I’m home now from two weeks in Pennsylvania and Virginia. I said when I started that I hoped to discover two things. One, something of the Spirit that gives me hope for America’s future, and two, the Nature of the lands the colonists lived and worked on. I can honestly say I found both. I wish to share my reflections, not as political debate, but simply my reflections of peace sought and found, in nature and in humanity.
You will all understand that as a druid I was inspired by the mountains, streams, waterfalls, flowers and trees of the lands I visited. The Spirits in those places seemed a little different in some ways, probably because they were new to me, but at the same time warm and welcoming. The ancestors who preside over the natural wonders as well as battlefields, had much to say about life, love, creativity, duty, sacrifice and the value of freedom and peace. I felt such peace and rest in the Shenandoah Mountains. The cycle of life, from day to day and century to century is alive and well there. The wheel turns in beautiful, difficult and inspiring ways, in this land, as much as in the place where I live. The ‘Old Ways’ are kept in many places and the inherent wisdom shared with a new generation.
I admit I was a bit skeptical about what I would learn or be inspired by in terms of the American dream, but I was inspired by the words of one man – Thomas Jefferson. Yes, you may argue that he is a hypocrite, and you would be correct. He admitted that himself. However, I also understand that he was a man of his time and culture who tried to eliminate the scourge of slavery in Virginia and in the colonies, but was unsuccessful. If he is a hypocrite, it seems due to the fact that given his wish to free all enslaved people, to do so in the greater picture would have cost him and the people he was responsible for, their livelihood. There are MANY ways we could shine a light on the dissonance and hypocrisy in our time. One mirror is in the fact that although we have technically abolished slavery, there remains injustice for people of color. I don’t think we can claim ourselves any less hypocritical than Jefferson on that point. However, in listening to the man who so eloquently and knowledgeably portrayed young Thomas Jefferson on three different occasions while I was there, I am convinced there is hope for this country; that we do not have to come to Civil War to make our country truly great; that the two-party system, although completely broken today, is the right model of a just society; and that the hope of America lies in our vision of being better than we are today. At each opportunity, Mr. Jefferson encouraged and implored us to improve upon the democracy that he and his colleagues furiously debated but found consensus with. He was clear that the division in his time (and would likely be in our time) was the fallibility of self-serving men who acted on behalf of self-interest, rather than the needs of the people and the country. Touché.
He ended each discussion with this wisdom:
- It is the responsibility of every American to do what is right for the sake of the country, not individual gain.
- We may need to change the Constitution from time to time to reflect the current society.
- We should, at all costs, avoid bloody civil war.
- We are capable of greatness, only when we work together for the common good.
So, yes, I did find inspiration in the American dream, The Great Experiment.