The only possible response to this is spelled in special characters: '#@*'
You’re Still the One
“We’re still having fun, and you’re still the one.”
While doing some-ahem-research* for this month’s Wine Club (theme: Beach Reads) I found a book, Helen Simonson’s The Summer Before the War, that plunged me deep into the bucolic English countryside immediately pre-WWI. This delightful book offers up a glimpse of a very different civilization, one where ladies wore hats and gloves, gentlemen were gentlemen, and nearly everyone had servants to handle disagreeable tasks like cleaning and cooking. Ah, for the good old days!
But as the story unfolds, the gloss on this picture develops some significant cracks. One of the main characters cannot pursue his passions-for a chosen career or for a life partner-because his social status and family forbids these choices. A young Belgian refugee, a victim of abuse by the German troops, is banned from ‘polite’ society because she is seen as tainted. And a talented young scholar is denied the chance to continue his studies because “too much education at some point may make a young person frustrated with his or her life….one no longer fits comfortably into the life to which one is born.”
The student’s parents are poor, and his father was born into a Romany Gypsy camp. So even though he has excelled at his studies, his background continues to be held against him. When his teacher puts him forward for a scholarship, the school’s Headmaster says, “Such a boy could never adequately represent our school……he would never manage in the company of boys of real learning, of real families”. And so he is denied the chance to try.
The English class system, still such a mainstay of that society, was one of the elements American patriots were rejecting when they declared their independence from Great Britain. They believed in individual merit, in giving everyone a fighting chance to succeed, in the inherent worth of each human being. And though our country is far from perfect, that concept remains true today. More than most places on earth, if you come to the United States with ambition and intelligence and a burning desire to succeed, you CAN make that happen.
The past year has been a difficult one; outside of the Civil War, I don’t think we have ever witnessed such division and animosity in our nation’s politics. As a nation, we need to find unity and common cause, and a path to discussing differences of opinion in a constructive, civil manner. But we also need to be reminded of all that we DO have. As a nation, even in the midst of considerable disunity, we have a lot to be thankful for.
For me, America is still the one. Have a safe and happy Independence Day.
* aka spending my day off lazing at the beach with a pile of books