Food for Thought

January 10, 2019

To the readers of the Herald Enterprise:

Since Carolyn Trower invited me to begin a column (and I accepted the invitation), I’ve been struggling with the problem of how to introduce myself to my readers. It was even suggested to me that I might wish to name the column. I’ve elected on the title ‘Food for Thought’—and hope that this is not too pompous. After all, ‘Spoiled Food for Thought’ or ‘Expired Milk for Thought’ might be better, given the fact that it has been pointed out to me that I may have mold on the brain. In fact, if I’d wanted to sound truly conceited, I might have chosen the title: ‘Words of Wisdom’.

A few people might even remember the fact that when I attended Mark Twain, the basketball coaches (who took a liking to me even before I started filming the games) began sending me all over the school to deliver Confucius-like sayings of my own devising. I was a fairly reluctant participant, and the ‘jewels’ I produced were hardly wisdom. For instance: ‘He who lives in glass house should not use toilet.’ Or: ‘When selecting a coffin, try to find one with a yellow-and-blue-make-green-seal.’ You get the general idea.

Please do not refer to this column as ‘words of wisdom’!

More recently, of course, I have been commenting, in this paper, on the political landscape—something which I intend to continue to do. The world seems to be quite angry at the moment, whether in Ralls County, the United States, or abroad (though of course this is nothing new). I myself am angry, even as I wish that we all were a good deal less so.
I’m not sure that any of us has the right to be as angry as most of us seem to be. Worse, I’m afraid that far too few of us realize why we are angry, what we are angry about, or even what we SHOULD be angry about. And perhaps all of this angry confusion (maybe we should call it ang-fusion) has something to do with the fact that our government recently staggered to a halt while debating the merits of building ‘The Great Wall of America’: a symbol of our nation’s current anger and anxiety…and of one man’s insecurity regarding the size of his hands.

Sadly, a wall seems to be the perfect symbol for our current national mood. I see The Wall, sometimes, in people from other parts of the country, when they view inhabitants of places like Ralls County as refugees of (at best) Mayberry, or (at worst) Deliverance. I see The Wall just as often in mid-westerners who refer to this part of America as ‘The Heartland’ (and who, when they do so, sometimes mean that this is the only part of America that has a heart).

Wall-building is a crime that each one of us has committed at one time or another, and it starts in the mind. When we distrust people who fail to look or sound just like us or to share our interests, when we grow angry at people simply for disagreeing with us, we are building walls. And the fact that a portion of the population is now obsessed with building a literal 1,200-mile wall along the southern border is actually kind of frightening.

Keep in mind—I am not equating a wall with border security. All nations need border security. Yet walls tend to be symbols. The Great Wall of China works quite well, today, as a tourist-trap, yet ultimately it failed to protect China from invasion. It was merely the expression of China’s fear of outsiders at the time (and of the insecurities of its emperor). Similarly, the Berlin Wall was an expression of East Germany’s fear of the west. It was anger and insecurity puffed up and made to look grim and impressive. And of course now it’s gone, along with East Berlin, East Germany, and the Soviet Union.

I hope that our nation doesn’t give in to the temptation to erect a monument to its own fears. I prefer structures like the Statue of Liberty and St. Louis’s Gateway Arch to be symbols of America.

But I suppose I’ve now said more than enough about architecture.
Until our next meeting (when I might take up such alarming topics again), I would like to wish my readers a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

And Happy Holidays (just in case anybody has yet to be offended).