In the May issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture (consistently the most thought-provoking, best-written magazine I read), Scott P. Richert calls for America to be America again, not by voting for the baseball cap donning Don, but through a return to the cussed commitment to place of our ancestors, a commitment that was informed by the vision of what could be, provided they remain faithful to the call to cultivate families, friendships, and livelihoods–in other words, nurturing loyalty to location and to the varied richness that any spot provides, provided one is willing to remain in one spot long enough to witness the bounty. Richert writes, “Communities are resilient when there are those who are willing to remain where they are planted, and to try to build for the future on the foundations of the past, and who understand that what makes life worth living cannot be measured simply in dollars and cents.” The lure of dollars and cents, not love or wanderlust–which are far more respectable, acts as the efficient agent for many who abandon their home towns or cities for different, not necessarily greener, pastures.
Richerts continues to drive home (get it?) with the following:
Loyalty, however, is a foreign concept to many self-proclaimed conservatives today—certainly most of those who speak on behalf of conservatism on FOX News, or write articles for conservative publications damning certain presidential candidates for “betraying” core “conservative principles.” What’s more important—real people in real places, or abstract economic “principles” that justify casting off everything that has made you who you are, so that you can try to make yourself someone you never quite will be?
I do find it interesting, in a related thought–I think, that if one asks any self-proclaimed conservative about his/her thoughts on the military, one will hear nothing , especially in the South, if not an encomium to military life, despite that fact it often leads to rampant adultery, failed marriages, and rootless children, who flounder without any real sense of belonging.
Real people in real places striving to be better: this may be the underlying and anchoring tenore melody to any given issue’s duplum melody. This focus led to a stunning issue, Feb. 2016, in which the primary fallacy of white nationalism was addressed: a misdirected focus on abstraction.
Making the case for staying put, Richert goes on to say that “[w]e may wish to run, to justify leaving our responsibilities behind in order to greet the sunrise somewhere else, but we know—instinctively, intuitively—that the decision to do so cannot be made lightly without losing some essential part of our humanity.” I found this particularly convicting as I am now coming to a crossroads. My intention is work on my TEFL license so that I can start teaching overseas. Were I to start soon, I could probably finish and be ready to teach come the beginning of the new year. Though I plan to have most of my debts paid off by that point, what I have left (namely, my car note) I plan to pay by pulling out my retirement from my five years of community college teaching. Anything left over can be put toward an apartment in whatever place I find myself.
However, if I do this, I know that, excepting that I finally get on my lazy ass and write that work of heartbreaking, staggering genius that I trust still lingers within me and sell millions of copies to adoring readers in Eastern Europe, Japan, and South America, there is no coming back from such a move. I will be walking away from a stable–though not rewarding–job that might provide a modicum of financial security, provided that the economy does not collapse and that the widespread societal chaos that is slinking in the shadows chooses not make itself known in the light of day. I will be walking away from a job in which it is to my advantage not to excel or stand out in order to embrace a lifestyle that will require me to live by my wits and to hustle. If I were to come back to visit my family for any length of time, I would have to depend on them financially or find odd work. I will be leaving my parents, both of whom are in their 70s, leaving them during their most vulnerable years. I will be leaving a city that, while it is not my home city, is one that I have invested in–on and off–for the past nineteen years. Would I be leaving behind responsibilities? Would I lose an essential part of my humanity to chase a sunset in the Czech Republic?
Why stay? Though I have tried to fashion myself a localist, I have come to despise my home city. I was not born here, nor is my family originally from these parts, so I have no multi-generational tether to consider. The obese, stupid, and vulgar ugliness displayed–whether in the classroom by inveterately stupid students who cannot make subjects agree with their predicates to feral black youth who are staking larger and larger portions as their territory to dumbass rednecks in their trucks who want to run my small Honda off the road to the obscenely multiplying amount of cash-check-now-rent-to-own businesses that accentuate the city like herpes sores–makes me think that abandonment is justified. I am not married; perhaps I never will be, so I am not depriving grandparents of grandchildren, nor am I depriving grandchildren of their grandparents. I would deprive them, however, of a son with whom they can discuss the recent travails of the pets or the plotlines of their silly TV shows. Yes, I do have good friends here, but my best ones do not live in my city, and the ones I do have here are growing distant because they reside on branches that I cannot reach for lack of a wife and children to help me.
If I am going to be poor, if I am going to be lonely, why not be poor and lonely in some place other than Mississippi?