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Out of America

Howell Hurst Uncategorized


Out of America

I recently viewed again the marvelous film “Out of Africa” based on Danish Baroness Karen Blixen’s book. Now, I have gotten the book and am reading it. Within the first pages she describes the land before her farm in Africa the following way:

“Everything that you saw made for greatness and freedom, and unequaled nobility.”

That triggered in me instantly the thought of what America has lost. No sense of nobility exists today in America. And greatness has withered, as a money-based corporatized nationalism has replaced the true freedom of a valid democracy.

Reading is not a favored pastime of the average American in the street. Many retired people, however, where I live do read. They buy many books – all, I would like to believe – with a sense of the loss America has suffered under the relentless onslaught of illiterate corporate rampaging for profits.

But, I am not certain they do sense this loss. Our new corporatized nationalism does not inspire intelligent curiosity or mental freedom. Rather, it appears to congeal a willing enslavement to consumption. 

It is denial of thinking, replaced by reverence for comfort. Any sense of taste and dignity we might have had has been replaced by acquiescence to the ideal of luxury.

We have each become complicit in this distorted philosophy. We accept its basic premise of life: that winning and owning more is the ultimate purpose of our existence.

In this, we too have lost all nobility we each once possessed as citizens – a concept we have abandoned . . . and forgotten. Striving to find words to describe what has happened to our country leaves us impotent.

Tawdriness is the word that comes to my mind. In pursuit of luxury, America has instead become the opposite. It is now flashy, gaudy, garish, and tacky. It is plastic and rinky-dink. It has lost all sense of the importance and vitality of humanity.

America has experienced a form of cultural meltdown. I mean of Webster’s definition: the development and improvement of our intellect, emotions, interests, manners, and taste.

 Such a sense of culture, by the way, is not snobbishness. Snobbishness is what our corporatized culture has created. This corporate   snobbishness has replaced real feeling, perception, awareness, and appreciation of human value.

While a brutish man calls for tens of billions more in defense dollars, thousands of homeless veterans live in the streets of every major American city. They have been doing so for at least thirty years.  American citizens of Puerto Rico remain in dire conditions, largely ignored by our government obsessed with its corruption.

Some of my readers have contested my description of America. One woman wrote me recently how encouraged she was by our youth protesting gun violence. Yes, youth are attempting to do something. And women battle for sexual and financial security.

However, the point I have repeatedly made is that the children’s parents for the most part sit mute on the couch.  Or make only the feeblest protest. Insistently, I contend that America’s middle class is our country’s own worst enemy.

We allow the corporate rampage to continue. We accept and encourage the continuance of our consumption culture as replacement for citizen responsibility. We mumble that ours is an exemplary economic model, as millions suffer under it.

The dichotomy of our nation’s division into haves and have-nots is the despicable consequence of our crippled culture. In my town on the Pacific Ocean’s shore literally half the elegant homes are year round completely empty.

They belong to people so wealthy that they only visit them once a year when not living in their Villas somewhere else. The balance of the year the houses stand empty, as thousands more homeless nationwide are legally criminalized by cities for begging on the streets – then jailed and fined for being poor.

As I look out over America today I see that almost everything makes not for nobility, but for littleness, mental paralysis, and unequaled lack of human empathy as the price of our embrace of luxury, of our allegedly high standard of living.

Out of America has come a pretending to be what we are not: there is a pretense of virtue, lip-service, faking, shamming, fraud, and deceit. It originates at the very top, and trickles down to and includes all of us.

We are all a part of this. And if we do not all get up and begin to attend to it, it may well destroy us – if it has not already done so.

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