America’s place on the Hero’s Journey: Stage 5 (approach)

In the video above, you get a succinct description of the structure of heroic stories (via Animal). Real life refuses to follow such tidy formulas, but I’m pretty certain I’ve paid a visit to all of the stages, though never in a neat or necessarily progressive order, and never in a systematic or timely fashion. My own fights with oversized, human-hungry lizards got me thinking about those of the USA. Case in point: Sarah Palin.

I’m pretty sure Palin’s invasion of our national dialog was one of many stage 3 (Departure) instances on the Hero’s Journey of this country of ours, at least in terms of a political narrative. Other moments occur to me as a point in time when, interpreting through the tiny lens of my own “I,” we left (in the most metaphorical sense of the word) what was comfortable and began a transformation of our common identity: the Gulf War; Columbine; 9/11; on a very personal note, the death of my brother, which forever tinted my understanding of just about anything; the Iraq War; Hurricane Katrina; the war in Afghanistan; the election of Barack Obama; the shooting at the Batman movie in Colorado; the shooting in Newtown; the fracturing of a common American identity as indicated by the increasing disconnection of politicians from the reality of the people they govern or concerns about those lacking power.

Yet the Big One remains, and perhaps always will, though its face will change. The USA has not yet met its Voldemort. Unlike the movies, such a foe won’t be sitting in front of us like a well-defined target at the archery range. It will come and go, over years, and make itself known on all of the cultural channels that make up the weave of us. Politics, business, arts, education, family, love — all of these grand stages on which we operate will each host a distinct monstrosity that has one overriding characteristic: the struggle to remain a cohesive society before the forces of hyper-individualism and disproportionate reactions to that mindset.

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