I write about the New Year every year. It’s easy for me. I often write about making changes of some kind, that is when I’m not simply issuing some sort of complaint.
But 2018 served up far too much material for guys who write what I write. Maybe it’s a good thing the year is ending. Endings can often be viewed as beginnings too, though. If you try.
“Speed Trap Town” is a new favorite song of mine by Jason Isbell. It tells a story about a small town man whose father is dying, and how that ending enables him to think about living the rest of his life differently. Until his dad’s death appeared imminent, the son had assumed he would always live and die, in the same small town his father had.
Isbell sings: “It never did occur to me to leave.” I heard that simple sentence the first time at his show this summer at White River State Park, and it has been on my mind since.
What things exist in each of our lives that we should seriously consider leaving? Whether they are places, jobs, habits, relationships, etc., we all have some. Too often, it seems we live our lives burdened by these make-believe rules and routines, never realizing we don’t have to be. The happiest people I know do this the least. While breaking this cycle may sound monumentally difficult, think about it. It is often a simple choice.
The song sums up the dilemma with this simple action: “…decide…if there’s anything that can’t be left behind.”
I have spent the holiday season in Hawaii. In the islands, there are grocery stores that are “bag free” and restaurants that are “straw free.” You know, to reduce plastic and garbage. I was in a car with a native Hawaiian who talked about climate change with an almost angry tone, saying “that crap is bleaching our precious coral.”
It’s easier for me to fall in line with the local environmental sentiment while spending time in an island paradise. But I’m also a homer. I see the beauty in Indiana. The way bags, straws and other plastics are polluting our planet matters in the heartland too. Though for many, it never did occur to us to leave our apparent dependence on those things behind. It could. And it should.
Our federal government is in the midst of a partial shutdown over a budget impasse rooted in our different views related to our southern border. It’s purely a political disagreement. It saddens me. Our president lacks the humanity necessary to see the situation clearly. His followers are prone to follow that lead. And folks like me are so baffled by their view that we are having trouble communicating.
I vividly recall the meanest, angriest things I have done in my life. I regret all of them. Our nation will as well. I refuse to be quiet about this one. The border debate is about people. People who matter to me as much as any others.
The notion that America, and therefore Americans, should separate from the rest of the world because of some perceived inflated value in the “worth” of our individual citizens, is a concept more foreign to me than just about anything. I am convinced that people who actually believe they are worth more than people from the other side of a line are those who need to get out more.
My first impression of the value of anyone fighting for their lives to get here is high.
I travel more than most do and I have arrived in other countries by car, plane and boat. Whether I was a “yankee” when I arrived in Europe, or a “haole” (pronounced holly) in Hawaii, I have been an outsider many times. Yes, even in America, like Hawaii. All people are different from one another, but none are worth more than any other. Period.
Thinking otherwise occurred to me as something that we should collectively leave. It is definitely something that can be left behind.
I can’t find who said it, but the definition of Hell has been described this way: “On your last day on Earth, the person you became will see the person you could have become.”
In 2018, it became clear that what America is becoming is a far cry from what it could become. It was founded so we could leave behind a past that needed left, and an optimism for what we should strive to be.
Let’s spend 2019 on that.