As we revisit Barataria’s history approaching the Tenth Anniversary next month, this piece from nine years ago stands out. You can see that nothing happening now really surprises me, but it certainly does disappoint.
When I was young, I lived in a time and place where just about anything was possible. It’s amazing just how terrifying that prospect was.
Leading into the 10th Anniversary of Barataria in less than two months, I am re-running pieces from the first year. Some of these pieces, like this one, are more personal and introspective. I hope you enjoy it.
Why do we write? It’s a tough question. People put a lot of effort into blogs, but not too many of them are worth reading. Most of these will eventually cease to be amusing, stop being updated, and gradually dissolve as if there were never more than some kind of atmospheric turbulence. So why are they started in the first place?
A few years ago, I found myself on Payne Avenue in St Paul after an absence of many years. It had changed, noticeably, and for the better. Shops were clean and bright, people filled the sidewalks, and traffic was impressively bad.
More interestingly, many of the signs on the newly refurbished shops were in Spanish and Hmong.
This process is hardly anything new in American history. A new generation of immigrants often arrives with little more than what they can carry but soon saves and scrapes enough to put a stake down. The first places they invest the rewards of restless work meeting boundless opportunity are neighborhoods like St Paul’s East Side. For those short on cash but long on vision Da Hood is not a problem but an opportunity.
This and many other examples show the real stakes in the immigration ban – the heart and soul of the relentless ability of our nation to renew itself.
The classic American road trip is a great experience for a lot of good reasons. More than the core of great novels and movies, it’s usually a journey of inner discovering and bonding and so much else all at once. At the core, however, is one undeniable lesson – this is a truly vast and amazing nation.
The best measure of how stuck in a rut this nation have become is how much that obvious fact has been forgotten. I promise you that the United States is bigger than you or I can ever possibly imagine. But to listen to today’s media or politics of any kind you’d swear that this nation is weak, fragile, and small.
We need a road trip. Short of that, let’s take one in our minds.
As we prepare to inaugurate our nation’s second genuine psychopathic president, Andrew Jackson being the first, it’s better to look back on happy times. Back in 2009 Barataria was celebrating by … well, strangely looking forward to something like today. Judge for yourself.
During the many lulls in inaugural coverage, CNN knew what would dazzle ‘em. They had their satellite image of everyone standing around in the cold waiting for The Moment – the time when Obama would formally be worn in. Huddled around giant screens you could see the black specs, which the CNN crew dutifully told us “look just like ants!” Yes, from a distance, we are small, but doesn’t that miss the point just a little? It seems to me that when the great Wheel of History appears to be turning, we have one day where we should not be focusing on where we are on the rim, but on the progress of the great Wheel itself.
That’s why I started rummaging though all the ancient texts in my library.
Now that no one buys our votes, the public has long since cast off its cares; the people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions and all else, now meddles no more and longs eagerly for just two things – bread and circuses!
– Juvenal, Satire X, “Wrong Desire is the Source of Suffering”
The “Fall of Rome” trope has always been an easy one to dismiss. After all, we’re stronger and more connected than they ever were, yes? The public is more literate, our history is stronger, and times are simply different than they were back so very long ago.
Years ago, Barataria predicted that 2017 would be “The Year Everything Changes”. The lesson is, of course, that we all need to be careful what we wish for.
The basic underlying forces which drove that prediction have not changed. The holiday shopping season has yet to be fully tabulated, but it appears that the robust 3.6% gain predicted was met or even matched, with one estimate showing a 4.9% gain. Baby Boomers will still hit retirement age and there will definitely be a shortage of workers coming up, especially in certain skilled areas.
For all that hope, the upside will be limited by an incoming Trump administration. It’s not just that they are largely tied to political views which do not fit the situation, it’s that many of them have little to no experience making policy. To a large extent, nothing will get done. But what does get done will happen among the bureaucracy. That may mean more change than we all think.