Elegy for American Exceptionalism

By: Bill Whaley
3 December, 2020

Practice “Saying Goodbye”

The American government has been exposed, currently, as a socio-cultural feckless giant when it comes to health, safety, and the public welfare. The self-inflicted death toll of the pandemic accelerates. Statewide, we’re usually neck and neck when it comes to the bottom in terms of education and child health so it comes as no surprise, as a reader points out, that Nevada (29%) and New Mexico (27%) are vying for first place in the race for first place at the bottom of the barrel in the competition for the highest rates of Covid hospitalization.

Last spring I was too smug by half when I suggested a nineteen year old’s decision to drop out of college and light out for the territory was fortuitous. After all, my friends and I in the Taos Valley live downwind from LANL’s cancerous breezes and downstream from Moly’s polluted run-off. Now comes Covid. (Is it any worse than driving drunk the way we used to do?)

As I drift toward the Last Encounter, I have little in the way of wisdom to recommend. I, personally am comforted by the great Montaigne’s fascinating essay: “That to philosophize is to learn how to die.” If you follow the Ancient Greeks and a few Romans, you can join in the daily cycle of spiritual death and rebirth and enjoin yourself to contemplate life’s end, an end which gives purpose to living well (Carpe Diem) or meaningful thoughts in the present moment. (We each have out ways of dealing with the current chaos and tragic or comic ends presented.)

While El Viro and his unmasked followers engage in “magical thinking,” claiming fraud and the belief that “we was robbed,” so the Biden Basement Bandidos have emerged and claim they shall pursue “Building Back Better.” But who will have the bigger inauguration crowd? Huh?

Since we may or may not be around for the new year or the inauguration or when and if the vaccine arrives, and, since only this morning the nationwide EMS services have announced they may be shutting down, hither and yon, like hospitals, as essential health personnel die, and while one political party has reconstituted itself in the form of a circular firing squad, one must ask if there’s any hope since “The Devil Went Down to Georgia?” Maybe that fiddle player, the best that ever was, has turned into vote-getter Stacy Abrams.

Covid permitting, I’m happy to offer a writing course this winter-spring on the do-it-yourself “Living Eulogy.” Consider “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” an elegiac salute to Santa’S last ride. Contrary to Leonard Cohen, “That is the way to say Goodbye.”

For example: “Don’t Cry for Me, America,” I’m still a living Taoseno, who had a damn good time, more laughter than tears. When I was a kid at my folks’ Trout Creek Horse Stables, operated by Art Davenport, at South Lake Tahoe, I remember singing (to my horse) Gene Autry’s version of a tune that played endlessly on the juke box: “Vaya con Dios, my Darling, May God be with you my love.”