Eight score and eleven years ago today, Henry David Thoreau moved into the home he built for himself in the months before by Walden Pond in Massachusetts. The United States turned 69 that day, starting from the date of the Declaration of Independence.
The book he wrote about his two-year stay was formative for me, though by now I’ve forgotten a lot of it, as I can tell from skimming its beginning.
America hasn’t realized the vision it could have had it learned more from his experience. What he satirized seems more plentiful than ever. We’ve outlawed slavery and a lot of Jim Crow, but could he have imagined Edward Snowden’s struggle or overweight and obesity rates at seventy percent and rising? This morning I read a review of Bush, a biography that described a more recent representative of our nation than Thoreau:
The first sentence of his book: “Rarely in the history of the United States has the nation been so ill-served as during the presidency of George W. Bush.”
The last: “Whether George W. Bush was the worst president in American history will be long debated, but his decision to invade Iraq is easily the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president.”
I still see Thoreau’s Walden and Civil Disobedience as the most important statements of the values I consider American, though Diogenes’, “I am a citizen of the world,” reminds me not to think so provincially.
In honor of the anniversary of Thoreau’s event and the nation, I’ll get rid of five things I should have already. I’ll also enjoy some of the mint I’ve grown in my window that my sister gave me from her plants. I’ll enjoy watering it and my flourishing tomato plant.
I’ll reread more of Walden before going to sleep and include a link to the too-many-to-copy quotes from the book that Wikiquote has. I recommend reading them, and then the book.