the sad shame of the undisguised

January 11th, 2011

Across this country, we are falling, falling, and there is only the sad shame of our undisguised limp.

This is an excerpt from a guest post on the blog Letters from a Small State. I wrote it on a plane last week, and after Saturday’s catastrophe, I hear it as a cry for comfort, civility and the resurrection of our society.


I am traveling across country today. Not quite across the country, but in a hopscotch route over five states in six hours with a breakneck plane change to deliver me from Los Angeles to Kansas City at the lowest price I still can’t afford. The first leg of the flight took off late, and to the indignities inflicted – sweltering slow lines, humorless scowls, foul air and bare feet – I fear the worst will yet come. The peanuts they are about to hand out won’t compensate, but I’ll take them. I’ll take them the way we take everything these days: in defeat.

This is how far we’ve fallen.

I used to know a man who flew frequently and strictly first class. This was in the days of first class. Like the man himself, his style of comportment seems now to have belonged to the lost age of American elegance.

He was highly placed in an industry that produced a reputable, durable and glamorous product: the automobile. He worked alongside icons of American ingenuity and leadership. His fine suits adorned. His silvery hair crowned. His shoes were supple and unscuffed. He appeared in all ways to have arrived at an invincible upper echelon . . . Please continue reading the story here.

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  1. This, too, is a story.

    Comment by Gemma — January 11, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

  2. Thanks again for sharing your time with me. This was a beautiful post.

    Comment by Elizabeth - Letters from a Small State — January 11, 2011 @ 10:37 pm

  3. Yes, Gemma, it is a story, but you have to read the rest of the story to see what’s beneath it.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — January 11, 2011 @ 11:05 pm

  4. Karen–I’ve been waiting for your voice this week, knowing it would arrive and sound like no other.

    At first I thought how apt airline travel is as a metaphor or a reflection . . . but it’s the thing itself. And it’s a dispiriting thing as this week has been. I’m the daughter of an airline pilot (and a stewardess) from a distant era and a once great, now gone airline. The stories, the atmosphere, the romanticism is a part of me. I remember the first time I had to pick up my boxed meal out of a cooler at the top of the jetway, the first time I saw a passenger in flipflops, when airports turned into malls and food courts.

    My father stepped off his final flight in 1989. He’s flown as a passenger some since then, but claims he will never step onto a commercial flight ever again.

    It isn’t just about the peanuts.

    Comment by Laura — January 12, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

  5. ARE a part of me.

    Things are so bad I can’t get my verb tenses right.

    Comment by Laura — January 12, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

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