18 February 20XX +1
My Dear Lucilius:
As Young Xerxes was about for his weekly visit (that young man has become indispensable for conversation along with everything else), he randomly asked me a question about what it was like to be a citizen in “The Old Days”.
“The Old Days”. I chuckled out loud. When did we our days become old, Lucilius?
But his question made me ponder a moment or two. What was it like to be a citizen “in The Old Days”, before we had torn each other apart by every conceivable classification that existed and splintered into a thousand sub-groups with only a geography and economy to loosely bind us?
I do not know if you remember – I certainly do – the Bicentennial of our country. It was a time when one was young enough to be enthusiastic about everything without bearing the burden of the nature of policies and practices. Flags celebrating the country were everywhere – the country was ablaze (figuratively speaking) in Red, White and Blue. There was a genuine swelling, noticeable through the land of what it meant to be “A Citizen”.
Or, to a lesser extent, the events following the crashing of The Two Towers, before we had devolved into arguments and counter arguments and finger pointing and an intrusive state that, once it had acted to “secure our safety”, never let go. There was a sense – sorrowful, but a sense – that we were still, at least in this moment, all the same and the attack against some was an attack against all.
How do I convey that to those who have grown up only knowing and hearing of every wrong a country has committed instead of every success it has achieved, of every weakness it demonstrates rather than every strength it possesses, of how all the past was wrong and only the future – properly crafted, of course, in Utopian fashion – is correct?
I cannot, of course. Nor would I if I could.
That State – the State we grew up in – is dead. Was dead some time ago actually and had become some kind of living dead political geographic horror, maintained in a sort of hideous existence by a parasitic fungal growth called “Society” which animated the corpse long after the soul and mind were gone. The Flag that once flew over every government building and from many people’s homes became a winding sheet of Stars and Stripes that slowly settled over everything, muffling the features and hiding the decay.
That was our world, of course. And the sad remnants of it are rapidly disappearing into the back mirror on the road trip of history, to be remembered fondly by some and with bitterness by others – but always receding.
But it is not Xerxes’ world, and those who are alive now.
They have an opportunity, Lucilius, an opportunity no matter what the future is coming to look like (and who can really tell at this point?), to remake something better and more glorious out of the ashes and rubble that is left behind. Out of the decay of endings are new beginnings made to the brave and focused.
So I looked at him, this young man with his drive and passion and his curiousity, and simply smiled. “It was a different time” I reply. “I do not think my words would really capture what it was like.”
You may argue, Lucilius, that this is a convenient half truth. Perhaps so. And while there are pieces and parts of that State that you and I knew that would be valuable to express for him and his generation to bring forward, that can wait for its transmission. His mind – and the minds of all of his generation – are looking into a future they cannot define at this time. I – no, we - need to help him, and them, to get there.
We, the Old Guard, can remember for them at the appropriate time.
Your Obedient Servant, Seneca