Progress was good for my parents. They came to a strange land as poor pioneers and prospered along with Phoenix. They lived the American Dream—not the pursuit of material manifestations of success as much as their steady improvement over time.
Their lives were better than their parents’; they had more security, more opportunity, more comfort. They didn’t do without, go hungry, or stand in unemployment lines; they were well-educated, well-fed, and well-blessed with the fruits of a robust and expanding economy.
Best of all, especially for my mother, they could travel, and they saw parts of the globe that deeply impressed them. If they had second thoughts or misgivings about progress, I never heard a word. For them, the future was always bright.
I developed a different perspective. I came of age during the heyday of progress, witnessing the good, the bad, and the ugly. Impressed at first, I have now lived long enough to see that manifest destiny was not necessarily a positive force in our history.
I will likely live long enough to see evidence that America is not exceptional after all—that despite this nation’s many admirable qualities, it is subject to the same historical forces that have worn down all great nations and empires throughout the ages.
Courtney White of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a former archeologist, Sierra Club activist and co-founder of the Quivera Coalition, which is dedicated to bringing together ranchers, conservationists, public land managers, scientists and others to improve land practices.
I’ve not read any of his books. Probably I should. Here are links to excerpts from The Age of Consequences, his latest.
Thanks to Bill Elwell for the first link and for making me aware of Courtney White and his work.