GRAHAM GREENE (October 2, 1904 – April 3, 1991) England Made Me
An Englishman does something and you say, “How very English” or “Well what do you expect, he’s English.” A country, a place, a religion, a culture makes you. England makes you an Englishman.
But we can also be selective. The Duchess of Devonshire was a great lady, we say, ignoring the fact that one her sisters married the head of the British Fascists, and the other sister fell in love with Hitler. Or yet another sister, my personal favorite, ended up being a novelist (Nancy Mitford, 1904 – 1973). The England of their time, the turn of the last century, made them all, but made them differently. We make allowances. It’s complicated, we say.
Of course it’s complicated. We’re selective. A Christian leader says gay people are an abomination, they should be executed, they should all die of the Ebola virus, and we say, “Well that’s not very Christian.” A gay man is attacked by a gang of graduates of a Catholic school and is left for dead and we say, “Those kids were hardly Catholics, they were just drunk.” Alcohol made them.
I grew up in a part of the country where all the best fracking sites are; a rich seam of shale lies beneath much of what we call Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, most of Michigan. Ohio made me. They will soon be fracking beneath the Ohio River. The fracking process (EPA exempt, all patents property of Halliburton, see also Dick Cheney, war criminal, Satan’s minion) requires massive amounts of water to extract that oil from the shale, permanently rendering toxic the water in the process. The drinking water of millions of Ohioans will soon be contaminated, poisoned forever, a chemical cocktail for all eternity.
Last night my dream guide shows me a place I think I’ve been before, the way places in dreams always seem to be places you’ve been: familiar but changed, as if quickly and rather carelessly translated from another language. There is a process of translation, of course, from that dream reality to one with coordinates in space and time that I would be able to recognize. Consequently much of what I see in my dreams ends up looking like Ohio. Dante’s guide took him to Hell where everyone he met was Italian; my guide takes me to Ohio. Same thing.
So we stand along a familiar stretch of landscape with a highway in the near distance, the Ohio turnpike. You can feel and hear the Bell Curve rise and fall of the whoosh of passing big rigs. There’s almost certainly a truck stop nearby. We observe (actually we sort of float over to) the raw construction site of a new Taco Bell, (or Denny’s or Bob’s Big Boy), and my guide waves away centuries of earth the way you might wipe away a week’s dust from a bookshelf, and he shows me the elaborate archaeology revealed beneath, the massive stone gate that once greeted the traveler to this place, faintly Mayan-looking in style, if you ask me. It is, it was, the entrance to a great city of which nothing now remains except flat Ohio fields with corn stalk stubble (See also high fructose corn syrup, government subsidies, rampant obesity). The landscape that made the people who made that city that once was. All gone.
In an Ohio mine, I read once, not in a dream, they found evidence of civilization 260 million years old. “It is reported that James Parsons and his two sons exhumed a slate wall in a coal mine at Hammondville, Ohio, in 1868. It was a large smooth wall, disclosed when a great mass of coal fell away from it, and on its surface, carved in bold relief, were several lines of hieroglyphics.” (Forbidden Archeology, Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson, 1993).
We are selective in our history, of course. What we accept, what we dismiss as nonsense. What we can be held accountable for. What we say makes us do what we do, or not do.