Thanks Brett

Utah Phillips made me cry today. Not just a little but a lot.

I don’t know this man. Before this morning I had never even heard of him. But as Amy Goodman of Democracy Now replayed the interview she’d recorded back in 2004 I wished I had known him. As he spoke into that microphone I was humbled and filled with despair that we had lost someone as amazing as he was. He died this last Friday.

Take the time to listen to at least a portion of the interview here: Utah Phillips.

[Keep in mind that the interview doesn’t start until about nine minutes into the program.]

In his gravely voice he spoke of America and the good people in it. He talked of his mentors and elders that had helped to shape him into the man he would eventually become.

He was someone who knew where he had come from and where he stood in this world, in this country. He knew his privilege and struggled with it for his entire life.

Utah said many things that will stay with me for a long time to come but it was the following paragraphs that really floored me. I mean, upon hearing this I sat down on the wooden steps of the abbey and wept:

“The long memory is the most radical idea in America. Listen you young people I'm talking to you. That long memory’s been taken away from you. You haven’t gotten it in your schools, you’re not getting it on your television, you’re not getting it anywhere. You’re being leap-frogged from one crisis to the next. You can’t remember what happened last week because you’re locked into this week’s crisis.


Turn that off. Walk away from that. Walk out your front door. Go find your Elders. Go find your people who lived that life and who know that life and know that history.”

The validation for what I have been feeling, what I have known deep in my spirit for many, many years was spoken into life as Phillips spoke these words. I not only agree with Utah that what he calls “the long memory” has been taken away from us but I know it to be true.

The term resonance suits this feeling perfectly. His words resonated into the deepest parts of me. He spoke into a place that has not been spoken into in years.

Look you read these blog entries from me from time to time, right? The ones where I go off about the government and say “crazy” things about America. Things that you disagree with, things that you think are ridiculous. The blog posts where usually no one responds, where no one knows how the hell to reply to this impassioned over the top brain washed hippie freak, right?

But I am trying to know who I am. Trying to know where I come from. Trying to keep myself sane in an utterly insane culture. Trying to know about those who have gone before me.

If we as a people allow “the long memory” of all those who have gone before us to be cut off then what do we have left?

Gore Vidal puts it like this, “We live in the United States of Amnesia. No one remembers anything before Monday morning. Everything is a blank, we have no history.”

You want to know why I am so obsessed with the stories of everyday people? Because these people keep me sane, they keep me grounded. They remind me that the world I see on television and in the news is not the true reality of the world around me.

It’s a simple as this; either we begin remembering and spending time with who we are and where we have come from or we vanish as a culture. It will only take a soft breeze to blow away the hollow people we will have become.


Blogger wilsonian said...

This long memory... in many ways it saves us from ourselves. Keeps us from believing the world revolves around us. Cultures with oral traditions (like the ancient Hebrews) have/had such a huge advantage.

I work in a local history museum. I get to witness holy moments when folks make connections to the distant past and to their own family. Can't tell you how many times I've heard people in the galleries say to each other "I never knew that about you...". But I also get to witness the devastation of amnesia: boredom. Folks untouched and unmoved by anything they witness, including the transformation of those they love.

All this to say... lol... you're no hippy freak. You're an agent of a society's redemption.

4:04 AM  
Blogger Arizona Bam said...

Potent words... important words... thanks for sharing.

It encourages me to strive to preserve some semblance of "memory" in our generation and to instill one in my children.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Corey said...

i'm glad to hear that even a few voices among the many agree that this "long memory" is worth preserving.

thanks for sharing, wilsonian and arizona bam. you make me feel a little "less alone" in this journey.

12:04 AM  
Blogger Stu Bish said...

Hey Bro,
Well given my line of work, first thing I though about was the jewish race. Don't they do something like that?

But I hear you. I find myself lamenting at times a lack of deep knowledge about my countrys growing up (as an aussie). My grandpa has 86 years under his belt, he's got more words and wisdom than anybody I know. I think I'll go hop on the phone now.


10:45 PM  

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