My late summer garden has slipped into a state of benign neglect. The butterfly bushes and other late bloomers are still attracting a ballet troupe of butterflies, but the basil is flowering too freely and the deer have greedily gobbled all the peppers and tomatoes before we mere bystanders could make one more satisfying homegrown salad. Where the weeds aren't popping through, the squirrels have dug in and planted a whole new contingent of nuts. But I have other concerns that needed tending.
Today my daughter-in-law left for Afghanistan on reactivation orders. In October, my 35-year-old son will be back on active duty again in Iraq. They leave behind their family, their new home, their civilian jobs. They join many others who have served repeatedly during this anxious era while our politicians, too many of whom have never elected to serve their country in any way that discomforts them, debate whether we are at war, how to conduct our offense or defense, or whether we even have a dedicated enemy. Meanwhile, the rest of us cautiously rely on the ratings-driven press to present a balanced and informed assessment of reality while we live our daily lives, voicing determined opinions but fearing to venture even once on our own to find the on-site truth. Ironic that the press, pursuing the appearance of legitimacy, temporarily embeds itself with the military but otherwise eschews actual public service.
Has the freedom of democracy made us benignly neglectful of its responsibilities? In all the years I've lived and studied overseas, never have I met someone who didn't admire and envy Americans for the potential of their lifestyle or their ability to reach out and help anyone, including their erstwhile enemies. Yet those same admiring people also repeatedly pointed out -- and still do -- that Americans have an astoundingly provincial outlook for a superpower because we don't know history or geography, let alone culture and religion, for all our declarations of freedom to know.
We advertise ourselves as a classless society with a strong work ethic that provides endless opportunity to prove the value of each citizen. Yet we leave at the back door those citizens who serve to keep our opportunities alive but don't receive the big bucks or press adulation/notoriety (our only measures of value?) -- and we firmly shut all doors on any suggestion that we too take a turn at defending what we say we believe. Today, once again, I ask myself why. Do we think democracy needs no more tending than a summer garden that is attracting the appetite of deer and squirrels?
small steps toward order in the art room
8 hours ago