The traditional American song Home on the Range has been sung at many a campfire, but a careful listening to the words reveal the lyricist’s sense of the fragility of such a home. Perhaps the singer, like “the Red Man pressed from this part of the West,” will also, someday, be driven away from Paradise.
The main attribute of the home on the range, apart from the play of deer and antelope, is the lack of discouraging words and a sky unobscured by clouds. Clearly the words express a connection between the land and the human spirit.
Chief Seattle of the Susquamish tribe wrote a famous letter in 1854, which begins: The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
Yet through the ages our world has been continually defined and re-defined by those who have laid claim to its lands and waters.
I don’t care how many ley lines cross it, how many energy vortices or sacred burial sites there are–a “nation” with borders is just a political construct. Nations were formed through political deals or treaties, or they were seized by rulers of other countries, or conceded, or annexed. Their boundaries are no more real than the lines in a child’s coloring book.
If a nation is said to have an integrity apart from those artificial origins and subsequent boundaries, that integrity is created by the will and spirit of the people who identify with it. Such an identification often remains with a people even if the nation’s political affiliation changes. This is an obvious truth that can be seen throughout history as well as in our modern era.
Exiled Tibetans, Cubans, Chinese, Americans, still identify with the spirit and culture of those countries. If half the United States dropped into the ocean tomorrow while a resident of that unfortunate half was vacationing far away, the resident would still feel a strong sense of belonging to that country, even to a specific area of that country, say, Northern California. (It may get even more specific, as someone from Oakland would never want to be confused with someone from San Francisco!)
Because nations engender such identification, they can hold a special power which indeed can unite their peoples even more than a “patriotic” identification based on an artificial political construct. Rather, the sense of “home” I’m speaking of is not a political identification so much as a cultural or spiritual one.
Is this distinction a mere playing with words? I suggest that a true patriot loves his/her homeland (or adopted homeland) not because it kicked ass in WWII or was colonized by King Bartholomew V in the 17th century, but because the patriot loves the food, the music, the mountains and shores, indeed the very ground upon which the country stands. (There was a time when air travelers returning home would applaud the pilot upon landing. Sadly, this quaint and meaningful gesture seems to have gone by the wayside. )
Perhaps a patriot’s love may even extend to the people of that nation, the language of that nation, the animals of that nation. It may extend, unconsciously, to the very scent of the air, be it filled with the fragrance of jasmine or of bus exhaust. But maybe this sort of patriotism is nothing more than the comfort we find in familiar things. Or if we are far away, the comfort we find in nostalgia.
Still others of us, no matter how much we enjoy our favorite parts of the planet, feel nevertheless that this planet is not our true home. We have a clear sense of living here as a result of a choice we made while existing in some other dimension–a choice perhaps made after one glass of wine too many…
Regardless of one’s level of patriotism or lack thereof, we can still consider ourselves caretakers of this planet–a planet which the majority of inhabitants seem to occupy with a blasé sense of entitlement.
If we, the peoples of planet Earth, could be better stewards of its ecosystems, we just might be able to leave the planet (double entendre intended) better than we found it. This is not to advocate the seizure of the planet’s natural resources by government, as detailed in Agenda 2030! Rather, the idea comes down to individual actions like caring for our lands and waters and living in relative harmony with the other creatures of the planet. (Lest I be thought a Boomer variation of the intolerable Greta Thunberg, I do admit that I have a can of ant spray in my cabinet and I’m not afraid to use it.)
We can be in touch with our elected officials to make it known that we object to industry polluting our air, water and soil. We can object to alleged “regulatory” agencies making financial deals with the very industries they are supposed to be regulating (hello FDA and EPA).
We can also object to the “blame it on the humans” approach to climate change, which ignores the natural, cyclic process of planetary climate shifts and seeks to demonize humanity by claiming it alone is the cause of these shifts.
Like many social problems, environmental problems are often the result of certain parties seeking financial gain by exploiting resources in an unproductive way. This will only stop when individual CEOs, agency heads and industry leaders assume PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for the policies they implement, and REFUSE to be bribed or otherwise coerced into counterproductive actions.
At the end of the day, policy changes come about through the efforts and principled actions of individual people. As such, each one of us has power to care for our little piece of planet, and to let those in charge of larger pieces know that we are watching them.
It’s the least we can do, while we’re here.