Someone once told me that seeing the River Thames from the Promenade in London elevated his position in life, as if for that moment he was able to stand in the shoes of the giants of history. I didn’t agree, not then, not now.
I grew up on the Rainy River. That river flowed through every single day of my childhood and I knew the water and its habits, without really thinking about it. It was an ever-present force and I watched how the river engaged with the changing seasons and how it carried the burden of the waste from the paper mill upstream. I claimed it as my river, but it didn’t belong to me, doesn’t belong to anyone, but we were inexplicably linked. I knew, depending on what was going on upstream, the river could rise in a matter of hours and bury the fence that held our cattle back. On one occasion, the river rose so quickly and so dramatically that our horses were trapped on a shrinking piece of pasture. When they tried to swim back to the barn they got tangled in the barbed wire and it was a messy outcome.
I recently watched the documentary film Operation Varsity Blues, the Admissions Scandal, a re-enactment of the details of celebrity parents cheating and buying their children’s admission into elite U.S. colleges, the “elite” classification artificial and meaningless. 25 million exchanged hands between 2011 and 2018, monies that were designated as charitable donations to a bogus charity, reducing the tax burden of those same celebrities. They cheated other students out of academic possibilities and cheated the government by illegally lowering their tax responsibility. Countless hours were spent by law enforcement on surveillance and phone taps, a considerable cost resulting in a few short prison sentences being handed out. We were outraged for a period of time, and then it was business as usual. The universities were not implicated and, strangely enough, were allowed to hang on to the unlawful donations made to them. These celebrities we so willingly hold in high regard because of some unreal notion, were able to manipulate the system for no other reason than because of their sense of entitlement, that they are better than the average person, able to avoid the queue all together and buy their way in, no matter the circumstances, and we seem quietly willing to accept this. I should never watch such things as it tends to beat the hell out of my opinion of society, and it takes me some time to right my ship.
Martha Stewart once credited her success to her own self-reliance; not one single person helped her, she claimed. Hogwash. That’s not possible nor is it the least bit admirable. We all rely on each other. All living things on this planet are inter-dependent upon one another. Every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you, wrote Walt Whitman in 1892 in Song of Myself, saying all our healthy vital cells, those that replicate, belong as equally to you as they do to me, without advantage, without difference no matter the other details of us, our lives interconnected. My blood type is O negative, which comes with a certain responsibility, to share it whenever I am able. I am the universal donor as blood types go. That created some risk when I was busy giving birth to my O positive daughters, but modern medicine has solved that particular life ending issue. My blood isn’t better than another’s in any other way aside of its benign chemistry and what I like to think of as its friendly nature.
I think again of the honeybee, and its matriarchal society, where all play an essential role in maintaining and ensuring hive health. All are equal without advantage. I wish humanity would play by the same rules. It’s like the rivers. Rainy River has no less glorious place in history than the Thames, nor the people who relied on these rivers, the water no less valuable. I’m not sure I will ever understand where the notion of being better than the person standing next to us came from and continues to have legs, even these days when we boast of greater awareness. We claim to have advanced. Have we?