Photo by idahoeditor, 2006, Morguefile.com
Where are we headed as a country? What is the future of our children?
Once a Christian nation, hailed as the strongest democracy in the world, the United States of America is now sliding down a mountain of lies, apathy, hedonism, and a lack of dignity for the human person. Can we hope for a resurgence of goodness and Truth? Can we change the world?
“Why, Paul? Why did you do it?” she asks as I stand before her. “Think about the successful years we’ve had.”
But I couldn’t think about the years she called successful. I was recalling the hour before, in the lunchroom of The Institute of Tolerance, filled with those, like me, labeled misfits, and no longer suitable for a progressive America.
A slant of natural sunlight had barreled through a slim window and struck me like a spear in my side, impelling me to a table top, my feet on either side of a plate of ham, olives, and cheese, all topped with whipping cream, and surrounded by desserts covered with thick frostings. At first, none of the others being re-trained noticed my ascent. They were busy indulging themselves, until I pronounced loudly,”In a silent forest, a tree planted by our fathers, fell.”
A woman with dyed, red hair lowered her chocolate frosted cupcake and tilted her chin toward me. She’d read my books and had once accepted my words; but when she refused the government’s required, deadly–and of course, merciful–injection of her beloved, ninety year-old father, she was forced into The Institute of Tolerance for retraining. “Why, Paul?” the red-haired woman asked. “Who cut down the tree?”
“The tree rotted from within,” I said, catching the attention of a few others still chewing the goodies. “At first, there was no outward sign of the tree’s decay. It appeared unusually beautiful and produced an abundance of delicious fruit, so much that the people lay in its shade, stuffing themselves. Still, there were some who knew the tree was decomposing, yet did nothing to restore it.” I intended to follow with myself as an example of one who did nothing, but a young priest at the table spoke up first.
“Yes, I knew; and I did nothing.” The priest lowered his eyes, as if remembering his ordination, his un-kept vows. He’d been urged by an elderly parishioner to confess his sins and ask forgiveness of his parish. And when he did, his public repentance landed him in The Institute of Tolerance–because confession and forgiveness denoted a higher power, and there was no higher power than pleasure.
“The people are satisfied with self-indulgence!” came the cry of a heavy-weight politician who’d led the fight to legalize any drug whatsoever, to get rid of traditional marriage between a man and a woman, and secure unlimited abortion rights–until he fell into religion, and publicly changed all his agendas. He was still crying foul over his right to free thought, when the traffickers for Tolerance dragged him into The Institute.
“They want only youth and beauty,” said an aged movie star who’d once proclaimed a War against Women, filling the screen with her taut, tucked buttocks and surgically enhanced breasts. But later, when she sagged too much to tack, she challenged the Hollywood mentality, and ended up here, chanting, “Integrity means nothing anymore!”
“Nothing,” mumbled a multi-million dollar sports hero who’d bought and sold drugs and young boys during his spare time off-court; then one day, found Jesus and admitted his errors to the world on Facebook with his post: “Today, money and fame are the new gods. Pleasure is everything. And that is wrong.” The sports hero was snatched from his computer that very night and forcibly detained in the Institute.
“Wrong!” shouted a reporter who’d recently interviewed Irene, and called her an opportunistic liar on a nightly news show.
Aware of my own culpability, I swallowed and went on, “All of us; corporate executives and government officials who turned to thievery, physicians who cheated patients, parents who abused their children, and university professors, like me, who knew long ago the tree was rotting. What did we do about it?”
The people responded in unison, the boom of their voices piercing the lunchroom. “Nothing!”
Abruptly, the double doors flew open, and in the rush of air, I felt the heat of Irene’s teen-aged, overweight bodyguard coming up behind me to poke a finger into my thigh. “Irene wants to see you. She’s told you, and she’s told you. When you gonna learn?” Then Bobbo yanked me down.
“I will speak to the people!” I called out, but already the people were distracted by a line of waiters parading toward them with tray after tray of elaborate desserts. They oohed and aahed, and paid no more attention, as Bobbo led me out. Only the red-haired woman, lifting a spoonful of artificial whipped cream to her lips, followed me with her eyes.
–Paul Dunaway in “Mary’s Mountain”