September 2nd. It’s an interesting date in world history and in my life. For most thinking Americans, today’s date represents the official end of the Second World War, as the Japanese delegation signed off on the “unconditional surrender” papers issued by the US and administered by General Douglas MacArthur aboard the USS Missouri. That was sixty-three years ago.
Enough with the world history lesson, although I must say that we need more lessons as a nation that thinks more about maintaining power, privilege and libido than about responsibility and sacrifice. For me, 9/2 has been a series of crossroads events. In ’88, 9/2 meant the end of my five days of homelessness in Pittsburgh, likely saving me from ending my bid for a college degree just a year into the process. Exactly six years later, 9/2/94, was the Friday that I became ABD (all but doctoral dissertation), vindicating years of financial and social sacrifice. At least that’s how I felt at the time.
In ’97, 9/2 was also the day after Labor Day, ironic because I’d been unemployed for a bit more than three months after graduating with my PhD in May. It’s the second longest I’ve ever been unemployed as an adult (the other being the entire summer of ’88). That 9/2 was my first day of work as a part-time special projects coordinator with Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, a job I could’ve done as a homeless college sophomore. It was a humbling and humiliating experience, only resolved when I left that job a year later.
Today is a relatively uneventful 9/2, but I’m in the middle of a crossroads period in my life anyway. Between full-time work, part-time teaching, Boy At The Window, my son now in kindergarten, and so many other things, I’m faced with a number of difficult professional and personal decisions over the next few months. Given what I’ve already been through, these decisions, though tough, are ones that I dare not avoid.
On another note, we as a nation face our own crossroads, one with a relatively small window for consideration. It’s not just about Obama or McCain, Biden or Palin. It’s about whether my son and my younger siblings will even have an opportunity to reach a crossroads in their lives, the opportunity to choose their own destinies. If we allow politics as usual and policies as stupidity to continue, I don’t know if I’ll even recognize this nation of mine in five or ten years. Not a generation, not at mid-century, but by the middle of the next decade. Between an aggressive, almost imperialistic, foreign policy, our sputtering economy, the current and growing energy crisis, and climate change (I don’t care what those who prefer tea leaves to sound science say), the middle of the 2010s could make our current national issues and international standing look great by comparison.
There are times in one’s life and in a civilization’s history where issues that have been put off must be confronted, addressed, solved, or ameliorated in some way. We can’t move forward without that reckoning, and if nothing is done, moving in reverse is all but assured. Being at a crossroads is a good thing, as long as we make the right choices, stand by them and see them through. I hope that as a nation we can do the same without getting caught up in controversy after controversy.