Requiem to ‘The Idea’

“There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sighsteelcranes-tango_2
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

—But there’s a tree, of many, one,
A single field which I have look’d upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
The pansy at my feet
Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?”
– William Wordsworth

I have entered this fall watching my nation unhinge from ideas that made it great. The ideas I learned from childhood were not ideas born from the structures of capital, rather from a sacred alchemy that perhaps few modern nations have succeeded in devising: We honored our earthly presence by living through fact, truth, and knowledge; we honored our spiritual presence by living through God. We succeeded through the strongly principled marriage of both, and we punished those that broke this sacred vow.
When I first learned these ideas, my heart raced as I felt God. I saw a path. I had a vision. The idea that:

“True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.” — Clarence Darrow
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” — John F. Kennedy
“This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.” — Theodore Roosevelt
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” — Abraham Lincoln.
“The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.” — Frederick Douglass

These are statements that call for our service to others and not simply to ourselves. They demand our work to seek our national truths, as gritty or horrendous as it may be. They require us to be driven by what holds us in common. And through this hard work we will fulfill ‘The Dream’ of living in common love. We succeed only by sharing our journey together. This was the idea.

I recognize there are millions fighting for the good of our nation and this planet. But, forgive me, I have watched our nation go backwards for a generation. I am not claiming we have digressed from advances in functional areas such as science or technology, and, for better or worse, life can be more comfortable than ever. But, we lost that sacred alchemy that propels us to something greater. It was through living ‘The Idea’ that we forged a compass heading to becoming better together. Through pushing forward ‘The Idea,’ it felt like God was unfolding before us. This, I remember, as feeling as it was the right, the good, and the loving direction. How excited I was to be living in that very imperfect time because it held an energy that WE were going to make it better.

This campaign season has been heartbreaking on so many levels; ultimately these candidates are a product of us, and we should be highly critical of what we have done. I push any of us to examine if we have fervently lived in the tenants above. I surely do not see it on the right, and I must accept there must be something I am missing. I do not see it in the vast middle, and wonder how diligently any of us our are working to be the well-informed citizen our democracy calls for. But, it is on the left I feel most saddened. While many will expose the tenants of ‘The Idea,’ the words sound hollow. ‘The Idea’ as delivered feels old, with its lifeblood drained away. I do not feel the love, the spirit, or the promise from any of the master orators that command our symbolic world. Truth increasing becomes a frivolity, as hard as people are fighting against this phenomenon.
So here we are, “Whither is fled the visionary gleam? Where is it now, the glory and the dream?”

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