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Wake up, America

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Image of American Bison is in the public domain Image of American Bison is in the public domain

Ten years later, the view from the Scenic Route is less than promising

September 11, 2011. Ten years after, we’ve become entangled in—yet not won—two wars; gutted our economy, as well as that of much of the rest of the world; and called off the race for space.

We are addicted to oil. We will pay anything for it, including the blood of our young men and women. We are addicted to money and what we think it will buy. In a process that began long before the planes crashed into the towers in New York, we squandered the future of our children and our children’s children; indebting ourselves in a quest for whatever concoction Madison Avenue, Wall Street and Hollywood tells us that we need to be happy.

As a culture, we have stopped thinking, but that may be a latter-day announcement, as it appears that we have never been too prone to thinking. As the reasoning animal, we can be downright unreasonable.

Four-hundred-eighty-nine years ago, right around 1620, there landed on the eastern edge of this continent a new order. In five centuries, that order has plundered Eden and killed its native cultures, destroyed a million years of evolution by eradicating every species profitable to sell or standing in the way of “progress,” and remodeled the continent to serve its personal wants. Hundreds of aquatic species died as our rivers were turned from incredible fisheries and sources of annual renewal into commercial highways and sewers. Four million indigenous humans died of European diseases, starvation, exposure and ethnic warfare. A hundred million bison died to make way for plow and cattle. A billion beavers died to make hats for aristocracy. A trillion prairie dogs were poisoned in the name of better grazing.

At the death of each of these, we lost something irretrievable, entire ecologies and natural communities that sustained and maintained this continent in happy stasis for at least 12,000 years. We took no time to learn how it worked, except in retrospective attempts to figure out why it’s not working. We just took. And took. And took.

I don’t like writing things like this. Part of those reading (if anyone reads this) will be put off by such a downer, stop reading, go on about their consumptive ways, buy another toy for themselves and think about remodeling the kitchen. Another part, hunkered into a right-makes-might mentality, will label me as unpatriotic and un-American, send invectives my way and label me as fag or communist.

This might be a downer, but I’m neither unpatriotic nor un-American. I love this country and the people who live here—or most of them—or I wouldn’t bother writing stuff like this. What I don’t like is how gullible we are. When it comes to our self-image, sense of well-being and view to the future, we act like impressionable, clueless, frightened children, letting others tell us how to act, what to look like, what to think and where to spend our money. The marketers of stuff and “lifestyle” love our impressionability.

Wake up America.

Many of us blame the troubles of our country on a man who has been in office for less than three years and inherited the most daunting challenges ever faced by an American president. He is hindered by a bickering Congress, the main objective of which seems to be to take care of the personal fortunes of its members and those of a few friends, and two wars his predecessor started and did not have the guts to finish by full engagement, much less enough foresight and courage to stay out of in the first place. If President Obama is paralyzed, it is by inaction, factionalism and petty interests of the government he inherited. That, added to the subtle and not-so-subtle racism that always surrounds a powerful “man of color,” assures that he is getting nothing done.

If you can get outside of your own self-interest, prejudices, preconceptions, jingoism and short-sightedness and take a look at the real, live, honest-to-God history of this country, you will be able to see clearly that we are in a bit of trouble here. We have turned our back on both our environment and our charter. We have betrayed the wondrous gift this continent was, acting like a bunch of greedy three-year-olds alone with a birthday cake, and the richness of it has made us ill. In the wake of the attacks of ten years ago, and the continued and much publicized threat of global terrorism (God bless the sensationalist media), we are ignoring our charter in the name of national security. We have become a Chicken Little society, crying “The sky is falling,” while greedy, powerful factions sell us on the idea that this or that will keep us safe and that or this will make us happy.

You might think by our actions since September of 2001 that the terrorists are winning.

We’ve come to the place where, as a good essayist, I’m supposed to offer the solution to this mess we are in. I can’t see one easy enough to outline in the extra space Ms. Gannon has allowed me this month. But, I do see an analogous situation we can learn from: the four stages of grief—anger, denial, acceptance and recovery. As a nation, and a planetary population, we have a deal of grief work to do.

What shall we grieve? Here is a very short list.

The bison. The beaver. The Nez Perce. The dodo. The carrier pigeon. The people who died at Ground Zero. The right whale. The Ogalala. The people of Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Sudan, Afghanistan and every other place where the global armaments industry has made—and continues to make—life miserable for the masses. The free-born salmon. The indigenous peoples of Siberia, where Big Oil is working unchecked to supply our addiction to gasoline. Our youth as a nation. The Cherokee. Our own foolishness. Our own greed. The Apache. Our rivers, fisheries and aquifers, which are dying from our attention. Tibet. Our chance to go to space, killed by our horrid, self-made economy and shortsighted, selfish legislatures.

We must grieve our collective innocence.

We are stuck in the anger and denial stages, trying to reclaim the irredeemable, but our world will never be the same as it was before September 11, 2001, or before 1620, for that matter. The root of our problems lies much deeper in our past than that day ten years ago. Ground Zero is merely the exclamation point on the end of a long sentence of personal and corporate greed that began long before Western European man fell into this continent.

Our anger and denial are manifest in the finger-pointing and blaming so common in our popular media today, a completely unproductive and destructive indulgence of our culture that masks the root causes of our situation. If any one of us is to blame for our losses, it is all of us. We are in this mess together and have been since it began centuries ago. We have continuously chosen shortsighted solutions designed to increase the wellbeing of the current generation, with no thought to what our grandchildren and their grandchildren will inherit.

In acceptance, we must let sink in the reality of our world and what has been done to it in the name of personal gain and acknowledge that much of what we once had is gone—if not forever, then for a long, long time. To recover, we must figure out how to get out of the mess we are in. Acceptance means taking an appropriate amount of blame for our own situation. Recovery means taking responsibility for cleaning up the mess.

And, there’s a lot to do—hundreds of years of work, generations of work.

Where from here? Perhaps we should pray our national prayer. “God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her, and guide her, through the night with a light from above.”

It is a dark night we are stumbling through, here in the post-9-11 world. If we say that prayer and it is answered, it will be because each of us helps to illuminate the way. The last step, recovery, is up to all of us. It is only by working together that we are going to get out of this mess alive—as a country, as a planet, as a species. As Americans, we have to stop running scared. We have to start thinking for ourselves, and tell the blamers and finger-pointers to shut up and sit down. We have to quit buying stuff that we don’t need and take our life decisions out of the hands of Madison Avenue, Wall Street and Hollywood. We have to turn off the television, quit acting like lemmings and choose leadership that takes us in good directions instead of on to the edge of the cliff.

The American Dream is not about stuff. It isn’t about national security. It’s not about personal gain. It’s about living in freedom, which we cannot do if we are enslaved to anything, whether it is fear, our addictions to oil and money, our own greed—corporate and individual—or a faulty perception of our current situation.

The “light from above,” enhanced by our own higher thoughts, will illuminate things we may not wish to look at—our murky past and what it has done to us as individuals, as a culture and as a planetary environment—but it is imperative that we do so, or we will be “as grass thrown into the furnace,” a flash and a bit of heat that briefly lit and warmed the human race. 

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (7 posted)

Richard Thorne 01/15/2012 13:18:42

When Obama signed the NDAA Bill on New Years eve while you were partying...America's U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights were DESTROYED FOREVER.

If YOU or your MINISTRY is truly from God then you and your flock had better prepare for literal---HELL ON EARTH in the coming months.

My REVELATIONS OF TRUTH website will provide all the information you need to prove Satan is using Obama and our government to DESTROY this once great nation of ours.

The Patriot Act destroyed half of our Constitution and the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) finished the job on New Years Eve! Here's some of what its designers, Levin and McCain concocted in this fascist law...

"Snatch and Grab" means YOU and your loved one's can be snatched off the street by the government anytime it wants you or your loved ones.
"Beastiality" It's now legal for American troops to have SEX WITH ANIMALS!
Christian's, Veterans and the elderly are now targeted for these fascist death camps.
NAZI GERMANY has now come to America!
American citizens are now paid * BOUNTY by law enforcement for SQUEALING on their NEIGHBORS for having GUNS.

First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't * Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't * trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't * Jew.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Americans are more concerned about material and sexual pleasure than standing up for their precious freedoms! The "LUKEWARM CHURCH" is ushering in our "END TIMES." Their rewards will be here on earth and after he or she draws their last breath they will end up in the "PITS OF HELL!"
Did you know if your ministry is * 501 Corporation the government has every right to take over your ministry? Did you know some preachers are being paid by the government to help bring in MARTIAL LAW when the president declares it? The "DOGS OF WAR" are now on the run!
Did you know the "INTERNET---KILL---SWITCH" is now in place? It won't be long before "TRUTH REVEALERS" like myself will be silenced forever...
Instead of preaching the "PROSPERITY GOSPEL" real preachers should be sounding the "ALARM" before IT'S TO LATE...
Inside sources have revealed the U.S. Dollar with be devalued by 40% by the end of the year through INFLATION! Also revealed is the fact the the U.S. DOLLAR will be completely DESTROYED by the end of the year.
Also revealed is * good chance there will be WAR between IRAN--AMERICA---and---ISRAEL.This will be accomplished to re-elect Obama. Of course the president now has the power to SUSPEND ALL ELECTIONS...Did you know all phone calls and E-Mails are being tracked by the N.S.*? America's secret technology is 25 years ahead of what the average citizen has seen. This means our government has computers 25 years more advanced than the average PC!
INTERNMENT CAMPS THROUGHOUT THE U.S. ARE NOW BEING MANNED for CIVIL UNREST rapidly coming with the dollar is destroyed... If you've seen the LUNATIC RANTINGS of elected officials like Lieberman---MeCain---Lindsey Graham, then you know they represent Satan's ONE WORLD ORDER. They want citizens arrested without do process of the law.
All the VAST EMPIRES of today's "LUKEWARM MINISTRIES" will be taken over by the Anti-Christ during the Tribulation. These "HYPOCRITE MINISTERS" should be "SOUNDING THE ALARM" instead of building vast empires for the Anti-Chrsit...

YOU DON'T HAVE TO BELIEVE ME! Wait and see what happens by the end of 2012...You will either serve the ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT or God Almighty! Your position in life or material possessions won't save you from literal hell coming to America....


Rick Thorne

On Jan. 18th there is going to be an all-out strike on the internet. Websites across the internet are going dark in protest of the internet censorship bills in Congress, SOPA and PIPA.

Some of the biggest sites in the world are participating: Reddit, Mozilla. And some others may join (e.g. * leading micro-blogging platform and * popular collaboratively-written encyclopedia), but they need * nudge. If we can get them to join this will be EPIC.

Ask the biggest sites on the internet to join the strike. Click here.

If you're on Facebook or Twitter, please use these links to share this:

Thank You!

-Donny and the rest of the Fight for the Future crew
Trish Gannon 01/16/2012 10:56:01
Mr. Thorne, I have deleted the link to your 'amazing, truth revealed website.' While we encourage conversation from all viewpoints at the River Journal, I do not open comments to advertise other websites.
WRH 09/11/2011 21:17:21

Terry Parker 09/10/2011 18:20:46
This is a well written and argued essay. The beginning is a little Ward Churchill-esque and equates 9/11 with "chickens coming home to roost" from centuries of razing the land for profit, a position hard to defend when placed alongside the known reality of Islamic fanaticism. Bin Laden wasn't an environmentalist.

You are correct that 9/11 did offer a chance for national reflection. Instead, and as always, we acted reflexively.
Marylyn Cork 09/10/2011 15:18:43
Very thought-provoking piece, Sandy. I'm with you.
Diane 09/10/2011 14:45:13
Thank you. So Well Said! Our collective internal aggitation can be released and we can start building * better America.
Gary Garrett 09/10/2011 02:39:08
I would like to commend Sandy for writing this article and Trish for publishing it.

Our Nation needs Media that goes beyond just telling the "Happy News" that gives us * warm fuzzy feeling. We also need * business community that will support this kind of Media allowing us to make informed choices not influenced by someones corporate agenda.

At the end of the day, America needs to hear the Story, the whole Story, and nothing but the Story. So help me God, this is reality

We can ignore reality, but we can not ignore the consequences of ignoring reality

History is written by the winner
It is time for Americans to Wake Up and start writing some History.

Gary Garrett
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Author info

Sandy Compton Sandy Compton Sandy Compton is one of the original contributors to The River Journal, and owner and publisher at Blue Creek Press (www.bluecreekpress.com). His latest book is Side Trips From Cowboy: Addiction, Recovery and the Western American Myth

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Homepage, Headlines, 9-11, grief, greed, The American Dream

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