Have you ever loved someone or something so much that when that time comes, when you can no longer take the sadness of their betrayal and the mental agitation that they bring, with the distress of the deep worry and concern that their actions demand of you, that you simply must leave and let go?
The letting go is not out of hate, but out of an even deeper love, where truth and balance and harmony exist. Knowing that a more perfect love is not only possible, but something that must be and we are moved. Love, true love, the kind we imagine in our best moments, eventually always requires a full commitment to that which is real and honest.
In real love, the masks come off, which of course is a grand part what makes love so enticing, exciting, and fun! Love of the other, in such a case requires, if it is to be of its fullest nature, requires that it needs to be coupled with that ever so important other ingredient in any mutual affection, self-respect and the kind of love “of self” that a respect of self generates.
Falling short of that kind of real, honest love we sometimes find that we must let go. Perhaps in letting go, our freedom will inspire and force the beloved and the universe itself to move in the direction of true love, at least in ourselves, if not unleashing a small but mighty force into the world. Love is infectious. We know that it must be, at least to some degree, at least to some open hearts.
Many years ago, after one of those delicious country style banquets we enjoyed so often in that little desert town where I once lived, I slipped out the back door with seven very skinny joints, an orange, and a bag of dogfood. I whistled in my two dogs, RK and Red Dog and headed off towards the Hopi reservation some three hundred or so miles to the south.
The moon was large and bright up in the late September sky. There was a small wisp of snow left over from the last storm. I knew that there would be water along the way and the orange and the seven joints would sustain me until something else came along. My first night’s sleep was under a little rock overhang, bag of dogfood as my pillow, dogs up close for warmth.
We slept well and were up in the early light of dawn. Standing on the dirt trail I was following. There were two horses, two of the standard chestnut/brown American style quarter horses. The dogs and I checked them out for a while. Both horses were friendly but one in particular seemed to really want to go along with us. I think he sensed the adventurous nature of our mission and was picking up on some freedom vibes. He followed us as we walked for a few steps and I decided that I wouldn’t chase him off but that I wouldn’t encourage him to follow either. He stopped after a bit and went on back to his partner nibbling at the short, fresh, green grass growing round about.
Walking, for me, is so often the best exercise for the thinking mind and walking across the red-rock desert of the great Southwest is particularly good for the brain, with no signs of human activity at all except the occasional jet-plane high above and the trail itself which is maintained by more cows and deer than humans. I was going to Hopiland because I just couldn’t anymore with this country, the USA that is. Out here, there is a stark difference between the country and This Country. I have always loved them both but I could take no more of This Country. I would walk to Hopiland, high up on the desolate mesa where The Hopi have lived for thousands of years, growing corn, living in peace, no matter what the USA has to say about it. I would ask the Hopi to let me join the tribe. This was not the first time that I had walked away from the USA.
Have you ever read the short story “A Man Without A Country” by Edward Everett Hale? It’s about a sailor named Philip Nolan who during a trial for treason against Aaron Burr in the year 1807, shouts out in disgust at the proceedings “I wish that I may never hear of the United States again!” The judge in the case is horrified at such an outburst and orders the man to live a life in exile at sea where he is never to hear of the United States again. I’m not sure if I remember the point that they were trying to make when they had us read the book back in school. Perhaps the intended lesson was that we need to be careful what we say in courtrooms or that we should never let our passions steal away from us our patriotism.
What I remember though was a profound sense of sorrow for the man who spoke so rightly of a thing only to be rewarded with severe punishment and pain. Punishment and pain I learned was the reward we could expect for speaking our true feelings towards injustice and corrupted power here in the good old USA.
Even so, I thought, better to live in political exile than to lose your own spirit, your own soul. I knew from the story of Philip Nolan and from my own personal experience, that it was a love for this country, a profound and true love that caused the man to cry out and caused me to turn from this nation and walk away. I would leave this country and its great abuse and disregard for life, for justice and for truth. In my heart and in my mind I have turned away many times. On this journey I would turn and walk it off, I would find some peace and a place to live there on the mesa with the Hopi.
I walked along for two days and slept three nights out under the sky. Somewhere along the way I thought that the Hopis would see the sincerity of my mission more clearly if I arrived barefoot on the Earth so, I left my boots behind and kept walking. The 7 joints though skinny as toothpicks, still managed to do their trick, the orange when I finally ate it was absolutely delicious and the dogs were as happy as dogs can be, walking along with energy to spare for chasing rabbits.
On the third day, after I had walked away about fifty miles, thinking brightly, as I do when out walking with just me, my thoughts and my steps to care for, I came to realize what I should have known all along. The days out walking alone were well worth the time and effort, but I found inside myself, after spending some time contemplating my mission, that the Hopis didn’t need me and that no matter how kind or accepting that they might be, that I was not of them and that whatever work I had before me in this world, it would be most useful to do it within my own tribe, within my own nation and among my own family and friends. On the third day I reached the first paved road that I had seen since leaving, changed my course, and started back for home. After a few hours along that road I hitched a ride and arrived back in the town that I had left behind me 3 days before.
I went where I was welcome and found myself at the doorstep of my old friend and mentor Sourdough Jim. Within minutes he had me in, sitting on his sofa with a baloney sandwich on white bread with yellow mustard and a cold tallboy Coors in hand, telling him my latest story. A baloney sandwich and Coors beer had never tasted so good or satisfied so well. I had been on a short though interesting trip, only to find myself right back at where I had started from. From the adventure I had learned some important things. Somethings I realized, you cannot escape, governments and love to name a couple.
I find myself today, as I’m sure so many others do, feeling completely betrayed and abandoned by this country. Exiled even from the ability to speak or act in any way that would make any meaningful difference in the affairs of this nation. I prefer to stand apart, to be an outcast, in exile away from this countries works, its wars and injustice, its greed and lust, than to be complicit in its crimes against humanity and against the Earth itself, but I know that in truth, I cannot. I can no more detach myself from this world than can any other element detach itself, be it earth, air, fire or water, I am here, I am part of it.
As I found myself circling back from my short trip to Hopiland, I find myself circling back on the larger journey we call life. I simply cannot take any more of this country or so it so terribly feels. I’ve worked hard in this country, from mines to the oilfields, from the forests to my backyard farms and gardens. I’ve played at being an artist and I worked at trying to inform as a journalist. I’ve raised my children and loved within my community. I have organized, marched, written letters, voted and encouraged others to do the same. But this country, it keeps slipping away, always back to its addiction to corrupted power and wanton injustice. I find that I am a man without a country.
I cannot go on with This Country any more, once again. Once again, I find that I cannot leave it. I do not support Joe Biden or Donald Trump or the Democratic or Republican Parties. I do not support the countries empire ambitions, its capitalist greed or its disregard for life. This is not because I hate this country but because I love this country. The crimes committed by this country are actually crimes committed against this country by those men and women who do not love this country but that love themselves, their power and their money.
I do not know how to stop them but to find some way to leave them behind, while at the same time, holding to the love of humanity, to the Earth and to myself, while also holding on to that greater love which true lovers seek. I must be able to love my country because in my heart it is lovable. In this I will be able to also remember to have some love for myself, love helped by having respect for myself which can only be had through an honest evaluation of myself and those things that I love. In that evaluation, I must know that I have not betrayed or abandoned myself, have not abandoned those things that are worth loving, have not abandoned the real love which is true.
I can only speak for myself, but I think that this nation is full of those who feel this way. It is only in the hearts of these exiled ones that I see any hope for this nation.