HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

September 17, 2007
From the Editor

John Turner


The past week reveals that the United States has got itself into a murderous bog in Iraq and, at the moment, has neither the will nor the imagination to get out. So, lots of people have to die because we have been so weak and deluded as to have put our governmental affairs into the hands of foolish people.

Americans are said to believe in God more firmly than any other western people. It seems like a good time to change our minds. If there is a God and if he is just, we are likely to be facing a retribution nobody will enjoy.

On Saturday, I drove from Amelia Island, Florida, up to Atlanta, and was glad to observe that most of the land on Interstate 16, between Savannah and Macon remains unsettled. I would hate to see a time when all the open space of America has gone away, and I would hate even more, the social changes that would accompany such a transformation. If America is not a land of openness, what’s it going to be?

Staying in a beach community for more than a week forced on my attention the number of houses that now sell for more than a million dollars.  I suppose there are those who will applaud the development but I’m not among them. The advent of the million dollar house as common phenomena signals to me a condition emitting a less than enticing odor.

The average gasoline price I’ve found on this trip has been about $2.75. That’s still considerably cheaper than it is in Europe. There’s a part of me that doesn’t like to have to pay that much, but my rational mind tells me it’s as low as it can reasonably be, and that having it lower would be inviting environmental crimes more repellant than those we have already committed.

One feature of being away from home is to have forced on your attention that the common diet of America remains horribly unhealthy. Most of the menu items in restaurants are concoctions no one should eat often and there are relatively few offerings that constitute sensible eating. I suppose we can view the average American diet as a population control device. But it seems like we could find a better way if we put our minds to it.

I was sitting on a verandah looking out over the St. Mary’s River a few days ago with my three and a half year old grandson. I pointed out the distant shore and told him that was Georgia. And, then, I added, that he should tell his father and mother that they could see Georgia across the way.

He responded, immediately, "I can’t tell them that."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because they think they’re in Florida!"

I was happy to see that even at three and a half, the human conscience has developed, and that a little boy can be solicitous of his parents’ feelings. So, maybe there is hope after all.


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