Stay New, Baby.
I'm sorry. My mistake.
I was at the bookstore this weekend, staring at a pile of books, and I erred by browsing through this one book, Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766, by Fred Anderson.
First of all, I love it when different people have different names for wars. It's sort of a clue, don't you think? I mean, couldn't we at least agree on the name of the damned war? How stupid do you have to be to not get that there might be some unresolved tensions if you can't even give the damned war the same damned name?
I have a Brit friend -- a doctor, a well-educated guy, and smart as a whip too -- who didn't know what the hell I was talking about when I referred to the War of 1812. He thinks maybe they called it something else over there, but he's not sure. They might not even have a name for it, he thinks. The irony here is that he gets a bit teary-eyed whenever he hears "The Star-Spangled Banner".
Anyway, we don't call it the Seven Years' War over here. We call it the French and Indian War. Okay?
I bought the book. I love this stuff. It all ties in with my unhealthy obsession with moving to the new New World. I think that's why this book called to me from its display table. Buy me! Buy me! It's a damned big book but so far it has not disappointed.
The best part so far is reading about the massacre at Jumonville's Glen and the Battle of Fort Necessity: Two fairly unqualified screw-ups by an up-and-coming Major in... I guess it was the Virginia Militia.
The first ended in a slaughter of wounded Frenchmen by the Major's unruly Iroquois allies. One Frenchman of note had his skull split open by the leader of the Iroquois, Tanaghrisson, who thereupon washed his hands in the exposed brains of le pauvre soldat. The feeling these days is that Tanaghrisson was trying to provoke the French. (Ya think?)
The second battle was another embarrassment for the Major. Out of respect, we will avert our eyes for the time being. Even the Major himself felt the need to file incident reports that were, um, a bit sketchier than they might have been. Best not to overburden one's military commanders with needless details. All they really need to know is that things didn't go quite as well as they might have gone, okay?
You may have heard of this Major. George Washington? I guess all of this came after he'd grown out of his cherry-tree phase.
Anyway, I'm a slow reader, and like I said this book is big, so I may be in and out of here for a while. You can leave a message, if you want, as long as your messages don't sound like they are from The Beyond or something. That freaks me out when that happens.
Look, I know America is in trouble. I know we don't know how to save her yet, but we're going to get through this. We are. You can take my word for it. Stay strong. Get out there and look at the world you live in, listen and watch the people you share this world with, and then reflect on the problem as you see it.
Stay sharp. On the balls of your feet. You're not going to find a way out of this until you get a visceral sense of the problem, and you aren't going to get that until you listen and watch and reflect. Yeah, you got to write and read blogs but blogs aren't going to save anybody, and you have to be careful to use them for food for your own thoughts, not as some way to find out what everybody else is thinking so you can think like The Big Kids.
You got to keep up on the news. You got to speak out. You got to participate. But you got to look and listen and reflect too. And sometimes you have to read a book. You got to let the problem bubble around in your head. You got to trust your instincts about the world, the people in it, and the flesh and blood life around you. Let your instincts help you find the right way through this thing. That's how you get to the things that work.
If nothing else, as a last resort, let me remind you of one true thing:
The new always replaces the old.
This is a simple, irrefutable law of life. The old slows down then stops, and then the young comes by and eats it.
As somebody who's not getting any younger I can't say I actually approve of this, but since my approval doesn't particularly matter I have but one choice and that is to choose to embrace this force of nature to the degree that I can manage it. I am a progressive, I am a liberal, and I do what I can to keep the new alive in myself. I'm comforted by the sure and certain hope that even if we fail to wrest this country back from the aristocracy faction, their own children will eventually destroy them for us. We may not be there to see it, but we can rely on the fact that it will happen. Our job is to save this country if we can, in our own time, for our own good, but if we can't manage that, we are obligated to resist and keep the way clear for the younger ones coming up.
See, the aristocracy faction knows this irrefutable law of life as well as we know it. That's what so terrifies them. Our job, if we can manage it, is to make them see that the more fiercely they resist the new, the bloodier the feasting on them by their own children will be. The new, eventually, always wins. Cast your lot with it while you can. Help it to be born. It's better for everybody that way.
And so now I'm off to read about the time when the New World was still new. Keep checking in. You never know, I may have some more dirt on this George Washington character for you.
"Stay new, baby, stay new."