Letter to the Heartland

I grew up my first eighteen years in a small town in Indiana, and cherish my experience there – so much so that in my early fifties I spent a year at my own expense traveling all around the State, talking to people and producing a one-hour film on Indiana that was subsequently written up glowingly in 26 newspapers in different cities and towns across the State, and in response to which I received many, many letters of thanks and praise from viewers in Indiana as well as from Hoosiers who were now located in different parts of the country.

This feeling of warmth and respect on my part has always extended out to other States in this Heartland called the Midwest. I had, and still have, a deep feeling for the people who live in the small towns and on farms, away from the limelight of the big cities, attached to a simpler way of life.

But now I wonder. The memory of my boyhood is being tested and corrupted as I listen to current events, and to peoples’ voices, filled with fear and anger, and a retreat into a smaller, less generous, divisive world of the heart.

Do we really want to sink into a world of chaos, division, and hatred for one another, a reversion to dark models of the past, where power is used to silence voices, and our collective, common identity is broken in pieces?

We are facing a menace to the cherished Dream of America by a President who would pit us against each other; who embraces the most virolent racist elements in our society; who demeans everyone who threatens or challenges his own distorted, narcisistic image of himself; who aligns himself with dictators and demagogues; who trashes our country’s historic allies; who denies and refuses to take responsibility for his totally inept handling of a pandemic which has already infected six million of our citizens and caused almost two hundred thousand deaths; who is battling in court to eliminate the health care of tens of millions; who trashes women; who is trying to use the levers of government at all levels to prevent people from voting…and the list goes on.

Senate Republicans are shamelessly with him. His constant support is their unforgivable silence.

Many Evangelicals are shamelessly with him, upholders of a moral monster, making a mockery of their so-called religion, violating the eternal, fundamental principles of their religion’s founder.

Where are you at, Indiana? Where are you at, Midwest and Heartland?

Are you going to stand up for decency and the great Dream of democracy that so many in our history have valiantly struggled and laid down their lives for? Are you going to stand up for all of us, together, for a better future, united in our empathy and concern for the most unfortunate of us; united in our effort to build out a future for this country, no matter what it takes, focused on the happiness of everyone, a future which we can without a doubt create even beyond our wildest dreams if only we come together as one people?

I ask you, as a native-born in your midst. I call out to each and every one of you for a response that lends dignity to your name – Heartland.

This is Judgment Day. Your Judgment.
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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books.

Life Is Testing Your Resolve

When things look blackest, keep going!

Victory always hinges on perseverance, when everything seems lost, when dreams seem to go up in smoke, when you are too tired to take the next step.

Keep faith in yourself.  Remain true to your dreams.  Life is testing your resolve.

A dream connected to a larger dream, to the dreams of a better world, will never fail to manifest – even beyond your wildest imagination – if only you hold steady.

The past is done, and the future is but a dream; but the present, with all of your resolve, your efforts, moves forever beyond the moment.  There is nothing holding you back.  There is nothing you cannot do.  There is no dream you cannot manifest in its entirety.

A single life of passion and conviction inevitably moves the universe.|

Dream big.
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James HilgendorfJames Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books.

To arrange online speaking engagements, contact the author.

Become the Dream

We tend to think about ourselves in certain circumscribed terms.

We are this, we are that.  We have certain limits, so far and no farther.

We may dream of a different life, but reality drags us down.  How much can we expand ourselves to match our dreams?

Everything starts and ends with the moment.  There is nowhere else we live but in the moment.

What are you doing this moment to make a change?  Everything is possible, but opening up the door to your own life, discovering new possibilities, is the hardest thing in the universe to do.

You have to believe in yourself, holding your dreams forever centered in your mind, while taking action with all your heart.

Try, and try again.  Losing here, take stock of your loss, try another approach.  If you never give in, if you keep on trying, you will never be defeated.

Struggles fashion us into joyful creators.  Struggles bring out new worlds within ourselves that we never knew of before.

Follow the dream, and you will become the dream.

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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books.

To arrange online speaking engagements with your group or organization, contact the author.

 

 

The Virus is Us

Greed fosters pestilence.

The diseased heart breeds the virus.

Trump is the virus.

Those who champion division and chaos and the desecration of the ‘other’ – this is the virus.

Those who tout racial superiority, build walls against outsiders, tear down any man or woman who exhibits true greatness, compassion, or selflessness; who fracture the unity of the people, of the world, of humanity – this is the virus.

Those who have been utterly corrupted by money and position and power, the United States Senate, the Republican Party – these are the virus. `

Everything is reflected in the mirror.

The virus is within. The devastation is within.

Both inward and outward, vanquish the foe.

Destroy the virus, in our body politic, in you, in me.

Transfigure hearts, transform our world.

Create bright new images in the mirror.

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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books, including “Traveling to a New America”

For his other books, visit your favorite online bookseller.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

American Heroes & Heroines -Hubert Harrison

Hubert Harrison Chances are you have never heard of someone named Hubert Harrison.  Until recently, I know I never had.

I’d like to introduce you to a truly remarkable person in our own American history.

I came across him in a strange way.  Somehow I clicked onto a page on Google that was about a black man named Hubert Harrison, who was giving lectures and selling books on the street corners in Harlem during the First World War – lectures on science, women’s suffrage, evolution, religious superstitions, politics, class and race consciousness, and other topics which would draw crowds of hundreds of people.

I thought to myself: Who is this man?

Another thing that peaked my interest was a quote from Henry Miller, the great American author of Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and other books, and an early literary idol of mine, who, as a young man recalled Harrison as one of his own idols.  Miller wrote:

“There was no one in those days who could hold a candle to Hubert Harrison.  With a few well-directed words he had the ability to demolish any opponent.  I described the wonderful way he smiled, his easy assurance, the great sculptured head which he carried on his shoulders like a lion.  I wondered aloud if he had not come from royal blood, if he had not been the descendant of some great African monarch.  Yes, he was a man who electrified one by his mere presence.  Besides him, the other speakers, the white ones, looked like pygmies, not only physically but culturally, spiritually.  Some of them, like the ones who were paid to foment trouble, carried on like epileptics, always wrapped in the Stars and Strips, to be sure.  Hubert Harrison, on the other hand, no matter what the provocation, always retained his self-possession, his dignity. “

I discovered a superb biography, “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918”, by Jeffrey B. Perry; absorbed it in a few days, and was quite astounded by this heretofore unknown person Hubert Harrison that I had run across.

Harrison was born on St. Croix, Danish West Indies in 1883.  His mother was a working-class woman, and his biological father was a slave.  Growing up in poverty on the island, Harrison learned first-hand the struggles of his race.

In 1900, as a 17-year-old orphan, with nothing but the clothes on his back, he arrived in New York City, and immediately was confronted with the atmosphere of intense racial oppression of African Americans existing in the United States. Harrison was especially horrified and shocked by the lynchings and virulent white supremacy that was then reaching a peak in these years in the South.

Working low-paying service jobs, he attended high school at night, and read and educated himself.  Over the ensuing decades, he rose to become one of the most influential people in America.  Writer, orator, educator, critic, editor of “Negro World”, political activist in the Socialist Party, founder of the New Negro Movement, his work had an immense influence not only upon his own time, but upon the times and people that followed.

Author, journalist and historian Joel A. Rogers wrote:

“Harrison was not only the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time, but one of America’s greatest minds.  No one worked more seriously and indefatigably to enlighten his fellow men.”

At the core of Harrison’s life,was an unrelenting devotion to justice.  Racism and white supremacy were his targets.

Harrision once wrote:

“Politically, the Negro is the touchstone of the modern democratic idea.  The presence of the Negro puts our democracy to the proof and reveals the falsity of it…True democracy and equality implies a revolution…startling even to think of.”

Through his writing and lectures and social involvement, he labored unrelentingly to educate the masses, and to give voice and dignity to African-American men and women everywhere.

He wrote:

“America is a great experiment in democracy…unique in the history of the world…And the great American experiment is to determine for the future whether we can make out of the welter of races and nations one people, one culture, one democracy.  It is confessedly a hard task, but it can be done, and the grounds of that faith rest on the known facts of the present and the past.”

The America he dreamed of is still being fought for today.  It is a dream we must be committed to bring to fruition.
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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books.

Traveling to a New America – A Broad Conversation

Samantha.   Rodeo, Ca.  From a small town in southern Illinois.  Works in a law firm.
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Traveling to a New AmericaSamantha, what’s your take on America at this time?

“I’m worried about the future of a lot of people who live here.  The reason: the executive orders that Trump has signed that are threatening peoples’ liberties and our rights to safe health care, affordable health care.  We used to be a nation that represented being able to come here and have opportunity and hope for your future and your family.  Now we’re turning millions of people away, who will likely die, refugees that can’t have a good life where they are at.  We’re turning them away.  We used to be a beacon of hope for people like that.  It’s really concerning to see all this happening, and sometimes I feel like there’s nothing I can do, and I just think that maybe I should not worry about things that I can’t control.  But I think it’s time that people start controlling things that are important to them.”

What’s going to change all this?

“A broad conversation, and not being so divisive, separating people, men, women, races.  We need to talk with each other, rather than talk at each other.  It’s really important right now to understand the opposing views, why they feel that way, try to explain why you feel the way you do.  We need mature conversation between adults, and to think about the future of our planet and our children.”

How does that happen?  How do people break out of their bubbles?

“I think you seek out the people who think differently than you do and feel differently than you do and quit trying to force your opinion about things on other people.  You just have to open your mind to the way they feel, and you have to be understanding, and just think critically about why they feel that way.  You can’t be so emotionally tied to things, because that’s just going to create a heated conversation rather than an intellectual conversation that’s going to get things done.”

You probably think there are things that are right and are wrong, and when you run into someone with an opposite view, how do you handle that?

“It is really difficult to control yourself.  I’m on Facebook a lot, and I’m from southern Illinois.  People there, their views are very conservative.  They’re the exact opposite of people who live around here in the Bay Area.  I see people posting things, and I just think, why do you feel like that, and I want to jump into the conversation and express my views.  I have this inner struggle all the time about whether I should interject into their conversations, like jumping into the lion’s den, but then I also feel like if I don’t, I’m on the side of the oppressor by not speaking up and standing up for the people who need my help and everyone’s help.”

People on the other side need to hear your voice too.

“Yes, we need an open dialogue.”

What would be your dream of a greater America?

“Freedom of speech.  No oppression.  Freedom of information. Equality between women and men, and between all races, all different colors.  Equal opportunity for employment.  Prison reform.  We need a system that actually rehabilitates these people and stops making non-violent offenses criminal.  So much needs to be done to make the country better and great again, greater than it has been ever.  We need to progress further than we ever have before.”

What does that mean?  Greater than ever.

“It might sound unreasonable and far-fetched and unattainable, but just the same freedoms for everyone, the same opportunities for everyone, no discrimination.  Like access to health care.  I want our country to be a beacon of hope for people, instead of a scary nation that they hate and are terrified of.  I’m ashamed of how we look to other nations right now, we look mean and not the way that our Founding Fathers intended it to be.”

What’s your personal dream?

“I just want to honestly live a simple life, not complicated, just happy.  I do want to be able to help people, which I feel I have a good start on with my work.  I can’t say that I have a certain goal for my life, but I know that I want to be more aware of other peoples’ lives and how my life impacts theirs.”
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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Traveling to a New America – Ten complete books in a New E-book Collection.

The Collected Works of James Hilgendorf, Ten Complete Books, is now available in e-book format for the first time from your favorite online bookseller.

Included in the collection are these books:

Traveling to a New America
A New Myth for America
Forever Here
Poems of Death: Time for Eternity
Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective
Handbook for Youth in a Muddied Age
Maybe We Need A New Religion
The New Superpower
Time’s Turning
The Buddha & The Dream of America

Amid all the chaos, division, and loss of hope we are currently experiencing, both in America and around the globe, a new world is emerging, beyond anything we have previously known. These books are a harbinger of that new world.

From “Traveling to a New America”:

America is the promise of the self.
It is the unfolding, finally, of everything that was imagined or dreamed.
It is finding the very core of the universe, and all the gods and demons and stars and suns and galaxies, within one’s very own heart.
Look into the mirror. Who is there?
Ultra powerful reflector telescopes gather upon smooth polished mirrors ever and ever deeper glimpses into the life of a universe beyond comprehension, gazing back billions of light years into the past. We look into those mirrors, but fail to see ourselves. These images are our own life.
Everything swings on this moment, all time and all space.
America is here and now. There are no fantasy lands here.
Rocks and country roads, skyscrapers, rivers, flowers and fields, they are all right here. We live on this Earth, nowhere else.
All those who have died, from the beginning of time, crowd in upon this land, this America, hovering among the shadows in anticipation, for a word of what is coming, of what is to be revealed.

America is something never before imagined.
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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and writer.

Drum Roll – A Call for Patriots

Racism and religious bigotry are two of the viruses that need to be rooted out once and for all from the American psyche.

We are confronting both at this crucial juncture in our nation’s history.

In his pamphlet, “Common Sense”, one of our great Founding Fathers, Thomas Paine, called out to his compatriots for help at at the time of the American Revolution when the existence and future of the American colonies were being threatened by external forces:

“These are the times that try men’s souls”, he wrote. “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easiy conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

Many of the colonists he was calling out were young people. His voice and writings rallied them to a dream, and they responded, against all odds, to bring into fruition a new reality upon this continent of America.

Paine wrote another work, “The Age of Reason”, which is not so well known today, but which stirred enormous controversy at that time.

It was a diatribe, for one thing, against the tyranny of a Christianity, and religion in general, that throughout history had allied itself with and served the power of despots, robbing people of their welfare under the guise of divine association.

We see this today, in full bloom, with a strain of evangelical Christianity, that binds itself in unfettered support for a President who, in his own person, embodies the worst of humanity and human instincts – open disdain for women, immigrants and their children, people of color; who time and again supports the most flagrant racist behavior in others; who denigrates science and ignores a deadly virus that has killed vast numbers of our citizens and crippled our economy because acknowledging it would reveal his own personal ineptness; who has destroyed relationships with other people and nations around the world; who looks to a stock market gone insane with no relation to the suffering of tens of millions of Americans as the marker of his success; who would, without any feeling whatsoever, destroy healthcare for tens of millions of Americans, and the list goes on…

Make no mistake about it, by their unwavering support, these so-called Christians have each and every one become complicit in all of these disgraceful transgressions and flagrant behavior of the President.

We are once again at a crucial turning point in the history of America.

This is a clarion call to patriots of the present – especially youth – marching in the tracks of Thomas Paine and others – to stand up and work boldly for a new world, for justice, for the people, for the Dream of America that has been stifled and delayed and trod upon since the beginning of the Republic, waiting for those who would come forward to bring the Dream to fruition at last.

Innumerable voices are crying out from the past. Now take up arms through your own voice and your vote.

Usher in a New America.
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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books.

Hurricanes, Pandemics & Poetry

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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books.

To arrange talks, contact the author.

Dreams & Dead Dreams: Traveling to a New America – People Along the Way – Vacaville, Ca.

Just one of the many people I met on the street, just before the coronavirus.
Stefan.  Vacaville, California
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Traveling to a New America - People Along the Way Vacaville, CaliforniaStefan, what’s your take on America at this time?

“I think that America has lost its way, has lost its soul.  In a lot of ways, I’m starting to feel like maybe this experiment was a mistake from the beginning.  There wasn’t much integrity in the way this country was founded.  It was built on the back of slave labor, it was built with very specific people in mind, and not much room for anything outside of that arena.  It was built by petty, childish white men competing with each other like little boys.  These are our Founding Fathers.  The railroads and industry and shipping and all that, these are all great developments, but at the end of the day it was just rich guys trying to get richer and put each other down.

“If you’re not a white, Christian male in this country, it’s difficult.  It’s always made laws based on biblical dogma rather than what’s socially appropriate and what needs to be done for the country, and people aren’t being taken into consideration if they don’t fit into that class.  Women, people of color, gay people, trans people, have a really difficult time in this new country, and I really think it’s time that we start basing our laws on our Constitution and not on a book that certain people believe in. I’m thirty-two and this doesn’t feel like the country that I was raised in, it doesn’t feel like the promises that were made to me as a child.  It honestly has nothing to do with Donald Trump or who is in the White House, it’s just the division in this country and the legislation based on religious dogma that have, I think, run the nation asunder, and I don’t think we’ll ever find our way back.”

Is there a solution to all this?

“There is no solution.  It’s deep rooted.  It’s systemic, and it’s been built into the framework of this country since day one.  This idea of class and race supremacy is never going away, and where this division is even widening more is where all these oppressed people, these people that have been held back or don’t feel like this country represents them, we’re finally starting to speak up, we’re about to enter into another civil rights movement, we’re about to enter right back into the race relations we had in the sixties, particularly with some of these people who have been appointed to office, and it’s a terrifying time.  I don’t think we come back from this.  I think the only way to really save this country’s soul is to push the controllers out, and they’re never going anywhere.  They’ve owned this country since day one and they don’t want us here and that’s just all there is to it.  But we’re not going anywhere.  Black people aren’t going anywhere, Hispanic people aren’t going anywhere, Asian people, gay people, women aren’t going anywhere.  I think what’s happening in the government right now is the rich, white, powerful men who have run the country for so long are deathly afraid of losing their grip, and so they’re implementing new systems and new institutions to reclaim that power that they used to have.  It really feels like the government is trying to take us back to the 1930s and take us back to Jim Crow and segregation and it’s terrifying.”

Traveling to a New AmericaIf you had a vision of a really great America, what would it look like?

“I don’t know what a really great America would look like.  Every country has its problems, every nation has its ups and downs, every nation has divisions based on race and class and religion.  It’s not America, it’s the world.  We need to go back a few thousand years and make Christianity never happen.  I’m not just personally against Christianity, but I think religion is what causes division.  This idea of my God’s right, and you’re wrong, my way of believing things is right so yours must be wrong – this has been inherent to the human mentality for hundreds and hundreds of years, and it just keeps getting passed down from generation to generation.”

What’s your dream?

“Just to be happy and successful and not have to worry about being persecuted about the color of my skin or who I choose to sleep with.  I want to see people treated equally.  We’re all 75% water, we all have people we love, we all have family and dreams and goals and everybody just needs to be on the same level.  We can’t have one group of people hoarding all the social and political power in this country and holding back the people who actually make up the framework of this country, because when you really do the math, white males 18-35 are in fact the minority, and they hate it.  I don’t have a dream anymore, I’ve given up, honestly, I don’t think I’ll live here in the next five years.  I don’t know where I would go, but I think somewhere not quite as dominated by white imperialism.”

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James Hilgendorf is a filmmaker, speaker, poet, and the author of ten non-fiction books.