This too Is America

But if you want to know what I don’t think, I’ll tell you. I don’t think what you think. I don’t think, and I never shall think, that the mass of ordinary men are a pack of dirty modern thinkers. No, sir… I may be mad, but humanity isn’t.” Dr. Bull (The Man Who Was Thursday – G.K. Chesterton)

The following shall be my attempt to persuade you to leave yourself at the mercy of thieves and robbers and neighbors. I should think it’s well worth the effort.

photo credit: April Troyer

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It’s sometimes said that the south is some years behind the rest of the country. In light of some of our societal navigating, I’m quite thankful for that. This came to mind one day while I was watching a T.V. show called 11.22.63. A man walks through a dark closet in the back of a diner and falls through a time portal back to 1960. During an intense scene towards the end, he desperately needs a vehicle. So he runs down the street trying car doors, finds one unlocked, and speeds away to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Quite riveting. Unfortunately, had our hero not traveled back in time, he would not have found an unlocked car, and the president of our fathers would’ve been shot right on schedule. Unless of course he’d of tried my car.

I do not lock my car doors for what my dad would say is a matter of principle. I don’t endure brutally hot Julys, grassless lawns, and snowless winters for nothing. I believe my ability to do this lies in two places: youthful ignorance and, more importantly, my perception of ‘them’.

There is in our vocabulary of prepositions one quite curious. It is ‘they’. And by ‘they’ we mean the public at large. Everyone has their own deep-seated opinion of they, them rather. Some people move about with sneaking suspicions. “Strangers are thieves waiting for an opportunity.” “That one there, he’s a crook, don’t let him fool you.” “Hitchhikers are axe murderers, let em walk.”

Personally, I refuse to take that stance. When I park my car at a coffee shop or boiled peanut shack, I leave my keys inside, doors unlocked, and take pride in my corner of the world. I am not in Detroit or Atlanta or Russia or Haiti. I am in the deep south. And this is the important part: I am a law abiding citizen, not an anarchist, and by the grace of God, am standing far in the majority. To confidently leave yourself vulnerable, in any way, is to trust your neighbor.

When you build fences, don’t talk to strangers, and live your life under lock and key, you dwell in a place where, to some extent, citizenship has fallen and anarchy has risen. And if you are blessed as I am to live in a place in this world where people sell vegetables on the honor system and volunteer to be firefighters and cannot drive more than ten miles without passing a church, it is an unfortunate and unnecessary position to take.

Will I ever get burned? Probably. Probably at some point a person of the minority will steal my guitar out of my backseat or my backpack out of the floorboards. And then someone will say, “Ah ha! We tried to tell you – people can’t be trusted.” And for a single day they will be right. Out of 5,000 days I could only trust civility for 4,999. I happen to think it might be worth it. I live among a people of decency – and that’s a gift I don’t want to waste. If we’re a few years behind the rest of our nation, maybe we ought to keep stomping the brakes. And this too, Mr. Gambino, is America.

I may be mad, but humanity isn’t.




You start to look like what you believe
You float through time like a stream
If the waters of time are made up by you and I
If you change the world for you, you change it for me

Is this the world you want?
Is this the world you want?
You’re making it
Every day you’re alive

– Jon Foreman

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5 thoughts on “This too Is America

  1. You mention living in a place of “snowless winters,” but this essay took me back to central Minnesota one winter when we had about a week of 30 below zero. Starting a car is a challenge in such weather. I went to town one evening and all down the parking lane on Main Street were parked, empty cars with their engines running, with clouds of exhaust billowing into the frozen air, all illuminated by the lights from the nearby stores.
    So that was an example of trust building on trust until a whole community ” live(d) among a people of decency.”
    Few things build a neighborly spirit like surviving a Minnesota winter together.

    Liked by 1 person

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