I was struck by a not uncommon patriotic urge recently, and sought to see more of America than can be known from my home on its Atlantic Coast. So I decided to journey six hundred miles west and pay a visit. Some writers will deal with the truth in the same manner as an historic preservation society will deal with a landmark in the path of a prospective highway. They will take great effort to lift the edifice from its foundation and move it several hundred feet to the side. I could never treat the truth so trivially. It is in that spirit that I recount my recent trip into Indiana.
At some point I took dinner with Carl Cartwright, a good friend and an even better Christian. He manages to be a sterling exemplar of the faith because he is also a cunning lawyer. My customary cowardice regarding handling my close friends retreated in the face of half a bottle of wine and I brought up a matter of current affairs. So Carl informed me, “There is no racism in Indiana. I don’t know any racists.” In attempting to respond I found that the bottom had dropped out of my vocabulary. I was not so stricken as to fail to realize that the durability and pervasiveness of racist incidents and statements nationwide had only been reported by hundreds of various news outlets and was therefore a highly suspect notion and quite likely, in a word, fake.
I realized that I should have figured it all out from my personal experiences in Indiana that very day. I had failed to interpret the evidence that was right before me all along. The good people of the Hoosier state and their government had clearly undertaken a comprehensive program to remove all the racists from their midst, and had succeeded so distinctively that they had also removed all but one of the actual races. This is the first time in history that such a plan has worked so well. Everywhere I had seen only white people, tacitly congratulating each other on their lack of prejudice. Of course there could be no racists in such a setting. It was so obvious even a child could have figured it out.
It was as a young child that I one day learned what I call the rule of surfeits. My gang of eight-year-olds and I had wandered very far afield for most of the day, only forgetting our growing starvation until such time as we came upon Mr. Cook’s orchard, where there had been a surfeit of apples. I so gorged myself on the them that I consumed what must have represented a couple of decade’s worth of apple hunger, because I felt no compulsion to touch that fruit for about the next twenty years. Perhaps this similar surfeit in Indiana would fall subject to the same rule. But before I could discover that perhaps I had overindulged my appetite for white people, another of my shortcomings interrupted me, this time my failure to properly react to what had been a surfeit of invigorating conversation. I had mentioned religion.
By skillful exegesis of the Biblical text, Carl was able to enlighten me as to how our gentle and forgiving Christ was actually not all that fond of gay people, heterosexual cohabitation, or other perversions. The tender Lamb of God, it was made clear to me, had also been a bit of a proponent of cutting corporate tax rates, reducing access to health care, restricting immigration, and extending our stewardship of the earth so as to preclude any environmental regulation at all by the government. I had also apparently failed, for most of my life, to realize that the Good Shepard preferred to keep only the male sheep at the front of His flock. I was then made to shed my own previous ignorance and brought to realize that Jesus, at least in Indiana, is Anglo Saxon.
Once again, the answer had been in front of me all along. Even a child could see it. I have always been unable to contemplate the numinous and indefinable nature of God. So, I had never felt safe propounding my own version of that Being to my friends and neighbors. I would wonder, what if I might be mistaken? After all, half the time I am mistaken as to where I left my car keys. And it is, in all frankness, a Hell of thing about which to be mistaken. But Carl could see it more clearly than I, and is able to pinpoint the exact will and intention of the Supreme Being. I had again failed, this time to see that the Creator of the universe is supremely generous enough to allow his will to be divined by a lawyer-like interpretation of the text. Carl is an excellent lawyer and knows that his own interpretation is Gospel. I felt I had finally been put on the correct path. I was able to depart Indiana with an enlightened heart.
I had made my sojourn into the heartland of the nation because I profoundly love my country. It seems I had returned on the same mission.
(Gerald Weaver is the author of the novel, The First First Gentleman, August 2016, London Wall Publishing. It is among other things a sly tribute to almost all the novels of Charles Dickens. His well-received first novel, Gospel Prism, was published in May 2015. Each of its twelve chapters paraphrases a great work, by Cervantes, Montaigne, Shakespeare, etc. Harold Bloom said it was “remarkable” and “charming but disturbing. He also apologizes to any fans of Mark Twain who may be offended by his weak homage to the great American humanist humorist.)