Eject Eject Eject

CONFIDENCE

One night, I was sitting in a nightclub ‘ maybe the first or second time I’d ever done so. I was just a puppy ‘ eighteen, I think, for we could drink in those days. Anyway, it was a strange room: mostly concentric circles of dark tables arranged around a center, but the center wasn’t a dance floor ‘ that was off to the side. The middle of the room was just much better lit ‘ almost like an auto showroom.

And right there in the center, in a small pool of light, sat a woman in a white dress, all alone. Calling her ‘beautiful’ is like calling Yosemite ‘scenic.’ She was stunning. Grace Kelly beautiful. Catherine Deneuve beautiful. Plato wrote about how a chair was really just a dim shadow on the cave wall cast by the ideal of a chair. Well, this woman was the Real Deal. And there she sat, all alone, lighting up that room, maybe ten feet away from where my three buddies and I burrowed behind a dark table, nothing showing but our little red eyes darting back and forth like the terrified little weasels I thought we all were at the time.

I was about to learn a very powerful lesson. Wait, I want to rephrase that: I was about to be given a very powerful lesson. I didn’t actually learn it for another ten or fifteen years. But the next ten minutes were nothing if not an education’

As I sat there, nursing my watery Screwdriver, I watched an absolutely endless progression of guys make that walk across that little patch of open space, sidle up next to her, and start talking. They never got past the first sentence. They didn’t get shot down. They got nuked. Vaporized. One second they were there, the next there was nothing but a greasy stain on the floor where they had been.

And these guys were real smooth, too. Real Rico Suave. They had the wide lapels and the platform shoes and the qiana shirts (and may 1977 Miami burn in hell forever). These were not bumpkins like myself. These were operators.

Now most of you are old and wise enough to remember how the adolescent mind works, because the more she turned these guys down the more beautiful she became to me. It was like that old Twilight Zone shot where the corridor expands away from you as you run towards the door at the end. Remote. Unattainable. Ahhhhhhhh.

I could just barely hear her, too.

Would you like to Dance?

No, I wouldn’t. Please go away, you’re bothering me.

Sorry’

‘often followed by a mumbled what a bitch as they slinked back in shame to face their friends. I thought, she’s just here to break hearts is all. She’s not here to dance, or to have fun. She’s just here to crush people.

At that moment, I can say with confidence that I would rather have gone over the top at Gallipoli then walk across that ten foot expanse of lighted floor.

But I had a friend who was watching too, and he wasn’t getting intimidated. He was getting angry. He was, like me, young, kinda dorky, and dressed, shall we say, more conventionally than the rest of the peacocks in the room. But as my eyes were glazing over in teenage awe, his were narrowing to slits as the Endless Parade of the Doomed walked into the meat grinder.

Finally, he had had enough. How did I divine this? Well, he shot to his feet, and muttered ‘That’s enough!’ through clenched teeth. That was my clue.

He threw down his napkin, took a belt of his drink, and worked his way around our table heading straight for the fluffy wittle bunny wabbit with the Sharp. Pointy. Teeth. I remember I damn near grabbed at his legs, like a wounded Confederate begging a comrade not to advance on the withering fire coming down from Cemetery Ridge. No Jim, don’t do it! I was thinking. No one can take that hill. It’s death to try!

He walked up behind her, and so help me, he tapped her on the shoulder. I covered my face with my hand. She took a good long moment to turn around, too. She stared at him, the white wine in her hand just about the same color as her hair, and those cold blue eyes slowly looking up from his crappy shoes, past the rumpled pants to the okay shirt and finally right into Jim’s eyes. She didn’t say a word.

‘Would you like to dance?’

Instantly: ‘No, I would not like to dance. I would like for you to go away.’ She turned back around without another word and took a sip of her wine. I heard a few people chuckle behind me.

Jim started walking, but instead of coming back to the Loser’s Circle, he went around to the front of her small cocktail table. No, Jim! Nooooooo! And then he leaned forward, so he was a few inches from her face. And then he said something that burned itself so deep into my addled brain that I never forgot it, and never will. And he said it loud enough so that everyone could hear him, too. He said:

‘Listen Princess, I just got off the phone. Turns out Prince Charming’s horse just threw a shoe, so he’s gonna be a little late tonight. Now why don’t you stop showing everyone how miserable you are, put down that drink and come dance with me?’

She stared at him for a moment. And then she smiled. And then that’s exactly what she did.

The three of us left about an hour later. Jim and The Vision had strolled out together after about ten minutes on the dance floor. Nothing much to stay for after a show like that.






Next time you look at the moon, challenge yourself to think of something: there are footprints up there. Footprints, and tire tracks. Also three used cars, and one golf ball.

Why are they there? Because we decided to go to the moon, that’s why. What a typically arrogant, unilateral, American conceit! But you know what? That footprint ‘ you know the picture ‘ will still be there, unchanged, a million years from now. In ten million years, it might begin to soften a little around the edges. But in a billion years ‘ a thousand million summers from this one ‘ it will still be there, next to glistening pyramids of gold and aluminum junk decaying under the steady cosmic drizzle of micrometeorite hits.

Eventually, in about five billion years, the sun will run out of hydrogen and start burning helium. When it does, it will begin to swell, consuming Mercury, then Venus as it enters its Red Giant phase. The forests will burn to ash, the oceans boil into steam and then be blown into deep space along with the rest of the atmosphere. Life will have been long gone.

But on the moon, there will remain six scraps of colored cloth. Red and white stripes peeking out from the dull grey lunar soil; perhaps a star or two on a faded blue field as the sun reaches out to reclaim her children. Very likely they will be the last, best preserved monuments to our presence as a species on the face of the third planet now burning to a cinder below.

But eventually, they will burn too. The sun will contract to a white dwarf, the inner solar system nothing but black cinders, the outer planets shrunken and frozen corpses. Perhaps fifteen billion years from now, a time as far in the future as time goes into the past, there will be nothing here except a burnt-out and cold white dwarf.

But somewhere out there, somewhere, there will be four battered, unrecognizable hunks of aluminum and titanium and gold, spinning through deep space, their names recalling the spirit in which they were hurled into the abyss: Pioneer, and Voyager. And the day before the Universe dies, you’ll still be able to dimly make out the stripes and star-spangled square, and read the words in the ancient language, from a dead race in the far distant past, when the stars were young and alive: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

There are at least five nations on the earth that had the technical skill, not to mention the money, to do something as grand and noble ‘ as immortal — as this. Yet only one has done so. Why us? Why not them?

Confidence. That’s why.






We are a strong nation. We’d damn well better be, because we carry the genes and mythologies of the most confident individuals on the planet, people unwilling to endure repression, persecution and enslavement by taking a chance on a place unknown to them, except perhaps in their dreams. We have come from every country in the world, from the free and prosperous to the hellish and horrific. Each individual immigration, from the native Indians crossing the Bering Strait, through Plymouth Rock, Ellis Island and LAX ‘ each one an act of optimism and hope for something better.

And we are a confident nation. Indeed, the quality that is admired by friend and foe alike, more than any other, is our optimism, our sense of hope for the future. We may be condemned overseas for our many flaws, but it’s hard to argue with an optimist who is willing to roll up his sleeves. And when we, as a nation, decide to do something’it gets done. We sometimes fail. We pay the price, fix the failures, and go on.

Footsteps on the moon.

Optimism and confidence colors everything we touch, from our movies and music to our skyscrapers and Space Telescopes. How else to explain the universal appeal of The American Dream, for that dream is indeed universal: freedom, safety, prosperity ‘ and scores of other adjectives that can be summed up in that jaunty phrase, unheard of in a political document: the Pursuit of Happiness.

It is difficult for we Americans to fully grasp the effect we have on the world’s psyche, to understand the depth to which American culture has permeated the globe. We dominate the political, economic, military, scientific and cultural spheres as no nation has done before us. This influence is quite invisible to the average American, because it is simply an extension of the institutions we are familiar with at home. We think nothing of seeing McDonald’s or posters for The Matrix in Singapore, or Kiev, or Rio de Janeiro.

But imagine a landscape where, let us say, France had the same cultural impact on our shores: La Baguette restaurants on every corner, long lines around the multiplex to see Jules et Jim 2000, French troop transports idling down Interstate 10 in long convoys, French fighters flying to and from French air bases set out in the middle of former farmland, television filled with dubbed French sitcoms named Mon Dieu! and Les Amis, and everywhere on the news nothing but reports of what the French government was doing and how it was going to affect us.

Okay, stop imagining ‘ this is like huffing paint; you can feel the brain cells dying. But this is the effect we have, and there are forces at work in the world, forces besides Islamic Terrorism who would like to see nothing so much as a confident, determined United States taken down a peg. Or two. Or twenty.






These are hard times, psychologically, to be a person who loves America. Hard because we do, indeed, wish to be liked by the rest of the world. Hard because we know in our hearts that we are good people, decent people who do not leap for joy at the chance to spill the blood of our own children and spend untold treasure just to have the hateful, pornographic thrill of seeing brown people blown to bits.

Yet we are accused of exactly this, and worse. We hear of polls saying that upwards of 75% of countries like England and France see the United States as the greatest danger to the world, and it knocks the wind out of us. No, that can’t be right. Can it? Can they really believe that?

Some do. Many do.

Some of this emotion is genuine, real fear and panic brought on by our unparalleled success, and our past miscalculations and blunders. Some of it is envy, pure and simple. Some is driven by pain, the pain of lost greatness and glory. Some is projection, a sense of how tempting it might be to hold such power, from countries with histories of real empires, real governors, and real subjugation.

And some of it ‘ much of it ‘ is intentionally aimed at our decency, our sense of restraint and isolation, our desire to get back to our own happy and safe lives and turn our back on the world lost in the delusion that we long to possess it.

The protestors we have seen recently know this very well. They accuse us of being Nazis. We hear people from Berkeley and Santa Monica railing that they live in a Police State, no better than the one in Iraq. They claim we want nothing but oil, filthy lucre ‘ and ascribe to our determined action the most base motives they can devise: sheer profit. Diversion from economic woes. Racism. Paternal guilt. Bloodlust. The list goes on and on.

Like the terrorists we also face in these quietly desperate times, these people seek to attack us where we are the most vulnerable, and for the anti-American multitudes that means our confidence. They know as well as we do that if we were the cruel, bloodthirsty and vicious killers they claim us to be that they would all be dead in unmarked graves. Gandhi, after all, succeeded in freeing India because his non-violent strategy was aimed at the British ‘ another fundamentally decent and humane people. Had he tried this against Hitler or Stalin we would never have heard of him, for he would be yet another of the nameless, faceless millions taken away in the night, never to be seen again.

Knowing we are a moral people, knowing that we want above all else to do the right thing, knowing that the idea of invasion and war is a hateful and desperate last resort for us, they target their message to our conscience and confidence, little decency-seeking missiles like BUSH = HITLER, NO BLOOD FOR OIL and GIVE PEACE A CHANCE. These people know that the only thing capable of stopping a determined America is America herself. That is why our confidence is under attack in so many ways, and from so many sides.

Is it working?

It is.






There are many principled, patriotic Americans who are opposed to the Battle of Iraq. At least, I assume there are, for they are hard to pick out among some of the craven lunatics we have seen in the streets of the world these past few weeks and months.

I really shouldn’t be so hard on these people, because many of them clearly mean well. They seem unable ‘ or perhaps unwilling — to face the fact that history has passed them by. For today they are on the side of tyrants, rapists, torturers and mass murderers. Apparently, they’d rather be there than change their minds.

But there is a different class of protestor that we have seen recently, and these are not well-meaning people who only seek to avoid bloodshed. They are people like International ANSWER, supported by the Workers World Party, backed by North Korea, and these people are, to use a somewhat overused, even nostalgic phrase, nothing but lousy, stinking Commies.

You’d think I would be ashamed to use such a jingoistic, hackneyed clich’ as ‘lousy, stinking Commies.’ I am not. Here is a philosophy that has killed no less than sixty million people outright, through executions, forced starvation, Gulags and Great Leaps Forward. They have drawn us into the most filthy fights in Asia, Africa and South America, led us to sully and permanently stain our national honor fighting nasty, brutal wars in God knows how many places, and driven us to back local thugs and dictators whose only redeeming value was their promise to stop this disease from spreading.

Like Islamic Fundamentalists, they are deeply deluded people in love with a fantasy ideology that promises them revenge and the spoils of revolution, rewards that they are unwilling to work for and incapable of generating. Claiming the moral cloak of Robin Hood, these people want to rob from the rich ‘ and keep it.

Those decent Americans who are doing a patriotic duty by protesting what they believe to be an unjust war do themselves and their cause incalculable harm by marching alongside these unreconstructed liars, nitwits and frauds. They are correct when they say that not all of them are anti-American, or Marxists, or both. But perhaps they can forgive us for getting this impression, as any look at these protests will reveal.

Look at the protest signs shreiking WELLSTONE WAS ASSASSINATED! and ONLY SOCIALIST REVOLUTION CAN END IMERIALIST WAR! These people are not protesting the war in Iraq. What they are interested in is crippling the US. They know they cannot confront us directly. They have no military assets now that the Soviet arsenal is rusting back into the ground. They certainly don’t seem to have jobs, so they’re not exactly an economic force. And everywhere their political views have been put into practice, the result has been spectacular: collapse and ruin in the best of cases, and repression, torture and mass murder in the worst.

These people are political, economic and cultural failures. They are losers. But they have a secret weapon. If they cannot attack us head on, in open daylight, then perhaps they can erode, decay, and rot our moral foundations slowly, imperceptibly. And they are doing this. And it is succeeding.

If large numbers of our own people can equate The President of the United States with Adolf Hitler, if we actually believe the US is the source of all the misery in the world, if we despise ourselves and our history and expect to be praised for it, if strength and morality and sureness of purpose can be openly mocked as ridiculous anachronisms, if our institutions can be spat upon, our flag burned and our ethics slandered ‘ if all of this can happen, in public, and we simply accept it, then something is indeed very wrong with our foundation and we had better start paying attention to it right quick while we can still save the building.

I’ll tell you something. I’m glad they are marching. I’m delighted they are out in the open, on the street, waving signs like 9/11 WAS AN INSIDE JOB. Like the horrible attacks of September 11th, they have opened our eyes to a threat we have chosen to ignore for thirty years.

These people have launched a coordinated, full-frontal assault on our confidence, which is the reactor that powers all of our greatness, strength and success.

We must fight them. Our survival as a nation, as an idea of a nation, turns on this one battle. Because many of these people marching in the streets are simply shocked into silence when confronted with the evidence ‘ that we did not put Saddam Hussein into power, that liberal college kids like me had bumper stickers saying BUY IRAQI WAR BONDS supporting Saddam in his fight against the Mad Mullahs of Iran, that we do not have a design on Iraqi oil, that we will not enter Baghdad as conquerors, but rather as liberators, and that all of the Chomskyite lies and deceptions and half-truths that they try to string into a paper-Mache worldview do not hold up to fact and history.

We can argue these points until we are blue in the face. But the easiest way to convince these people is to simply have them ask an Iraqi, or a Cuban, or a Pole what it is like living in this vile pit of corruption called America. They may want to ask these questions behind safety glass, for the reaction to this kind of question from people who have known true misery and oppression is usually quite explosive, an outburst of rage and fury at the insult being leveled at them.

Because it is an insult. These people have lost their freedom, their property and their family members to real tyranny, real murderers, and real repression. They have lived in actual Police States. There is nothing rhetorical about the beatings they have endured. And to have a smug, clueless, morally blinded suburban American college student tell them that we live the same way is a mortal insult to their loss and suffering.

I used to wish that these gullible, pampered, anti-American Americans would go and live in a place like Iraq or Cuba or pre-liberation Poland — and not as visiting American celebrities to be paraded around as Dictatorial propaganda pieces, but as common, nameless citizens. But that would be cruel of me, because likely we’d never see many of these people again. So I have modified my wish. I now only want them to spend a one-on-one evening with people who have risked their lives to escape such brutality, to see the depths of emotion and anger such bland and thoughtless lies engenders in them.

So for you people still against the Liberation of Iraq, you who claim that the People Spoke during the demonstrations, I have a single question for you:

During those protest marches, where were the Iraqis? There are many tens of thousands of these people living here and abroad. Seemingly to a person, they are passionately for intervention to free their countrymen and their relatives. If your theory is correct, they would be the loudest voices calling for peace and American withdrawal.

So I ask you again: Where are the Iraqis?






A year or two after I learned about confidence that night in the bar, I found myself on the stage of the Gainesville Little Theatre. I went to the audition to baby-sit a girlfriend who wanted a part. There were not enough men auditioning, so they asked me to just come up and read opposite the women. Just read from the book.

I got the lead role, she didn’t get anything, and that little affair ended a remarkably short time later.

Anyway, there I was, in my one-and-only appearance acting on a stage, playing Tony Kirby in You Can’t Take It With You, which, coincidentally, was the first live stage play I ever saw and which is one of the great American comedies of all time.

It was an early evening in November, 1980, during my sophomore year at the University of Florida. As we were getting into costume and make-up, we were making the usual plans to head out for beers after the show, and maybe watch some of the early Presidential election returns.

Just before we went on, a woman burst into the dressing room, sobbing hysterically. I wish I were making this up.

‘Reagan’s won! He won! My God, we’re all going to die!

‘Wait, hold on, that can’t be right. The polls just closed a few minutes ago. And that’s just the east coast–.’

‘He won, I tell you! Carter conceded! Oh my God, there’s going to be a nuclear war!

Even then, even at the height ‘ sorry ‘ the depth of my liberal thinking, I thought this was laying it on pretty thick. I didn’t like Reagan, though. In fact, I couldn’t stand him. I just thought he was old, wrinkled, feeble-minded and way, way out of touch with his retro patriotism and his idiotic smiling all the time.

See, I was twenty. I had it all sussed. We were a whole new generation, baby. The laws of physics do not apply to twenty year olds, let alone the lessons of history.

I knew nothing. What I learned about life under the Soviets I learned from Sociology Professors who had grown up in the same bland comfort and freedom I had. I was an idiot. They were idiots too. But! They should have known better! That’s what we were paying them for.

Then, not long after, I met a friend who more than anyone, got me serious about writing. He was a Bulgarian poet and refugee, a man who risked his life sneaking across borders, hiding out in fields, eluding guards with orders to shoot him on sight. And this man was an intellectual, one of their best and brightest. He was a privileged victim, given access to good apartments, better shopping, even allowed access to western books and magazines. And that was their fatal mistake, you see? He knew what life was like in the west. And he risked that life ‘ the only life he had ‘ to come here.

That is where I unlearned the doubts and suspicions I had about my country, thoughts placed in my head by my own egotistical sense of rebellion against my parents and by professors with agendas of personal failure and eyes blinded by bitterness and rejection. That is where I learned, second hand, what life in real Police States was like from someone who bore the fear and anger and frustration and contempt on his face every time he talked of home; home being a laboratory of misery where even the smallest human deeds ‘ traveling, buying food ‘ were turned into thousands of little lessons in brutality and humiliation.

We fought against that philosophy. Did we win?

Well, the Soviets have gone. And as we learned not long ago, the memories of the nations freed from their shackles have not faded as fast as those of some of our so-called ‘allies.’ These recently liberated Eastern European nations respect and admire America for standing up to tyranny ‘ having the memory of tyranny fresh in your mind will do that to you.

On the other hand, those anti-American ideas, and their progenitors, have not gone away. They have prospered and multiplied in our colleges and universities, unbalanced by any effort to even the scales and let these competing ideas duke it out in the marketplace of free and vigorous debate. The tide of self-hatred, lies and slander has risen many, many times higher than I ever experienced in the early 1980s. That battle is still being fought. And we are not winning. In fact, we are in big trouble.

I have also noted that as these radical factions have gained traction in our universities, we have found our vision more and more hobbled, our ambitions more petty, and our hopes less noble and worthy of our effort. Back in the early ’60s, during the run-up to the moon landing, NASA scientists were whispering the phrase Saturn by ’70! Well, why not? Vision and confidence were the coin of the realm in those days. I remember watching 2001: A Space Odyssey when it came out in 1968, and thinking, Damn! Thirty years and that’s all we can do? A 200 man revolving space station, regular Pan Am orbital service, and a single ship to Jupiter?

As an Apollo kid caught up in the head rush of visions coming true, and the most outrageous dreams unfolding on television in living color, I actually thought 2001: A Space Odyssey was way too conservative. Now here we are, a few years after that iconic date. It’s been more than thirty years since we set foot on the moon. We have three men in a series of big boilers orbiting the earth. That’s pretty much it.

But, we do have acid-washed jeans and reality TV.

What happened to the big dreams? In his famous Moon Message, President Kennedy said, ‘We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things; not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

Because they are hard. What happened to that loud, muscular, confident voice? What happened to that vision, that ability to see at our feet something invisible to others, far beyond the horizon? Where is our faith that a nation unlike any other can do great deeds, weld and rivet together the most daring and audacious dreams, and boldly go where no man has gone before?

Who else will do these things? If we take ourselves out of the vision business, when will we see the likes of the Moon Landing again, and by whom? The Chinese in 2016? Brazilians in 2054? Who? When?

Time sweeps all things back into the onrushing past. And we as a people have a decision to make: do we go forward, write new pages, and continue to swim upstream, or do we stop and dig in to our PlayStations and tailgate parties and 215 channels and let someone else do it? Maybe no one will do it. Maybe no one is confident enough to even try, let alone succeed. Maybe the peak of human ingenuity and vision was reached on July 20th, 1969, and everything after that was the long, slow decline back into tribalism and superstition.

I, for one, refuse to believe it. I am confident that this will not happen. I know in my heart, as you do too, that our native genius is the ability to recreate and renew ourselves. These dangerous times will pass, and then, perhaps, we can afford to beat a few swords into spinning centrifuges and fuel tanks and plasma drives. Saturn by ’70 is a lost opportunity. Saturn by ’17 is not. And there are many, many other difficult, bold, audacious and magnificent things we can do when our confidence and vision are in full flower.

We can do them all. We can.






The bloom of American flags after September 11th shocked and horrified many of those who fervently wished such sentiments had gone the way of the Apollo program. We learned much on that awful day. I learned that our pride was waiting, just beneath the surface. It had been there the whole time.

Some people reading this were too young to remember what America was like in the late seventies. Moon landing? Been there, done that. We had just come off of a bitter, endless, pointless war. We had seen riots, assassinations, inflation, stagnation, and international impotence. The Office of the President had been tainted by scandal and treachery, lies and cover-ups, and frankly seemed never to recover. We were weak, we were scared, we were worried and we were timid. We were, in fact, much like I had been in that nightclub, immobilized by fear of failure. The idea that we could succeed at something great and noble had the saccharine taste of nostalgia. Our vision had left us. Our confidence was shot to pieces, lying in a rice paddy, below a Book Depository, in the kitchen of an LA hotel, and inside a DC condominium.

Then along came this man, this former lifeguard, and right off the bat, he had the brazen confidence to say something like this:

‘The Democrats say that the United States has had its days in the sun, that our nation has passed its zenith. They expect you to tell your children that the American people no longer have the will to cope with their problems, that the future will be one of sacrifice and few opportunities. My fellow citizens, I utterly reject that view.’

And it was all uphill from there.

‘Millions of individuals making their own decisions in the marketplace will always allocate resources better than any centralized government planning process.’

What does that mean? It means that a planning commission in Paris or Washington may think they know more about how to run a gas station than the man who runs the gas station.

But they don’t. And this:

‘How do you tell a communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.’

Brilliant. I honestly used to think this man was an idiot. If all I wrote in my entire life was a single line that pithy and on-target, I’d be deliriously happy. And this:

‘Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong.’

I don’t know about you, but I’m speechless.

Shelby Foote, writing in his immortal trilogy, The Civil War, describes Lincoln’s power to write and communicate as music, as in, ‘And then the Lincoln music began to sound.’

Ronald Reagan had that music. We hear in it again and again, that one pure note of confidence, the belief that what we are doing is right.

‘Putting people first has always been America’s secret weapon. It’s the way we’ve kept the spirit of our revolution alive ‘- a spirit that drives us to dream and dare, and take great risks for a greater good.’

I’ll fight for that. I’ll fight for that idea of humanity. I will, so help me God.

And for anyone who loves this nation and this ideal, what can we say about America that can compare to this image:

‘I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here’

After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”

Note to the worried: Our music sings Come here and prosper, not go out and pillage.

I was one of those pilgrims, hurtling through the darkness of my own ignorance, towards this home we share and love so deeply. It’s good to be home, at last.

Ronnie, forgive me. I’m sorry. I just had no idea at all.

And if that Lady in White is reading this: Drop me an e-mail. I’ll knock you off your feet.