Among the great phrases of history that morphed into our pop-culture was Horace Greeley’s “Go West young man”.” 99.99% of documented Americans have no clue who Mr Greeley was or why he said that. The remaining .01% think he was advising Walter O’Malley to move his Dodgers from Flatbush to Chavez Ravine.
Actually Horace was a newspaper editor in the mid 1850s. He was recommending the American West as “the land of opportunity” and relief from the increasing urbanization of America’s eastern seaboard. (How come there isn’t a “western seaboard”?)
Confirming that blind hog and acorns adage Horace, the screaming uber-Lib, had a valid point. Alas, we have run out of “new frontiers” to escape to … and there in lies the root of our dilemma in 2009.
America was settled and developed by independent men and women longing for opportunity and individual freedom. From Miles Standish to Daniel Boone to Kit Carson to the Donner Party (yuck!) … when people start getting on each others nerves and gridlock in its various forms overtakes us, we traditionally “move on”. Early settlers used the standard “when I can see the smoke from my neighbor”s chimney” as “it’s time”. Today we not only see his smoke, he wants to share our chimney and demands a portion of our harvest.
It may be difficult to believe if one drives from Ft Worth to El Paso (or thru North Carolina”s Jones County) but America has congested itself into cities and suburbs like so many herring balls. Blame it on the lure of bright lights and the economic preference for a cubicle in a corporate prairie dog village over a tractor seat on the “back 40.. But we have packed ourselves in so tight it has reached “the tipping point” (WARNING: pop-culture phrase overload!).
During December, assorted cable channels ran Jeremiah Johnson … Robert Redford’s “mountain man” flick. Don’t confuse Jeremiah the mountain man with Jeremiah the whitey-hatin’ screamin’ preacher in South Chicago. This Jeremiah was the quintessential “leave me alone” guy. His version of solitude was a bit extreme although I can appreciate certain aspects of it.
We can blame this yucky mess we are in on Bush, Clinton, the media, fast-food, MTV, Congress, global-warming, or the ACLU but, in truth, it’s more visceral than any of those. We are really pissed because, in a practical sense, there is no more “where to go” to get away from it. We have run out of “frontiers”.
Sure there is Costa Rica and New Zealand and assorted faraway places with strange sounding names. Every election we kid about “moving to ______” but we don’t. The Hollywood nitwits always promise to move to France but they don’t. Instead we draw in a little tighter, give up a little more freedom, tolerate more constraints, and hold our noses as our neighbor’s ideological halitosis fouls our air. Like eating that elephant one bite at a time, we find ourselves wedged into an ever confining communal society from which we see no escape. The unpleasantness of such confinement we understand. It’s the no practical way out that pisses us off.
Was it Captain Kirk that called space “the final frontier“? Weren’t we supposed to be colonizing Mars by now? Would a modern day Horace Greeley advise “Go to Saturn young man.” We reached this tipping point before we could move on like Ol’ Ben Rumson in Paint Your Wagon.
Every day since the dawn of the opposable thumb has been “today” and the people populating the Earth had to navigate that day with whatever tools they had at their disposal from crude wheels and fire to cellphones and the Internet. The tools have certainly evolved but the people haven’t.
November 4th was not an anomaly. Not any more than the Rise & Fall of The Roman Empire … The Dark Ages … The Third Reich .. The Renaissance .. The French Revolution – Liberte, Equalite, Fraternite … if you choose to watch Obama’s upcoming coronation (I’ll pass, thanks anyway) check out the Mall in front of The Capitol for “Le Guillotine“.
Then He did that “eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil” thingy. That got us banished from Eden. We’ve wandered the Earth ever since in search of another Eden. The US of A 2009 is probably not it.