After the Vietnam War, America was obliged to pay some karmic debts. One of the things about karma—the law of cause and effect, or “as you sow, so shall you reap”—is that it’s inexorable. You can’t avoid it. You can stave it off for awhile, but eventually you have to pay the price. In Jimmy Carter we had a president who understood, at least to some degree, that this was so. He tried to let the karma fall, and to fall with some grace. But the country refused to deal with it. Instead, it elected and then re-elected Ronald Reagan, who dished up a big fantasy that most Americans were happy to buy into. His two terms put the country through a “paradigm shift.” We are still in the Reagan era. I had some hope that Obama’s election signalled its end, but so far it looks as though he feels constrained to stay the course on the essentials of Reagan’s “vision”—vast military expansion, American exceptionalism, favoritism toward the rich, every man for himself. America is zooming toward hell because of that so-called vision. I don’t see the political will it would take to change course. If we don’t change, we’re going to reap the karma that we deflected back in the early 1980s along with a whole lot of new karma that we’ve been creating ever since. We’re heading into an exceptionally difficult period.
Archive for November, 2009
One of the biggest differences between the time I grew up in—the dreaded 1960s—and today is the level of idealism. I was particularly impressed by Martin Luther King and his supporters. They were willing to accept beatings, jail, and even death to accomplish their end, which was an end that was good for everybody. I also admired Pete Seeger. People like King and Seeger presented a consistent vision of us all being in this together, and they really inspired me in my teenage years. (I was more a fan of Bob Dylan than of Pete Seeger, but I see now that while he fooled around with idealism at times, Dylan was in it for his own glory.) The hippie commune movement emerged from that same idealism. When I say ideals, I mean universal ideals that go beyond any individual culture and its desires. Some people consider Ronald Reagan an idealist—an absolutely crazy notion. A real ideal is the refusal to opt for violence as a solution to anything, refusing to allow people to starve to death, cheerful renunciation of the pursuit of wealth, and the willingness to see one’s nation as simply one among many nations—no better than any other. There must be justice. For complicated reasons, not all of which are obvious, this kind of idealism has waned. Some say that the old ideals were unrealistic. But it seems to me that, realistically speaking, we either recover those ideals or we do ourselves in. It feels like we’re getting nearer and nearer that point.
Jesus said you cannot love both God and mammon, for you will inevitably hate one and love the other. “God” does not mean some white-bearded dude up in the sky. “God” means truth, integrity, justice, and compassion. Mammon means money and fame. The trouble with the Democrats is that they attempt to love both, so they’re always in turmoil and confusion. The Republicans confine their love to mammon—to mammon alone. That’s why they’re able to be so disciplined. But it’s the path to ruin.
I’ve finally finished the second draft of Chapter 10 of my book Street Song. It was so long that I ended up splitting it into two chapters 10 and 11—64 and 48 pages respectively. Tomorrow I begin work on Chapter 12—working title, “The Diamond-studded Highway”—in which I abandon everything and head down the road with $20 in my pocket and no particular place to go. Strangely enough, as I write this, the song “Endless Highway” by The Band has just started playing on my computer. (It’s set to random play.)
Go on and walk that Endless Highway,
Walk that highway till you die.
All you children going my way
Better tell your home life sweet goodbye.