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My Thoughts After Being Cut Down by a Tree

by Garrison Keillor

Posted: November 3, 2022

Everyone has disappointments and worries about the future and sometimes a person can imagine the country is about to crack at the seams…



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A beautiful October of golden days and fabulous autumn colors and behind this scrim our beloved country appears to be moving toward white nationalism and putting our trust in dominant males who speak in short sentences rather than the confused and conflicted Democrats. Republicans have scored marvelously in depicting the opposition as weak on crime, flaccid on the economy, a radical elite who would imprison parents who do not affirm the gender choices of their children. An Orwellian vision of children sent to state-run indoctrination camps as the first step in a Cultural Revolution that will replace Christianity with wokeness.

I don’t care about Orwell. I had a good weekend. I went walking around Central Park and the sun was in my eyes and I banged my head on a low branch and crashed to the ground and within four seconds five people stopped to make sure I was okay, which, thanks to them, I was. I went to church Sunday and we sang “This Little Light of Mine” to a Latin rhythm and though we’re Episcopalian we got very happy and clapped along. I came home and got engrossed in reading Emerson, a writer I never liked before, who wrote, “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year and this time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”

Nothing sells so well as anger and resentment. Anger moved people to burn other people at the stake, whereas hope is the stuff of Get Well Soon cards that we pitch in the trash. Hope is a cup of chamomile tea; resentment is a double bourbon. Everyone has disappointments and worries about the future and sometimes a person can imagine the country is about to crack at the seams, and up stands a conservative who says the liberal elite has opened the Mexican border for hordes of South Americans to flood the country, go on welfare and breed children who’ll be U.S. citizens and in twenty years Congress will conduct its business in Spanish with English subtitles. So you vote for him because Democrats only talk about the complexity of things, which makes your eyes glaze over, whereas he accuses them of drinking the blood of small children, which naturally attracts attention.

The real threat to parents is the internet, which offers a vast array of temptation and turpitude undreamed of back in my childhood. It troubles me to see eight-year-olds running around with cellphones and teens sitting glued to screens. I wish they could have a childhood like mine, but that was then and this is now. You can burn books; you can’t burn radio waves.

If America wants a Congress who’ll impeach Mr. Biden and replace him with a presidentissimo who declares martial law, then we’ll just have to make do as best we can. I believe I will head for rural Minnesota, somewhere near Freeport or Melrose, and buy an old farmhouse surrounded by woods and move in with all my books and LPs and a stereo, leaving my laptop behind, and live as I did fifty years ago, reading Chekhov and Emerson and I.B. Singer, listening to Mozart and Fauré and old Broadway musicals. If I lived in New York, I’d be aware of the government every day, but out in the sticks I’d be free to be ignorant.

I could move to Canada but the national anthem is unsingable, the bacon is round, not in strips, they have five political parties and two languages, and there is no clear northern border, the country simply disappears under the Arctic ice cap. No, I’ll take Midwestern mannerliness and amiability. I’m tired of reading about QAnon and Machiavellian conspiracies. Let the guys with the tattoos and AR-15s and face paint take over for a while and wage government by graffiti. The pandemic gave us a good education in the beauty of isolation. They say you can’t live in the past — well, I beg to disagree. There’s a reason the classics endure: they’re good. Emerson speaks to me still. He said, “This new day is too dear to waste it on the yesterdays.” He was a great American enthusiast. “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” If America wants government by resentment, then let’s try that for a while. Okay? Call me when the credits roll.

Garrison Keillor © 11.02.22



America's story teller, known for his heartland wit and wisdom, and for many years as the voice of Prairie Home Companion on NPR.


Posted: November 3, 2022

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