Recently, a friend telephoned me to see if I would be interested in going through an old barn. Relentlessly curious and harboring a love for all things timeworn, the answer was, of course, yes. The next morning, I hopped into the car to begin an adventure. I was soon surrounded by the beauty of old growth forests and nestled within all of the green, a faded, red barn came into view. Upon stepping into the entrance, I remember the great sense of overwhelm that I felt. Strangely enough, my sense of overwhelm was not from the seemingly infinite amount of items filling the barn, but was from the fact that I had just stumbled into a time capsule of the past century. I turned around in amazement and began on a journey through history.
Starting with the early 20th century, I climbed through an ancestral tree dating back to the 1910’s with a box of hair locks that still held within them an entire family’s worth of DNA. I danced through 20’s in records of the Jazz Age and quietly tip toed through ‘29 as I read about the stock market crash in the Saturday Evening Post. I waded through the aftermath of it all in the abundance of elegant depression glassware that companies distributed to people for free as an incentive to purchase products. I continued through the hardships stitched in the scrap quilt blocks and all too quickly stepped into a second world war. Opening the Schrafft’s tin of chocolate was somewhat indicative of better times and thus began an economic resurgence. Soon enough though, the cords of atomic era lamps illuminated concerns surrounding a cold war. A feeling of mass hysteria became even more apparent with JFK’s letter in LIFE Magazine (1961) about “How to survive a nuclear fallout.”
I spent an entire day in the barn but it felt as if I had spent years sifting through the past. In the newspapers and items, I found repeating themes of economic collapse, fear, war, destruction, and prosperous times. It was a past that was not our own, but one that gave rise to the modern day that we live in, one that has not deviated from this trajectory. While we cannot begin to understand this history in entirety, tracing back to the root leads us to subjects of greed and ego. Then…and now.
Who wields the biggest weapons? Who has the strongest military? The media is oversaturated with articles about power – that of the US, North Korea, China, and Russia and the potential for a new cold war. Some days I feel like we are living in the dark grooves of a record from times past, the same song that has played over and over and over again throughout history. Are we not playing out a song of perpetual conflict between societies? Or, pledging some mutually assured destruction (MAD)? With the massive evolution of warfare over the past century, are humans only setting out on a path of destruction?
Fear is the fuel for this economy that prevails and I do not know about you, but I am long overdue for a new song to play out, to join in a chorus of criticism and examine the conditions, causes, and consequences of this war-song.
My only question is, “Who is going to flip the record?”
Emily A. Dustman
“I see mankind as an entity working out its destiny. Man is a complex being with a definite assignment. He is at a critical point in its fulfillment. Can man survive on the planet? Can he carry out his assignment?” – Scott Nearing