward movement.

When we visit America now, it feels like the opposite, like decay. Roads, airports, an economy, perhaps even a society, falling to pieces. We are left in awe by the extreme poverty as well as the extreme wealth.

And maybe it is because of your poetry about yourself that the turning current has been harder for Americans themselves to see. "
-Lisa Pryor, "Dear America, why did you let us down?"


Suzanne Harris said...

We survived Presidents Harding and LBJ and Senator McCarthy. They died. For many of us, the idea still lives.

Paul Rockower said...

Well said, Suzanne.