America – In Times of Madness

When I was a little boy I would often go with my family to visit my great granddaddy. As a missionary kid growing up in the ‘foreign field’, it was always a special time – coming home to America. Between visiting churches on the east coast, we would stop in Altoona, Pennsylvania and pull into that little trailer park beside the 7-11 where my great grandpa lived with my great grandma. There were chores a plenty to do, my brother and I scrubbing down the trailer with a broom and a hose, then the cars (something that my nine-year-old self was less than enthusiastic about). When we were done we would go with my great-grandpa to empty the quarters from the laundry machines in the laundromat. After we were finished we would drive up to the horseshoe curve to watch the train pass – or head out into the countryside to look for deer.


Back at home, I would sit out on the little porch of the double-wide on some metal sliding chairs eating a bowl of ice cream while my granddaddy would smoke Marlboro reds and tell stories about when he was a union baker, or when he worked at the circus. The smell of cigarette smoke still takes me back to those days. He was from a different time, my granddaddy was. Not one for displays of emotion, for expression of feelings and Spartan with his words – he demonstrated his love through discipline. Not envious, he didn’t assume that life owed him anything; and he never once talked about inequality or complained about the wealthy. Politicians were to be avoided, as was Washington because it was ‘the swamp’. Instead he looked to family. 60 years caring for my great grandma. Raising children and helping with grandchildren. Powering through the tough times – the depression and the wars, head down and shoulder to the yoke.

I don’t know if he was a Democrat or a Republican, we rarely talked politics – because politicians were not the answer. As a Pennsylvania union man, a man of the New Deal and the war on poverty and LBJ – I suspect he was the former. But I also suspect that this year he would have voted for President Trump. He would not have understood the new America very well. The “you didn’t build that” America. The “votings the best revenge” America. The America that thought about ‘deplorables’ as, well as ‘deplorable’. An America where politics has become something we do to each other, not for each other. Power, not service.

He probably would have voted for President Trump because he would have naturally realized – like so many others did this time – what Publius Decius Mus eloquently observed; “Among the many things the ‘Right’ still doesn’t understand is that the Left has concluded that this particular show need no longer go on. They don’t think they need a foil anymore and would rather dispense with the whole bother of staging these phony contests in which each side ostensibly has a shot.” The show, the contest Decius is talking about is the discussion about values and morality and liberty in a free society. He would have known that Hillary Clinton’s America would have rolled over the America that he’d known – exterminating it for good. His was a generation of propriety and family and dignity and sacrifice; he’d never have understood a country where women dress themselves up as massive vaginas to walk the streets of the nation’s capital flaunting all decency and discretion – and morality.

There’s a word we don’t use much anymore, isn’t it? The progressive left doesn’t like it – because it requires judgement. And “the belief that anything is superior to anything else inevitably results in prejudice, interpersonal strife, and inequality.” In fact the only thing that our post-modern progressives can get behind is their assertion that “The rural, red-state voters, the denizens of the exurbs–are not real Americans. They are rubes, fools, and hate-mongers.”

That America certainly needed reigned in.

People sure are in a tizzy these days, aren’t they? Silliness all around. Re-balancing things is hard; and stomping out madness naturally stresses out the insane. But there’s one thing I do think; I think that my great granddaddy would be amused by the antics of the snowflakes. I think he’d watch the news, and he’d chuckle. He probably wouldn’t say anything – that wasn’t his style; but he’d probably be thinking what we’re all thinking. These odd new Americans with their strange ideas and perplexing behaviors are not really very strong – juxtaposed against the great struggles of feeding a family in depression; of fighting a war; of buying a house in a world where money wasn’t easy to come by; of going to your union job day after day even though it was boring and you were tired and often in pain; and of raising a family during times of limited opportunity. Occasionally he might even murmur the words “grow up”.

I miss my great granddaddy. More than that, America too misses his generation’s stoic wisdom. We sure need it to fall back upon in times of madness.

About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
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7 Responses to America – In Times of Madness

  1. Calvin Dodge says:

    Minor nit – it’s”yoke”, not “yolk”. Aside from that, it’s a great post.


  2. walt walker says:

    Your grandaddy sounds like a good man, Joel. I have a similar fondness for my grandfather. He was the best man I ever met. He grew up in Eastern Europe. Some mornings he woke up to a Russian occupation of his village, and others to a German one. At one point he was put on a train bound for Russia but escaped it, ended up living in the woods for several months. The Germans caught him and put him to work building a railway line. After the Allies won, he became an MP of sorts for the camp he stayed in, where he met his wife. He always hoped to get to America. He couldn’t. Best he could do was Brazil, where he and his wife had two daughters. He lived there seven years, had a good life, but hoped one day to join the family he had in America. He got there, eventually.

    WWII defined him. It was the era he grew up in, lived through, met his wife in, had kids in, never wanted to think about or talk about again, because he’d heard enough bombs falling, seen enough death. Like millions of other Poles, he wound up in Chicago, and I can’t count the times he told me to be grateful for the United States because it was the best country on earth.

    He died a few years ago. He loved watching Wheel of Fortune, and Walker Texas Ranger. He loved his family more than life itself. He wouldn’t let us not eat, always pushed food in our face, because when he was young, he didn’t have any. He worked in construction, built buildings, was a union man.

    He would not be happy with some things about our country today. But like your grandpappy, he would probably keep it to himself. Like your grandpappy, he did not talk about politics.

    He did talk about right and wrong, though. He would often shake his head and say in his broken English, “That not right.” And I believe that if he were here now, he would look at how our leaders are behaving, listen to what they are saying and how they are fighting, and say “That not right.” He would look around at what you are calling Hillary’s America, and think it wast right either. But he would not blame it on Hillary. Nor would he vote for Trump, because he would see Trump for who Trump is.

    As for me, I don’t disagree with much of what you’ve said in this post. It was well-said and heartfelt. I feel you and I want the same things, like a lot of the rest of America, and I think we need to talk openly and honestly about these things, and with respect for different points of view. This country was founded on debate and compromise. We need to get back to that mindset.

    Liked by 1 person

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