An American 4th @ Morgan’s Wonderland

Authentic moments of American pride are scarce in our contentious political environment of late, but I experienced such an occasion this morning. Today our family celebrated the Fourth of July at Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas, an inclusive amusement park that is especially accommodating to those with special needs.

While waiting for the water park to open we attended the ceremony honoring first responders and military personnel, current and veterans. We were treated with a presentation of the national anthem you won’t hear at your typical America sporting event. Two students from The Academy at Morgan’s Wonderland school for students with special needs, Leah and Gabriel, along with their teacher, Sierra, humbly sang the words “Oh say can you see”.  Afterward, Leah sang a passionate cover of  Firework that would have brought tears to Katy Perry’s eyes.

13_colonies_American_FlagWhat moved me was watching two individuals, who, for me, represent the vast population of special needs Americans, honor another group of Americans, and I mean specifically veterans here, that share a common reality; neither of these groups receive the fully funded care that they need and deserve.  And yet, they faithfully stood and honored the very country that deprives them.  It was a dose of humility that we all need to swallow. Surely, we can do better by these and others. We must!

Our nation’s leaders sit a very power tables. While they have laid out fear and despair on the table-cloth, there are still those, like Leah and Gabriel, who remind us of an America that can still offer hope to its most fragile citizens and to those beyond her borders.  So, on this day as we remember the words of our founding declaration that ALL have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, let us be about the business of improving life for, not just some, but ALL Americans.

Thanks, Morgan’s Wonderland. We’ll be back.







America: Land of Denial

In these relevant and poignant words Robert Bly lifts up literature, art, and poetry as our best cultural weapons against the toxic denial that’s eating at the soul of our nation.  Sadly, the humanities have taken a beating within our nation’s colleges and universities. This only magnifies the need for a sense of urgency among our most creative individual and thinkers.

“It’s possible that the United States has achieved the first consistent culture of denial in the modern world. Denial can be the considered as an extension- into all levels of society – of the näive person’s inability to face the harsh facts of life…

We have establish with awesome verve, the animal denial as the guiding beast of the nation’s life. The inner city collapses, and we build bad housing projects rather than face the bad education, lack of jobs, and persistent anger at black people. When the homeless increase, we build dangerous shelters rather than face the continuing decline in actual wages…

Earnest Becker says that denial begins with the refusal to admit that we will die…Death is intolerable. To eat, shit, and rot is unthinkable for those of us brought up with our own bedrooms. We want special treatment, eternal life on other planets, toilets that will take away our shit and its smell…This mechanism of denial, once established by the longing not to see death. . .becomes rooted in our whole way of being. We specialize in not seeing what the deficit and rapid use of oil will do to our grandchildren…

…In this situation, art and literature are more important than ever before. Essays, poetry, fiction, still relatively cheap to print, are the best hope in making headway against denial. The corporate deniers own television. We can forget about that. There’s no hope in commercial television at all. The schools teach denial by not teaching, and the students’ language is so poor that they can’t do anything but deny. School boards forbid teachers in high school to teach conflict, questioning authority, picking apart arguments, mockery of news, and corporate lies.

…Great art and literature are the only models we have left to help us stop lying. The greater the art the less the denial. We don’t need avant-garde art now, but great art…Eating bitter means to turn and face life. If we deny our animalness, our shit, and death, if we refuse to see the cruelties and abuse by [corporate] executives, presidents, and sexual abusers, it means we have turned our backs on life. If we turn our backs on life don’t be surprised if we kill the poor, the homeless, ourselves, and the earth. Getting rid of denial, then means getting used to the flavor of “bitter,” getting used to having that flavor of bitter truth in the mouth.”  

From The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, by Robert Bly.


Questionnaire: Wendel Berry

“Questionnaire” by Wendell Berry

1. How much poison are you willing to eat for the success of the free market and global trade? Please name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much evil are you willing to do? Fill in the following blanks with the names of your favorite evils and acts of hatred.

3. What sacrifices are you prepared to make for culture and civilization? Please list the monuments, shrines, and works of art you would most willingly destroy.

4. In the name of patriotism and the flag, how much of our beloved land are you willing to desecrate? List in the following spaces the mountains, rivers, towns, and farms you could most readily do without.

5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes, the energy sources, the kinds of security, for which you would kill a child. Name, please, the children whom you would be willing to kill.

“Let Us Pledge”



Let us pledge allegiance to the flag
and to the national sacrifice areas
for which it stands, garbage dumps
and empty holes, sold out for a higher
spire on the rich church, the safety
of voyagers in golf carts, the better mood
of the stock market. Let us feast
today, though tomorrow we starve. Let us
gorge upon the body of the Lord, consuming
the earth for our greater joy in Heaven,
that fair Vactionland. Let us wander forever
in the labyrinths of our self-esteem.
Let us evolve forever toward the higher
consciousness of the machine.
The spool of our engine-driven fate
unwinds, our history now outspeeding
thought, and the heart is a beatable tool.

–Wendell Berry, from “Entries,” 1994