I have embarked! I have left the comfort of my home. Companionless, only the spirit of my dog beside me riding, I went alone. Like one before me, I took to the open road.
Westward I ride into the darkness of morning, into the darkness of a nation remade. As the pundits predicted, we have entered into the American version of Great Britain’s Brexit, the vote against the European union, when England exited not just a union but also the courtesies toward those who are not of their kind as well. The bridge of open arms and friendship was torn, and now I go to our front line, where the fight is met over another bridge, an upside-down one as in Alice’s wonderland, in a dark mirror form, a conveyance a hundred feet below the Missouri River to carry the goods of a dark new world.
The same discouraging spirit surrounds us now, but here it is darker and more bitter. The frustrations of the pioneer decades lie behind it, the furies of the rugged West and the defeated South, a cramped history of an America suppressed by alienation and a robbed identity now bursting forth.
First the adolescents among us arrive, scrawling messages on bathroom walls, beating up on easy prey, insulting those who are not our kind because now they can. And fittingly our Brexit rises in the aftermath of a vote as well, the election of a president. The backlash stings and makes new headlines while the new leader, disingenuous or not, can only ceaselessly repeat, That is not it, that is not what I meant at all.
Dauntless into the maelstrom of America I ride, but this is no mission for God or for mom, as were my missions in the past. I do not have the comfort of home to protect me. I am frightened, but I go alone. Wafting behind me the horse spirits ride, my truck belly filled with a hay gulp for steeds, smelling of the first people’s pride.
I go to Cannon Ball in North Dakota, to the sacred fire of the Oceti and the seven nations of the Sioux, where the road is blocked by burned wrecks and the protectors are falling before water cannons and two-inch plastic bullets that can knock a man down.
I am one with America in my ride, and yet I am distant and as far away as I am from my family in Kentucky and Ohio, toward whom I nod as I pass by. I drive on the day when the Pilgrims gave thanks for the safety the protectors gave them in the strange new land in the past, just before they killed them all. They were a people like the Oceti, a people who welcomed the strangers to the best that they had, who were honest without laws, who had no jails or poorhouses, who were free from the religious animosities that have poisoned the rest of us, a people who had no love of money and who never fought a battle against the white man except on their own ground. As they are doing today, on their own ground.
Will the pipeline be unbroken in another 50 years? Where has the conscience of America gone? I go to walk among its broken shards.