“This one just came out of the swamp…
You can try the best you can, You can try the best you can
The best you can is good enough” Thom Yorke
Radiohead’s 2000 Kid A lyrics always managed to both cheer and stir up a sort of anxiety in my chest. In spite of not really being a dyed in the wool Radiohead superfan, I will confess to a deep approval of their obvious successes that easily transcend my well-armed pop music barrier, and reach the receptors reserved for classical artists, the super-endowed that were gifted somehow beyond the ability for many (me, that is) to perceive at least initially. VanGogh, JS Bach, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Bowie, Georgia O’Keeffe, William Carlos Williams, Frank Capra.
In 2000 I was nothing if not optimistic. I’d turned 40, but felt like 25. I was done with capitalism as a measure of self worth and also as I braved cutting my tether to the CBOE and the occupation for which I had developed some mastery. The home that was calling me was in the ground and the mountainous shores of the West where I had grown up. Thom Yorke’s desperate drumming became one of the melodic soundtracks to my new freedom. In time it was to become so close to my psyche that, like so much music I adopt, it is nearly a fingerprint or chromosome.
And yet, Yorke’s lyrics take on a darker and more desperate meaning in recent times–and not a little unpredictably. As the Orange King takes the throne in mere days (slight nod to fans of Nic Pizzolatto’s Yellow King of Carcosa in True Detective) much that we take for granted in terms of inclusivity and progressiveness lies vulnerable to reversal. Now in my 50s, am I sure that there is a sizeable contingency of fellow citizens who would prefer a separation of status by skin color and origin, and an abuse of the planet beyond repair for the sake of greed? Am I seeing that a leader has been installed who is willing to support such regressiveness, or is he merely satisfied to fan those flames for the benefit of votes? After 40+ years of progress, do I see these things as they exist, or are they merely ads for the mother of all reality TV shows? For now, I’m opting for the latter, and like all reality TV, it is gladly, easily ignored.
My street has had a long history of sharing. With black, white, Chilean, Somali, Iraqi, Korean, gay, lesbian, Vietnamese, Mexican, old and young, we’ve never had any option but to share. My contribution is overbought plants that otherwise have no future; they find their way into my neighbors’ yards, which is an interesting way to start a bond that has a way of growing over time. When the block parties and winter bonfires happen, I get to hear the various garden stories while making sure I haven’t left anyone out, or keeping an eye out for new potential gardening neighbors.
As surely as our normal winter misty days will take the frost off of this current little cold spell that has us a little irritated, I believe that my neighbors, my good neighbors and I know better than the Orange King that the fabric of America is great–it doesn’t need “making great again”–because of who we are, all of us, with our varied cultures and stripes contributing to the effort. The best that we can do is good enough. When the first English settlers began to hate and reject the Dutch who followed them, who in turn hated and rejected the Germans who followed them, and so on, each succession of the cycle that began with selfishness and hatred was overcome with acceptance, cooperation, inclusion, and love. It is only the final stage of the cycle that is lasting and has any effect on making America great which, in my opinion renders the first part of the cycle counterproductive and illogical. Find someone today, someone you don’t know. Plant something together, something that will grow. There is cause for optimism.