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Nostalgia ain't what it used to be

I've seen the following quote a few times on Facebook, accompanying a photo of the grizzled Mr. Abbey himself. I tried to find the book or article where he said it first, but couldn't; please forgive me for that omission.

If America could be, once again, a nation of self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers, and artists, then the rich would have little power to dominate others. Neither to serve nor rule. That was the American Dream."
—Edward Abbey
Ah yes, the ol' Jeffersonian ideal. A notion as old as America itself. I don't dispute that it sounds wonderful. It's just a fantasy, though, as much as the notion of riding tamed yet fierce dragons.

Even in Jefferson's day, there were a whole lot of citizens of this nascent republic who were not farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers, and artists. They worked for people like Jefferson, either by contract or by slavery. They didn't all own their own land and make their proud independent way. Who were the rich of this era? People like ... Jefferson. I'm sure they thought themselves fundamentally different from bankers in New York and Boston, but there are many ways to become rich.

It was a simpler time in the early days. It's understandable to long for a simpler day. It's also futile. The three hundred thirty million of us could not all be self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, et al. if we all wanted to be. There's no room for that. That's not how America evolved. We have cities. We have large corporations. We make complicated things that could not have been imagined even a hundred years ago, much less at our founding. We have farming methods incredibly more efficient than they had at the turn of the 19th century, therefore far fewer people need to be farmers. We should go back to that?

I know people could quibble with every notion underlying that last paragraph. The point I'm making is, to undo all of the progress of the last two hundred thirty-odd years is impossible and undesired. Improvements can be made, certainly, but in the direction of more progress, not retreat. To long for an ideal from a bygone day does not serve us as we are dragged into the future by time itself.

This is the conversation I wish America would have with itself, not what we are forced to discuss as the 2016 presidential election draws nearer. Maybe then we could finally move past the social, economic, and political issues that should have been put to rest long ago but which keep coming up every couple of decades.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
songdogmi
Nov. 2nd, 2016 01:04 am (UTC)
It worries me too. It's just so easy to appeal to what's comforting to their voters. No one thinks of what it means.

I don't know if they even want that vision to come true again. They just want to think a happy thought, then go back to their 99-inch LCD television with a million channels.
maxauburn
Oct. 20th, 2016 03:28 pm (UTC)
I understand what you are saying,. When Trump says MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN,
he means let's take away gay rights, forbid all Muslims from coming to the US, let's treat
women like shit, and let's take away more and more rights until this country becomes a
fascist nation.

:P
porsupah
Oct. 31st, 2016 03:21 am (UTC)
And if you want to see that as a music video, Pussy Riot's been on a roll lately - here's their take on Make America Great Again. It's not easy viewing, I should caution. (One may also note how many downvotes it has, though the upvotes prevail)
maxauburn
Oct. 31st, 2016 12:10 pm (UTC)
Video is Trump, alright.....The comments are disgusting, though.

How can so many people blindly support Trump? :P
porsupah
Oct. 31st, 2016 06:04 pm (UTC)
I admit, I didn't even dare venture into the comments - risky enough with YouTube, let alone when the downvotes are that significant. *sigh*

That's the worst about all this - even after Nov 8, there'll still be this writhing mass of hatred lying at the core of the country. How to bring these folk back from the brink, I really don't know. The Republican party could help, denouncing such bile, but that'd take nearly as much of a change of heart, given they were perfectly happy to back the likes of Cruz, and continue, even now, to offer tepid support to Trumplethinskin.
songdogmi
Nov. 2nd, 2016 12:57 am (UTC)
I am with you about the worst of this. Trump may go away on November 9, though I doubt it, but the people who support the worst of his platform will still be around. They're neighbors, or even family, or maybe just "them over there," but Trump has brought a lot of what they've been thinking out in the open. If they can't follow Trump, they'll follow the craven Cruz or Pence or someone even worse.

I hope we're wrong.
songdogmi
Nov. 2nd, 2016 12:49 am (UTC)
WOW. What a video. Not easy viewing, no, but it certainly makes its point. I'm glad I finally saw it.
songdogmi
Nov. 2nd, 2016 12:59 am (UTC)
If worse comes to worst, a President Trump would have a considerable amount of opposition in Congress (I hope) and the Supreme Court, and couldn't do everything he has said he wants. But it would get ugly.
maxauburn
Nov. 2nd, 2016 01:10 am (UTC)
And thus we become more of a nation divided than united.

Just what Russia & china would like. :P
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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