“They have never known hunger or want, the people of this country. It has been two generations since they knew anything close to it, and even then it was like a voice in a distant room. They think they have known sadness, but their sadness is that of a child who has spilled his ice cream on the grass at a birthday party. There is no…how is the English?…attenuation in them. They spill each other’s blood with great vigor.”
My first thoughts last year when I heard the government was shutting everything down due to Covid-19, was, “But I we have plans to go to Disneyland again next week, dammit!”
When schools shut down, I scoffed. I have no kids school age kids, and even if I did, I’m a stay-at-home mom. Kids at home means nothing to me. It only meant that my school employed friends didn’t have to work but still got paid.
When entertainment venues closed, I began to get worried. Living in Southern California, most of my friends work at various entertainment jobs. They were out of work for some time, and those jobs (since they aren’t government funded) didn’t keep paying.
And then the shelves at the grocery store became sparse, but there was food available, just not the food I went there looking for. My choices were somewhat limited and it bothered me.
That quote from ‘Salem’s Lot, when Barlow meets Corey on the road, reminded me of this.
Here we are, now three generations removed from the last World War. And he’s correct. Even then it was “like a voice in a distant room.” While we sent people into battle and our supplies at home began to be scarce and rationed, the actual fighting was in other countries. Our homes were not being bombed, our cities we not being invaded. We were not being rounded up and put on trains.
But I don’t think we, as a nation, are any different than any other. We are simply surrounded by different circumstances. Our young and resource rich nation, like few others, sits physically apart from others that might do battle with us. We have not had the experience that other nations have.
An uncertain future lies ahead of us, as it always has. What will North America look like when it has been populated and divided up for a thousand years as Western Europe has? What will it look like when it has been worked over for thousands of years as the rest of the world has? Will we divide up into smaller countries and fight amongst ourselves?
He said, “There is no attenuation in them.”
Attenuate: To make slender, fine, or small. To reduce in force, value, amount, or degree; weaken. To lessen the density of.
The United States has had nothing to attenuate it. In the grand scheme of things, as a nation, we are young and strong and virulent. Compared to the Western Old-World, we are children and children need time and experience to grow into maturity. It cannot be forced or coerced. It will happen in time.
Children raised in abundance and freedom are full of themselves for a time, but as they experience the world at their own pace, they mature naturally into generous, kind, and helpful adults. And so will Americans. Growing pains suck. We can’t sit and admonish and belittle each other, tearing each other apart at every turn, while we go through the maturation process. Like laying into a child for crying about spilled ice cream, it only makes it worse for everyone.
Choose love and patience with each other and wait on the natural process of maturing. It’ll come.
I believe this may be my new favorite Stephen King novel. Want to read more about it? Jump back to my first post, “‘Salem’s Lot: New Read” to join me!