I’d like to defend America.
This might seem overly patriotic for a non-citizen, but I do not mean ‘defend America’ at its borders or beyond, the way its servicepeople do. Neither do I mean ‘defend America’ from within, like its law enforcement. What I am hoping to defend, here, is the source of inspiration that the America I know can infuse in a writer.
One hears all the time about the mystical whispering of the Parthenon, or the creatures an author can create from the depths of Loch Ness. When it comes to Butte or Provo, though, the literary world often turns up its nose: even American writers, themselves. Here is the thing, though, about Butte, Provo, Lincoln, and a hundred other towns and cities that hide in the back of a nation: they have people in them.
And where stories are concerned, the people are Always Open.
It’s been a long time, now, since I stopped apologizing for being more inspired by a trip to the Wal Mart than I was by my trip to Stonehenge. When watching a man dine alone, burying some trauma in rib sauce at the Hometown Buffet, how can I help but tell a more poignant story than I could about a gambler in Monaco? When the injuries from someone’s service lead him to a corner to squeegee my windows, how many more stories lead up to that moment than we could ever find in the sanitized skyline of Dubai? There is a quality to the country that celebrates openness: open roads lead into cities filled with open monuments, and around every corner is that diner that is Always Open. Emotions rush and stumble in the USA, surfing on a wave that her forefathers started centuries ago, when they wrote their own tingling words.
So, what is going wrong, as we lead into this election? Why are America’s principles so viciously under attack?
The answer, I fear, is fear. When the nature of due process changes to favor prosecution, fear has quelched the value of freedom. When a government needn’t apologize for wire-tapping its citizens, those citizens are too afraid to love privacy. When half a nation cheers over the prospect of a segregating wall, they have become too afraid to feed the diversity that built a country like no other in history.
And when someone who loves a nation as I do isn’t allowed to immigrate, well… one has to question whether that nation really is still Open.
There are also stories in the fear, of course, but I don’t want to tell them. Stories of America should have America infused into them: the land where truths, no matter how often questioned, remain self-evident, and where conflict, no matter how vicious, liberates justice for all. The reason that fear has set things back, just for awhile, is because Americans refuse to accept it. Even a bowling team can spoil the plans of a Cuban Terrorist, and even a DMV instructor can expose a national conspiracy. They may seem powerless, but they aren’t: they are Americans.
The best stories about Americans, like America’s Diner, are Always Open.
To read about a bowling team from Provo spoiling the plans of a Cuban Terrorist, visit the sample of Starlite Lanes: We Bowl for Democracy on the site where it won an award.