No better meal exists for me than a couple of thick slices of homegrown tomato on a couple of thick slices of freshly baked Italian bread. Add an ice cold bottle of Yuengling laager and I’ve got sacred last meal material.
When I was a child, I’d sometimes stand among my grandfather’s tomato plants in his Minooka garden, close my eyes and inhale the rich, pungent aroma of fresh life on a thick green vine. To this day, if I pick a fat tomato, close my eyes and hold the fruit to my nose, I drift back to a time when cultivating tomatoes meant cultivating the future, when the simplicity of life meant nourishment and tradition.
Such satisfaction has not changed.
We reap what we sow.
And there’s still nothing better than a fat tomato sandwich – maybe with mayo, salt and pepper. But a plain and pure tomato sandwich will always be best.
Purity also remains part of the American Dream – the search for good old ways amid traditional goodness. Tradition allows innocence to thrive and grow rather than succumb to strangulation by poisonous weeds of deceit in our culture that grow and kill before anybody notices or does something about it.
We strangle our dreams in Northeastern Pennsylvania on a regular basis. We allow the weeds to rage out of control. We nourish their roots. The metaphor here goes straight to the heart of our political “culture of corruption” that strangles our hope for a better tomorrow.
I’ve concluded that we will not beat our culture of corruption in my lifetime. So we should not fight to win or lose but fight to fight.
And principle nourishes hope for the better future based on fairness, equality and true growth. If we nourish a true path of awareness, we have a chance to create a culture of awakening – something definitely worth fighting for. Our culture of awakening will help create and nourish a healthy, thriving garden that will nourish those to come for countless decades.
Allow the poison to spread, however, and our dreams will continue to die.
Changing behavior takes precious time and effort.
In the past few years we’ve seen positive change occur as dozens of local and state elected officials and business executives have pleaded guilty to public corruption crimes and either pleaded guilty or been convicted.
They have gone to prison. More gangsters will follow in this ongoing federal public corruption investigation. But what about good people who live stable lives? What about law-abiding hard-working good citizens who know the difference between right and wrong? What do we do to increase the odds that the judicial weed whacking that’s talking place will cleanse our path for good and allow healthy new fruit to blossom?
Sadly, we do far too little to change behavior. Too many otherwise good citizens stand idly by and allow nepotism, cronyism and political patronage to fester. They even teach their children that maybe a political job might one day be in the works for them – if only they play their political cards right and ingratiate themselves to the proper political people.
If not them, maybe their children will benefit. Survival of the fittest becomes the law of the jungle. And the garden is lost. By this longtime coal region tradition that many of our immigrant ancestors quickly learned how to play, we plant evil seeds that sprout and turn to killer weeds that smother the future of fairness.
To truly ripen, we must change the way we think. To thrive, we must stand against old habits that die hard. To mature we must be brave enough to rise up and stretch to our full height into the sun.
I know, I know, the garden analogy is getting old.
But the culture of awakening will only exist if you help it grow. So plant some seeds and know you did something brave to ensure that those who come after you have long gone have a better shot at making their dreams grow.