Traveling to a New America – Taos, New Mexico

Taos, New Mexico.

This week, “Traveling to a New America” stopped in Taos, New Mexico, at SOMOS - the Society of the Muse of the Southwest – where I gave a reading from one of my books, “A New Myth for America“, and held a discussion afterwards with a small group from the audience about their views about America.

This was the conversation we had:

Discussion at SOMOS in Taos, New MexicoWhat are your feelings about America at this time?


“I am the first generation of immigrants.  I came from Czechoslovakia.  My husband is native American.  I was 14 years old when the Berlin wall fell down.  I came here naive, with big dreams.  Now I’m crying, I’m disappointed.  I was thinking of maybe going to Canada or New Zealand or Australia.  I was giving up, but now I’m starting a business here, so the dream maybe continue, even with the hardship.  If you don’t do anything about yourself and crying about yourself, then nothing will happen, nothing will change.  It’s you who can make changes, and even with the troubles we have right now – I’m living here close to 20 years – I still believe it, I still have the dream.  I went back after 16 years to Prague, and I realized I’m not European anymore.  I proudly say I’m American.  When I go to Europe, I have claustrophobic feelings, and I said to myself, I’m proud to be an American.  Even if I struggle, even I’m crying sometimes, even if we have hardships, in the end, I’m American.”

What’s going to change all the divisiveness we’re experiencing in this country?


“Well, I have to say, from my point of view, I was very distressed when Trump was elected.  I’m still distressed, because he’s much worse than I could possibly imagine, but I also realize he is the shadow of this country, and don’t believe we’re going anywhere without that shadow being dealt with.”


“I think also that we’re a very consumer oriented society, and I think that it’s necessary to stop this materialistic consumerism and simplify one’s lifestyle.”


“I think that it’s easier to say what’s wrong with America than what’s right with America.  I was like you, I was completely disturbed.  In fact, I wrote a piece about Trump being our shadow and mirror.  We have that zenophobia in us where we are afraid of the ‘other’, and he just brings it out and parades it for us.  People who aren’t ashamed of that voted for him.  People who still have vestiges of it, and are ashamed of it, and want to have those vestiges removed, don’t like him at all.  It’s easy to say what’s wrong with America, because there are forces that are actively sowing division.  Education is a good anecdote to the ignorance of following a propagandized message, and Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Breitbart, and even organizations on the left who aren’t concerned with the truth, but are only concerned with winning a point in their favor are extremely detrimental to our society.  Not to mention Capitalism.”


“I agree that we’re not going anywhere without our shadow side. Something you said just went straight to my heart tonight, it was about when things are just so bad and you don’t think you can go on, that’s the turning point  Because that’s the point at which we make a choice.  Do we lie down and die, or do we turn and go in a different direction.  I think Trump and what Mother Earth is doing right now is saying: I’ve had it with you people.  I’m from Texas.  I think that all of this is going to force a change, it’s going to force people to either lie down and die or turn and go in a different direction, and the things I’ve read about the younger generation, the millennials, they’re not going to take this lying down.  They’ve been compared to the Great Generation, they’re going to turn us in a different direction.  I have two sons, one is 25 and the other is 29, and they are very, very different.  I scratch my head when I hear them talk.  The 25 year old, when I talk about grand children, he says why do you even want them, there’s not going to be a planet left by the time they’re your age.  The other son is:  By God we’re going to take this challenge on and we’re going to fix what you screwed up.

“I traveled for six weeks in Europe, and I stayed in hostels with my older son, the ‘by God we’re going to change this one’, and conversations late at night with twenty somethings and some kids, there was even one girl there sixteen years old.  It renewed my hope, my hope in the future because just talking with those young people it took my heart and lifted it so high.  I think that God, the universe, whatever you want to call a higher power, is going to use, try if we let It, Him, She, use Trump and all to bring about a good change.”


“I don’t have my head in the sand, I’m not not looking at what’s bad about this country.  I think that there’s a fatal flaw woven into this country.  We were founded on this idea of human freedom and yet we used slaves to build that, so there’s a schism already there, and I think that’s our shadow that we are looking at now.  But I see that the change, the turnaround, is already taking place.  The fact that we’re sitting here and we’re sharing these ideas, it’s already happening. Your traveling around the country and your having this type of conversation all over the country, the change is already taking place.  I loved the way you described the small shoots coming up out of the devastation, the reawakening, the rebirth of the phoenix amidst the ashes.  I see it already taking place.  And the new myth – I don’t think there is a new myth – I think we each create our new story, and that has to do with raising consciousness.  We each have to turn inward and find that new myth from within ourselves.  I think it was interesting, the quote by Maya Angelo above your head as you were reading:  “There’s no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”, and so I think that for each of us to turn into that untold story, and tell it, create it, is where the new mythology will be born.”


“This is terribly banal, but the fact that Trump made a deal with Nancy Pelosi just blew my head apart.  It’s been so long since there was anything but partisanship in this country.  It may be that someone as crazy and as loose a cannon as he is… and the hurricanes – I mean the hurricanes are doing something to our country.  There’s going to have to be cooperation if those places are going to be rebuilt.  I, too, am an immigrant, I was five when I came here, and I went back to a country that I never knew, that I had just heard stories about, and every moment I wanted to be back home.  And I’m not home here either.  I think that once you’re an immigrant, we’re the new prototype of the new global citizen, because so many of us exist that we have to claim the planet as our home rather than a country.”


“I was born and raised in the deep south and moved to Texas in my adulthood, and I just watch with great dismay events of recent months, Charlottesville being the one that got the most attention.  Tonight I remembered a quote that was part of a piece that former President Carter wrote, I guess two weeks ago.  He was speaking about the compassion that emerged along the Texas coast with hurricane Harvey, with people helping people.  He began his reflection by saying what he was seeing was reminding him of a time when he was a boy, of what neighbors really meant to each other.  He said something, like, when the waters rise, our better angels appear.  What he was saying was that when they came to your house to take you on the boat in the Houston area, they didn’t ask you where you were from originally, or what religious affiliation was important to you, they said get in the boat so that we can save you.  I don’t know how that will last, but the devastation that’s happening Florida will test that again.  Our younger son said, I hope the compassion that’s been shown to Texas will be shown to Florida.  In a two week span, two incredible storms and devastation.  If you’ve never lived through a flood, it is not easy.  We’ve got a long way to go but I hope it will pull some of us at least together.”


“I was thinking about the myth of self-sufficiency that’s been around in this country, you know, the Marlboro man, the cowboy, and I think this is really the turning point.  When you have a disaster, people have to come together, and really function as a unit, rather than as an independent entity, and I think that’s happening.  But we have to get rid of that myth, because it’s always, you’re on your own, and it’s a matter of survival and you gotta get ahead, and that’s the myth in this country.  It’s been around for a long time.”


“May I add something.  In Czechoslavakia, , they still have a social system that sends children to a higher education for free.  The taxes are going to education, not to making wars.  America doesn’t need to be a policeman of the world.  That’s my big issue right now. Why are our children sitting home and shooting themselves with heroin and snorting cocaine or drinking?  It’s because they don’t have any future, we don’t give them the goals, saying go for a future education for free, like Mr. Sanders said.  I believe education is the goal of our country.  Look at Japan, Australia, New Zealand, wherever.  If we don’t have a higher education system, that country will suffocate themselves, because only the rich can afford it, or the people you’re sending to the army to be educated.”


Traveling to a New AmericaJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books that are opening the way for a new vision of ourselves, a new dream of America, a new religion for the world.  This year and next, he is traveling to towns and cities all across America, meeting people, giving talks, holding discussions, under the banner of “Traveling to a New America“.

Follow the journey on Facebook.

To arrange talks, readings and group discussions, contact the author.

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