MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Trying to Put All America Behind – Edward Curtin

Posted by M. C. on July 19, 2021

Stone is out front where you can see and hear him, while the CIA always operates behind our backs.

http://edwardcurtin.com/trying-to-put-all-america-behind/

ejcurtin

Sixty years ago this summer, on August 7, 1961, President John Kennedy signed the bill creating The Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts.  It consists of forty miles of immaculate sandy beach, marshes, ponds, and upland along the Atlantic Ocean, with some portions stretching across the land to Cape Cod Bay in the west.  Henry Thoreau walked this wild Outer Atlantic Beach in 1849.  He said you can stand there and look out to sea and “put all America behind” you.

I am trying to do that as I stand looking at the waves breaking on a foggy early morning shore.  I am alone except for the hundreds of seals moaning on a sand bar and the gulls fishing in the tidal inlet at the far southern end of Coast Guard Light Beach.  A few laughing gulls swoop by as if to mock me with their laugh-like calls.

It is very hard to put the United States of America behind you when the fog of an endless propaganda war warps your mind and tries to crush your spirit even when you look away as far as the eye can see.

Across the ocean to the northeast, Mathew Arnold, on a far distant shore in England, wrote his famous poem “Dover Beach” at about the same time that Thoreau was walking where I stand.  Two very different men standing in different worlds, not just one at a window and the other in the blowing wind.

The former was an academically connected school inspector whose faith, vague as it was, was falling away as he described in “Dover Beach”: the turbulent ebb and flow of the breaking waves of faith that was being replaced by the sad withdrawing roar of melancholic human misery, devoid of love, light, joy, certitude, or help for pain.  It was the rhythmic sound of world weariness and declining faith in the Old World.

The latter, a child of the New World, harsh critic though he was of the resigned lives of quiet desperation most people live, was still a man of deep if unorthodox faith in the divine, telling us that most people are determined not to live by faith if they can help it, as if anyone could live without faith in something, whether that something be God, skepticism, atheism, or the then emerging new god of science. He considered people’s constant distrustful anxiety an incurable disease and he would no doubt consider the current religion of science a subject for his withering scorn and underappreciated humor.  Try imagining the government telling Thoreau that he had to be vaccinated and he needed a document to travel by stagecoach from his home in Concord to the Cape.

The young rebel Thoreau (he was in his early thirties like Arnold) still held to the conviction that if enough people gave serious attention to the transcendent nature of their natural surroundings and lived by its divine revelations, a new world was possible.  But also only if they simplified their lives and lived by principles that excluded the mad pursuit of money, slavery, and the worship of false gods.  This was eleven years before the American Civil War, which Thoreau didn’t survive.  He died on May 6, 1862.  His final words were: “Now comes good sailing.”

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