The first flush of green

Harry Drabik

I drove inland yesterday. In bright sun the pale early green of buds and tiny leaves tinged the hills in hues too complex and subtle to describe. I can’t really describe the sneezing sensation that kept hitting, either, as the double combo of dust and pollen added their chemical reagents to the mix. Stuffy nose and blurry vision are small prices to pay for the bargain that is spring.

Another of spring’s call cards is the sight of bulk freighters a few miles out. The expression “lit up like a Christmas tree” is sometimes used, but the holiday trees I’ve ever seen have all been upright with multicolored lights instead of a row of white with one starboard green (westbound vessel) visible for a few points. But, saying an ore boat looked like a log lit up on the water isn’t a particularly successful because nature provides so few examples of thousand foot long electric logs. Big strings of geese we have, but really long lit up logs we have none.

In any case it is an annual spectacle to view the growing flush of the season as pickups towing boats head north. There’s a sign more potent and enduring than geese because to tourist towns those trailers pulled by trucks carrying campers contain the real green of the season when registers begin to ring with the bucks of the basics; bait, bread, beer, bacon, gas, and souvenirs. The tourists are here. Campgrounds fill with well-bellied men observing largely liquid diets while the in-town set shifting between places offering casual gourmet dining with those touting fine food in a relaxed atmosphere. This means eating decent food in a mildly pretentious setting that welcomes haphazard dress. Coy snobbishness is the true American dream. We disdain nobility but want to be them; why else would be sleep on queen and king size beds?

I don’t want to sound too arrogant or haughty about it, but seeing visitors alight from their cars looking like a load of odds and ends dumped out of a hamper is neither uplifting nor pretty. In time you begin to detect subtle differences in styles. The farm casual of Iowa is different from the Great Plains style of Missouri. I see people go to eat is restaurants wearing things they should only wear inside a bathroom behind a locked door. And quite frankly a great many sit down to eat a meal they obviously do not need. Bulking up makes very good sense for sumo wrestling or if famine looms. Anyway, malnutrition and ill nutrition have different results. Trying to ward off the one seems to result in the other. But if famine did strike we have lots and lots of folks who’d take months and months of starvation before succumbing. How’s that for great planning?

If a lucky visitor wants a finger on the pulse of life up here along the shore they should pick up a copy of the recent paper with the account of a public employee being reappointed and the forty eight hours later being terminated. How’s that for being cool and innovative? This is the sort of innovation that inspires attorneys to sign up their unborn children for the finest prep schools and universities. We know how to stir the political pot with the best of them. But truth be told I prefer the old fashioned pot boiling scandal involving sex because they are so much easier to understand. Take an elected official, a secretary, a cheerleader, and a Vo. Tech student on a junket to Epcot Center and you’ve got some fine quality public entertainment that can go on in installments for years. We never tire of the slow drip process of details leaking out, and if you mix the sexes of the junketeers it’s even more fun. In fact, I think use of the term junket is all but a guilty verdict itself. Aren’t junket, bribe, and philanderer all pretty much part of the same bundle? Junket is pure and simple a form of transgression. If you junket you will sin. It sounds dirty even before you do a single thing.

While in the green area I felt several flushes of the sickly color listening to various accounts and views of the recent cartoon attack in Texas. Texas is a far piece from the Minnesota North Shore but to me the issue is close to home. When I see or hear “I believe in free speech, but” I am not comforted by any notion that free speech needs compromise. Free speech does not include a “but” as part of the deal. What excuse can any reasonable person make for violence over a drawing? Remember Jesse Helms and the Serrano piece called Piss Christ? There was protest and that is fine but no violence or threat of violence should ever become grounds for imposing censorship of ideas, viewpoints, or the laying down of facts. There are many groups in the US that strongly object to quite a range of things. No matter how strong their beliefs they are under an obligation to stay within the law. Westboro Baptist has protested (some say offensively) at thousands of events but they do not come armed with an intent to do harm. Diminishing free speech because others threaten to overreact is the same as much the same of accusing the owner of a nice car of inciting its theft. Even if the car was a convertible and they keys were left in taking the car would still be theft. It is no less a theft if it’s easy.

I’d ask that we keep in mind the impossibility of reasonable censorship. Ideas and expression are too elusive and changing to cooperate. That’s why totalitarian or censorship societies get more tightly authoritarian. I’ll give an example using art and language.
Put down three identical smiley faces in a row.
Under them put the following. “Why said nonviolence takes a long time?” “Who said love one another?” “Who said no images allowed?”
Make a law to cover that.