America is not always easy on the eyes. We’re disfigured, materially and psychically. You see the rips and tears in the outskirts of Baltimore. Once-thriving small towns in Nebraska are pock-marked, defeated. Suburban malaise spreads and spreads like runny, watery jam. The ants are either coming or they’ve already set up shop. I don’t like ants. I’ve never liked jam, either, while we’re at it.
But I love America anyway. I believe being a patriot means just that: seeing the whole mess and loving it anyway.
Part of the way I earn my bread these days is by traveling across this country, which means I get a good look at the thing. A friend and I were trying to figure out how many states he had visited and I had him beat with a stick. He’s never been to Minnesota! Or Nebraska! Or Iowa! I realize these states do not have the glamour profile of California or New Hampshire, but the rolling green hills pushed up by the mighty Mississippi? The endless blue sky of Kansas? The splendor, however diminished, of downtown Minneapolis? These are American gifts, every bit the knockouts of a Connecticut in autumn or a Sonoma during the grape harvest. Don’t make me get out Great American Literature, man. I ain’t afraid to hit you with Dos Passos, Twain, Cooper, Cather. You get into those and you’ll be on the next flight to the flyover states, looking for the American splendor you’ve been missing.
I’m in Columbus, Georgia tonight, resting up for a packed day tomorrow with the GALA (that’s Georgia/Louisiana) quilters. We did a meet-and-greet this evening; tomorrow it’s two lectures, a workshop, and a trunk show and book signing. My evening will be free and my hosts asked me if I wanted to go see the downtown area, take in a view of the Ocoee River, at least drive past the American Infantry Museum though it’ll be too late to go inside. Yes, I want to see these places. Yes, I want to get a feel for this place before I leave, before I know it. I’m a citizen of this country, after all. I ought to know where I live.
Columbus is Detroit is Palatine is Napa is New Haven is Greenwich is Pensacola is Boise is Brooklyn is Dyerstown is Eugene is Toledo is West Ridge is Princeton is Davenport is Fairfield is Bangor is you is me is you is me is me is me is you is you is me.