Thursday, October 30, 2008

A bit of earth

    In the movie The Secret Garden there is a scene involving the niece and the uncle that is symbolic to me of American history.  The Secret Garden movie is one of my daughter's and I all time favorite movies to watch together.  The movie takes place in an overwhelming estate I think in the Scottish highlands.  Sweeping views of meadows and hedges, rocks and sky and against all that is this enourmous and oppressive and forboding mansion.  You have the son who is constantly ill, weak, puny, overprotected and spoiled.  A strict  and oppressive head housekeeper/nurse.  There's the father and the niece these comprise the main characters.  The niece is probably no more than 12 years old as portrayed.

     The scene I want to talk about is where the niece discovers the long abandoned secret garden that was built for the son's deceased mother.  The garden is long uncared fore and seemingly sealed off.  Its door hidden in ivy.  Upon discovering this secret place full of possibilities the girl goes off to ask her uncle for permission to play in it.  So the symbolic scene has this hardy and forward little girl braving the presence of her depressed uncle.  She goes into his study.  He has these two enourmous Bull Mastiffs that move like tigers and they go on alert and growl as the girl enters the room.  Her uncle has his head listlessly leaning on his hand in this depression that never leaves him in most of the movie.  A massive fireplace with a fire but the room still cold and forboding.  She approaches her uncle with permission and timidly says "Uncle can I have a bit of earth?" or something to that effect.  After explaining her discovery he laughs and gives her permission.
     All of you who are reading this who are of the European culture and homeland  are a part of this discovery of a secret garden called America.  You living in Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, England, France, nordic countries and others all could have ancestors who got to a point in their lives where they heard of a secret garden full of possibilities and you asked permission to take leave and "have a bit of earth".  The rest of you who didn't have the guts to come to America or otherwise had no reason to leave stayed behind.  This is oversimplifying history by quite a bit but my main point is you all have reason to be proud of what your ancestors have accomplished.  You cannot denegrate their choice, you cannot prance around claiming superiority in life, culture and politics.  We in the US are you and you over there back east are us!

      Some of you left Europe for noble reasons and some for far less than noble reasons but yet here you are centuries later your ancesters deceased!  We took our bit of earth and made something and you too did with what you have.  When you criticize us and our life over here you are criticizing yourselves too.  It could've just as well been you on those boats 100, 200, 300 years ago.  Be proud of us and what we've done with our bit of earth and don't endlessly distance yourselves, alienate yourselves or mindlessly critique us unless you want to remind us these many years later of why we left Europe in the first place.  I'm no different than my ancestors and if I thought my life would be better in my ancestor's native Germany then I'd pack my life and leave it all behind.  If it were that simple.  But I could as easily end up in Quebec or Germany for that matter due to the mixed backgrounds.

     Can we all just content ourselves with where we are and take care of our bit of earth and tend it to renew and bloom?  Our government is flawed because it is run by human beings but so is yours.  At least ours had a goal of simple freedom in more ways than when we originally left Europe.  I don't want a presidential candidate or anyone tell us we need to be more like Europe.  Nobody has ever said "Our nation needs to be more like Africa."

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