Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Call to Arms, 2017. Part Five: The Village

I live in a small town on the edge of Boulder County. It's a town of about 90,000 people. I realize that it may not be considered a small town in the broadest sense, it is a small town to me. There are plenty of advantages to being in a small town, and there are some drawbacks and there are fortunes as well as misfortunes.

My town is bordered on all sides by countryside. There are wide expanses to the north of where we live, also to the east and south. The south end of town nearly tickles the few towns down the line and eventually the sprawling mass of Denver just beyond that. To the west, the Rocky Mountains which are a mere 7 miles away. It's dark here at night, and I like that. I live on the north end of town and as I drive up Frances Street toward home, I'm met with darkness where the town ends in a final cadence of street lamps. The view reminds me of the Middle East. Just darkness looking north. Actually a great deal of what I see here both day and night remind me of the Middle East. I was reminded today that this Friday, February 24th will be the 26 year anniversary of when we invaded Iraq.

But there is something in the darkness as I look across Highway 66 each night. The darkness there captures my imagination. It solicits a mood in me which I find fearful, relieving and inspiring. During the day, and especially this brown, dead and dormant time of year I feel lonely and small and out of place. It's like the country is this ominous presence waiting to take me.

Living in a small town, and one like mine with open space, wild animals, massive mountains, streams, ponds, parks, old farms and abandoned factories really does capture my imagination. I feel like the place can be the setting for everything I will ever write. I feel like a walk down Main Street (US Hwy 287) will yield a jackpot of stories. And really, the things I loath about this small town: the three Walmarts, the Texas style franchised restaurants alongside big box store shopping malls, is a travesty to humanity. We have every variety of Christian church and I cannot tell one from another. There are times on Sunday when the traffic is worse than any given rush hour.

My fellow villagers are a pretty good cross section of the country, I think. We have the white person in his big truck with the “Kiss My Country Ass” bumper sticker. We got the fracking contingent. We got the weed folks. All three of these groups will have, undoubtedly, a Colorado flag sticker on their car. We got the football people. We have the Trump as well as the Hillary supporters—both sides seem to have forgotten that the election is over.

I see mostly white people. There are people of Asian and Indian persuasion on the west side of town. There are Hispanic people all over. I'm grateful that they are here and adding a little diversity to town. Occasionally, I see black people and to me, they are good omen. I would have to see at least 100 people of color to settle the disquiet that I feel with one single “Kiss My Country Ass” bumper sticker. Of the 90,000 people living here, our diversity is not well balanced.

With much of the social and politic climate degenerating into “Kiss My Country Ass” I wonder where any of us should go from here. I think much of the systems in place have failed us. I feel like churches and schools have become polarized, too afraid of losing market share or employment or members to say or do anything one way or another. I feel like the constant berating technology has anesthetized us, never mind the pills, the fast food or the self-induced financial prisons.

Yet, I see people in my neighborhood, in my town, my village as it were, who are doing things that are cool. There are the people who have built structures like tree houses and mini libraries in their yards. There are brightly colored houses which are artistic statements. I see young kids with cameras and guitars and they make me hopeful for the future. There is a punk rock kid I see occasionally at the bus stop with a book in her lap. A book. How refreshing. There are painters on the outskirts of town painting landscapes with pastoral ruins and oil wells. We have two independent bookstores in town. There is live music every night of the week at nightclubs, bars, coffeehouses. We have theater. There are people looking for these connections, these artistic connections.

But I live in a town of 90,000. I live on a planet of over 7 billion. All of us can connect almost instantly. There may be a small town of 90,000 in Germany or in India or in Australia filled with “Kiss My Country Ass” people, or artistic people. Should I take the 7 billion of us and plead for artists and writers and like minded people the world over, our village would be vast.

The call to arms series has really been my reaction to so much of the social and politic polarity that's been going on. I also feel like if there were more people creating good in the world, what would it matter what the issues were? Wouldn't it be better to be preoccupied with art than with governmental demise? I don't know and I over simplify everything. To me, it's time to work, to write. It's time to make artistic endeavors daring, persuasive, new. It's time to thwart the establishment. Don't buy it, don't buy in, don't sell out. Go make something.

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