Good morning, Netizens...
Lewis Henderson wrote in part, at the outer edge of a long and highly articulate set of questions:
“Was America ever actually great or is that just something I used to hear my grandpa say?”
I've heard America singing its song of self-adulation for over sixty years, but after all that time, no one has ever needed to remind me how it indelibly touched me, always in unique, unusual ways, but reaffirming in its simplicity and grace. It was just simply there, a terribly bright musical composition sung by the voices of Americans who struggle each day to make headway against the odds, asking nothing more than the opportunity to succeed in life.
Like the diamond which is discovered within a rock pile, there is always hope that wells up, untended, from within the human experience. I remember a late afternoon when I was parked in my truck in a nameless truck stop somewhere near the state border of Texas waiting for a load, when I rediscovered Carl Sanburg's epic poem, “The People, Yes”. His words carved a niche in my consciousness when he wrote:
This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers.
There are men who can't be bought.
The fireborn are at home in fire.
The stars make no noise,
You can't hinder the wind from blowing.
Time is a great teacher.
Who can live without hope?
Sandburg wrote passionately about the beast we know, both now and then, as America. I identified especially with his “Chicago Poems” where he wrote:
- Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
- Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
- Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
- Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.
- For a time back then, I was one of the faceless remorselessly optimistic freight handlers who carried the commerce of this great nation on my back over good roads and bad, down dirt tracks that ran beside the railroad tracks where old men wax philosophical through rheumy tired eyes and young men sweat out their living in the heats of late August. I have seen America, through good and ill, from the ill-natured whine of the barker at a side show to the first prayer of a child at dusk and its greatness remains unquestionable, its people strong, proud to stand tall, to be part of something so grand that it begs that none of us should ever forget.
- Now, as I assume my role as grandfather to two children, I state to them with a faraway look in my eyes how great this nation can be.