Oh somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout:
but there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.
The last stanza of the famous “Casey at the Bat” poem is fitting for me right now, as an embodiment of how I feel about America and Americans. Maybe somewhere there is levity, but for me, recent events and trends in our country have sent me into a funk.
The defeat of a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection is just another nail in the coffin of our democracy. Yurtle the Turtle disses the need for an investigation as he claims “no new facts will be uncovered”, though at the time, he was scared shitless like the other senators scurrying for safety when the insurrection occurred. Then he forget that he sold his soul to the devil and returned to being the spineless creature that he is.
I’m sick of the lies, the heated exchange of anti-vaxxers and unhinged Q Anon followers. I’m sick of the steady stream of state legislatures undermining our democracy by restricting the right to vote. Something is very, very wrong, and my being disheartened is a natural reaction. But that’s not all.
I’m sick of seeing empty plastic bottles and plastic straws, soda and beer cans and empty nips on the side of the road, accumulating again just weeks after being cleaned up into garbage bags on Earth Day. It’s been over fifty years people since the first Earth Day! Don’t you get it? Don’t you understand it’s not acceptable to trash the Earth? Don’t you understand it’s not acceptable to trash the Earth? Some days I feel like I’m becoming a curmudgeon like “60 Minutes” commentator Andy Rooney (on his bad days).
I’m sick and tired and saddened to learn that another dozen mass shootings occurred in just the last weekend, and innocent little children were killed again and again and again …. by the senseless shooting.
I’m sick of hearing how Americans couldn’t care less; as long as they have theirs, who cares. Most people only think of themselves. America was built as a racist country and many people don’t believe Black Lives Matter. I suggest you watch Spike Lee’s “13TH” and then you’ll learn of how the white man has enslaved and denied blacks their rightful place in society for decades and decades before – and after – the Civil War. I’m sick of the fact that Americans are killing themselves with food and drink and other substances. Four out of 10 Americans have diabetes or are obese and food companies hire chemists to create foods that addict people.
I’m tired of America. And Americans. I want to get away from the news that describes and defines our lives. I’m sickened by the fact that the freedoms we supposedly hold true are being trashed as well. I’m sick of the predictions of “experts” and the opinions of editorial boards. I’m sick of tweets and the twits who write them.
Speaking of tweets, when I want to get away from it all, I turn to nature and go cycling alone or with friends. My thirty five year old 10 speed Bridgestone bike works just fine. I cycle away for an hour or two, look at the sparkling greenery, stone walls and blue sky and turn my attention and to listen to the birds.
So many different kinds of birds merrily fly around the bike path. According to scientists birds are considered intelligent beings, rivaling some primates and humans too. Whomever came up with the idea of calling people “bird brains” if not terribly bright didn’t know what he/she was talking about. (One shouldn’t be surprised, really). Crows, ravens and parrots are considered the most intelligent birds. Crows can recognize human faces and “convey to other birds whether a person is dangerous”. Parrots can imitate sounds, repeat words and make sentences; they have demonstrated talents that require innate intelligence and aptitude.
According to David Allen Sisley, author of “What It’s Like to be a Bird” and Jennifer Ackerman’s “The Genius of Birds”, birds are pretty autonomous, socially astute intelligent creatures. Birds bob their heads when they walk to stabilize their vision; others can sense magnetic fields to aid long distance navigation. Some birds dance. Others sing and talk amongst themselves. (I wonder if they can sense that we humans are not particularly smart). Others can mimic (human) baby sounds and others make sounds to help attract a mate. Some birds have demonstrated the ability to solve three dimensional puzzles! Plenty of YouTube videos show how some birds like those known as keas play and act as jokesters.
Spending time in nature and getting more familiar with birds I now understand how and why some people make it their life’s business to study animal behavior and animal science. Not only is spending time with birds and nature a nice respite away from the insanity and cruelty of humans hurting and maiming and killing each other, but learning about natural history and the biodiversity all around us makes for a satisfying pursuit. It makes me wonder what it means to be intelligent because right now humans don’t seem to be terribly intelligent.