Not So Different

“All right, we are two nations.”

Sad. Tough to bear. Not a lot of hope for things to get better. The American people spit and scowl at each other as splits, divisions, and internal hostilities set citizen against citizen, group against group.

The quote above comes from the mind and heart of an American intellectual. Essayist, novelist, occasional journalist. The quote-maker knows the American scene and how to understand it.

A nation despising itself.

Turn on any screen and you’ll read or hear something like this, over and over. In your hand, on the wall, on a desk, any screen of varying sizes shows you the same.

But the only screens in the year of the quote was in the movie house, the local theater.

It’s from 1927, written by John Dos Passos.

The event that fueled the words is long-running—the arrest, trial, conviction, sentencing, and execution of Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco. And so John Dos Passos concludes that things look gray and bleak.

Outside my window, in summer 2021, the rain has stopped. A plane flies overhead, in the distance. I’m looking at one screen with a smaller one closer by.

A blue jay squawks from the damp branch of a maple tree. The sound reminds me that my dad was born in 1927.

His life starts, mine later on, those of my two daughters later yet, the grandchildren he never knew. I’ll urge them to take heart. We’ve been here before. The problems don’t go away; surely won’t go away; maybe can’t go away. They’re still here to be handled and managed, muddled through. Keep listening for the rain, listening for the sound that sits in the maple tree. They’re here, too. And when my dad and I are together again, we’ll sing out on a damp morning.

Vanzetti, left, and Sacco
NYC protest, 1927
John Dos Passos, 1927

Thanks for reading. Be well.


(p.s. for the quote and two V-S images, see the WSJ on July 10, 2021)