11 of 9 is the end of summer

It is New England, a bright green and blue day somewhere on the coast. The roads are empty—the summer crowds are gone. There is a chill that never leaves the shadows now, even though standing in the full sun you can still feel the summer heat on your skin. The sky is almost cloudless today, everything gleams. Just like it was that day—remember? There is some obligatory display for the occasion: flags, bunting on houses and stores. Most unsettling is the digital flag “waving” on the LED screen in front of the chain store outlets for Super Cuts, Dunkin Donuts, and Cellular One. Remember, America, it warns silently: We are who you really are. Be thankful for us – defend us.

Other exhortations we pass are only a back country jumble of non sequitur: “God Bless America – Eat More Lobster.” At least the effusion of patriotism there is traceable to some muddled human being, not to a software program in a corporate head office far away. It’s difficult to say exactly why that should be comforting, however.

On the radio as we drive, a community radio station plays peacenik songs, goddamn hippies. Most apropos: Jackson Browne’s “Lives in the Balance:”

On the radio talk shows and TV
You hear one thing again and again
How the USA stands for freedom
And we come the aid of our friends…

There’s a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interests run…

There’s a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
We can’t even say the names

A few elderly couples sit by the sea or stroll the shopping arcades in the little coastal towns. All the families have gone home now, the kids are back in school, Mom and Dad back at work. Every other house is for sale. The empire is hollowing itself out, but slowly. There’s still a long, long way to fall.

We’ll go spinning down, clutching our devices, putting smiley faces on our text messages to friends, family, co-workers… never believing, all the way down, that we could ever, ever, see ourselves grubbing in the dirt, cold, and darkness reserved for the ones we send our children to kill.

Oh, this beautiful land, this beautiful day.