Friday, November 23, 2007

Miasmic Vapors Drifting Across America

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Black poet Langston Hughes penned those words about the frustrations of black folks in America who never saw the opportunity to fully participate in the economic and civil benefits of this nation. Interestingly, he died one year before the famous, 'I Have a Dream' speech of Martin Luther King.

Miasma is considered to be a poisonous vapor or mist that is filled with particles from decomposed matter (miasmata) that could cause illnesses and is identifiable by its nasty, foul smell in the air. Before the age of the microscope, miasmic vapors were thought to cause wide-spread diseases like The Plague.

I first heard the term while watching a documentary on the Great Black Swamp of Northwest Ohio. Early pioneers trying to plow through the swamp were often struck down with malaria which they called 'ague.' They thought the swamp gases hovering just above the standing water in the mist were the so-called miasmic vapors, the cause of death. It was the mosquitoes of course, hanging in the vapors.

I wonder if, today, here in America, another miasmic layer has arisen, hanging low over the horizon across the land? Not as beautiful as the photo above, and mostly invisible, this layer of foul air is not necessarily the product of industry, the automobile, or swampland.

Rather it is the result of the war. That pre-emptive invasion, so heralded, so flag-driven, early in 2003, which now has turned into such a quagmire, a rotting cesspool of death and agony for the Iraqi people and our own U.S. troops.

Although many Americans confess that they pay little attention to this war [because less than 1% have any personal stake in it] surely they cannot completely dismiss that scene being played out 24/7 on the sands of the Arabian Desert. Few can escape the news snippets of another bombing, another IED, more lost Americans and dozens more Iraqis. It eats at our subconscious minds. It has to otherwise we would not be humans.

And so we eat and shop. And play mindless games. We sit before the tube hour upon hour soaking up the nonsense presented to us. As we watch, we eat and become more and more obese. More and more tuned out of reality. A drawing inward. Electronic devices of all sorts placate us, remove us from the real world out there.

Meanwhile the dollar shrinks not only overseas, but here as well. Debt leads to foreclosures and to bankruptcy. We live on the edge, pay check to paycheck. The ballooning of Cashland sites attests to our financial fragility. The lack of public demonstation against the war indicates our collective 'elephant in the living room' syndrome.

Has our 'dream' been totally deferred or is there a glimmer of hope yet remaining?

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