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"Live freer of delusion or ultimately destroy yourself …"

Until November 2002, I'd never thought that the United States comprised a homeland. I understood that right wing forces had pulled the concept of Fatherland out of someone's butt following Germany's WWI defeat and that Russians had always spoken fondly of their Motherland, but I'd thought that the US would never come to a point of unallied desperation that would drive us to flee into the arms of an imaginary parent. I opposed the idea of mustering a Homeland Security operation, recognizing the historical dangers accompanying a national -land designation. Americans were by design less homogenous and more independent, favoring homesteads over homelands. Each subgroup thought of someplace else as their -land, and this place as a melting pot of ex-landers. After all, our founders had engineered a messy separation from our Mother Country, and not, I thought and still believe, to become what we'd once reviled.

It came to pass anyway.
I still shudder every time I queue up for my escorted excursion through the TSA's clown car security queue which invariably leaves me feeling much less secure. I admit to deliberately forgetting the protocol, leaving some incriminating evidence in a pocket or zipped up in my knapsack. I'm sometimes found out, caught smuggling a surreptitious tube of tooth paste or can of shaving creme, but not always; not hardly every time. I feign remorse and submit to the agent's mother-like caring, latex-gloved pat down before strolling on my way. Any place sporting a Homeland must support its presence with such rituals, I figure. I refuse to take them too seriously, though I stumble away with a fresh appreciation of how eroded our self-image has become.

My forebears searched for The Eden At The End Of The Oregon Trail, an advertising slogan intended to convince them of a possibility that did not actually exist. It instilled in them a form of optimism perhaps necessary to motivate them to move so perilously far from what they'd previously known as home. Of course the destination needed to seem more than just the same, but something far better than they were leaving behind. Many would in fact travel back to medieval times upon arrival, fashioning mud wattle dwellings and scratching out an existence devoid of most every modern amenity. Many didn't make it further than desperate disappointment. The homestead became their universe, isolated, under unending threat, all they had left in the world. Without optimism, without a potentially cruel optimism, few would have agreed to relocate. Few could have survived. The promise of free land helped fuel that optimism.

Homeland seems like one cruelly optimistic meme, one which could easily encourage an ambitious son to join an army to defend a placeless place. As a humble member of a bloodline still here due to my forebears (and my own) fleeing opposition to joining any such self-defensive force, I discourage others from chasing that sort of optimism. Sure, the uniform looks and feels great, but the payback's a real bitch. Followed to its logical conclusion, the Homeland wins or loses, but the sons surely disappear. The Homeland wasn't gonna disappear because it never existed. Homeland seems a trance state, more easily induced than inhabited, a place of dreams eternally not yet realized, a fundamental falsehood. I'm a native born American. I have no Homeland, just the shadows of one cast by a form of desperation-fueled optimism determined to enslave me and mine. Live freer of delusion or ultimately destroy yourself, I say.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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