I seek our first commander in chief, the wise general who understood both battle and peace. I seek George Washington as the lord of the ancestral spirits of this land. In this search I journey to the Otherworld. May my allies ward and lead me…
I begin from where I am, and pass out of the house and down the street to the corner park. I see there an opening in the bushes, a shadowed tunnel, and pass within.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, going down the passage, swiftly through the tunnel of trees until I reach Midgard within and the central axis of the Tree. I may not fare to Hel alone, so I seek across the plain for the howe of the ancestors… I stand before it and call—
“George Washington, father of our country, on Veteran’s day I call you in the name of the soldiers you led and all the soldiers who have been ordered by their Comander-in-chief into war.
From the howe of the ancestors I call you, that you may come from whatever realm of the Otherworld you now dwell. Will you hear me? Will the door open, or the veil thin?”
The side of the howe becomes transparent. Through it I can see Mt. Vernon, with the noble pillars of the house and the sloping green lawns. Trees are leafless, or growing so. A damp wind rustles falling leaves. Nearby are the endless lines of white crosses at Arlington cemetery. In this place I can see both at once, and a tall man who stands on his hill and looks down on them.
I say: “Many of us fear for our country. Will you advise us? Will you lead the others to help? As a citizen I am your spiritual descendent.Do you have any words for me?”
He continues to look at the cemetery.
“So many dead… some in youth, some in age, some well, some pointlessly, from disease or accident. Some returned to live their lives as heroes. For some, their service was the only heroic thing they ever did. Living in peace can be harder. In war, the dangers and objectives are usually clearer. Danger makes men stand together. It is in peace that they begin to fight over the spoils You who have not seen war on your own soil do not know war. You send your soldiers off to a foreign land, and do not have to live with the consequences of their actions. You are neither truly at war nor truly at peace.
“The country can only prosper when there is a balance of powers. You need opposing forces in equilibrium. The liberals can be as dangerous as the conservatives. Each man needs the basic means of life. Fight for the laws that will protect their rights to take care of themselves. A healthy society requires men to respect each other., not to impose their ideas on each other. That is what we fought for.
“You must be practical—men are motivated by self-interest as much as by idealism—too much idealism can make fanatics. You must show them how the basic principles protect them. If they seek safety, lead them gently to consider a longer term
“Gentle reason will often do more than violent protest. Persuade. Portray the situation you want, seduce with that bright image, and build into it respect and freedom. Find a direction and lead, don’t drive. Remind men of our strengths. Whatever is good, find and reinforce that Support the positive parts of the agenda and wean them away from the negative areas. You will get father by appealing to intelligent self-interest than with anger and accusations. We wrought well in the basic laws. Cite them, stand on them. But in order to win elections, your candidates must have hope and a firm direction. People will not vote for a negative. Praise what is good in the land and seek to extend it.
“I thought I could retire when I left office, but I am still here, still watching over you. I am bound to this land and this land to me. When you call I will hear.”
“What offerings would you like? How may we honor you?”
“I drank many French wines, but I have always had an affection for a good glass of beer. Or a little whisky. And for a feast, those foods I was unable to eat after my teeth went bad. A noble roast of beef, perhaps. A planter’s punch is also a fine thing on a cold night.”
I curtsey and turn, the howe grows opaque behind me. I seek the Tree, and from it the path upward, returning to the park and then to this room.