It’s a weird time for America, isn’t it? It just feels so dismal. Two wars that feel like one fetid, ever-growing quagmire. A dollar that feels more like bad Kleenex than good money. Stranded polar bears having to figure out how to use sun screen. A pervasive media that screams at us all day like a coke-crazed banshee starring in the new reality show that’s hot, hot, HOT!! called Let’s Degrade Everyone!
It’s so depressing. These are depressing times. I’m so depressed I may not even use my spellcheck before I post this piece to my bloog.
Tomorrow, on the very Fourth of July, I am going to visit an old high school teacher of mine, Rick Hornor, whom I’ve seen three times lo’ these thirty-two years gone by. In a posting last year, I wrote this about Rick:
“In high school I had an absolutely brilliant, wildly popular English and theater teacher named Rick Hornor. It’s no exaggeration to say that by taking me more seriously than anyone had ever taken me before, Mr. Hornor saved my life. He consistently took precious time out of his 12-hour days spent teaching and directing plays to make sure that I understood that I was special, that I had talent, that I was worth infinitely more than I thought I was. It is his genius that he made a lot of kids feel that way about themselves.
“Mr. Hornor’s unstinting love and belief in me forced me to change my image of myself. The way he lived his life (he was and is a Christian — which at the time I counted against him) forced me to change my deep cynicism about people.”
Tomorrow Rick, his beautiful wife Susan, my beautiful wife Catherine, Rick’s beautiful daughter Rachel, Rachel’s husband David (whom I’ve met but once, but I feel safe asserting is pretty darn cute) and I’m guessing other guests will all gather atop the roof of Rachel and David’s condo building in downtown San Diego, where we’ll watch the fireworks out over the bay, and ooh and ahh, and in general feel teary-eyed about the fact that, whatever else might be true about it just now, America is still the greatest, strongest, most generous country in the world.
And I am sure that at some point during our visit, when he does not know that I am doing so, I will gaze for a long while at Rick, and fall into a reverie remembering how, when I was the teenager whose life and mind he was doing so much to shape, I believed in nothing so much as I did the future.
This is Rick last year, when he was teaching and establishing a theater arts program at Daystar University, a Christian college in Nairobi, Kenya.
(P.S. It is a dismal time in America, for sure. But, to my mind, any and all dismalness is utterly obliterated by the fact that America is now seriously considering electing an African-American for president. My wife’s father is black. When she was a kid, the informing story in her house was how during the Korean War, when her father, then an officer in the Air Force stationed in Washington, D.C., dressed in his uniform to go to the movies, he had to sit apart from the white audience, back in the segregated balcony. Say what you will about America, but that it can change so much, in such a short time, is all I personally need to feel very optimistic about it, indeed.)