Thursday, August 02, 2007

John Fredrick's Son

I found this picture in the Library of Congress. The caption is what caught my eye at first, although of course the picture itself is very compelling. The caption reads:

John Fredrick's son: "Some day we're goin' ta have a new house too, an a car like you all." Saint Mary's County, Maryland

The picture was taken in 1941. That is a very moving, mundane thing to read. That boy's father is outside the shack with people helping him to dig a new privy hole and drill a new well far enough apart so that one does not foul the other.

People used to instinctively understand that owning a house that could become a home could in turn could become a catalyst for, or a safeguard of, the only really important institution devised by man: The family.

People often assume I am consumed with nostalgia and am backward looking. I don't think so. I see people retreating towards barbarism and calling themselves progressive. That's all. In a very real way, I am living right at the edge of what society and technology allows. And I like it here.

I see the idea of a home that has meaning in and of itself slipping away at all price points. It's just a rubber box to sleep in and hold the satellite dish for an increasing number of people, and I find that disturbing for cultural reasons as much as aesthetic ones. I hear of people who pay their credit cards and abandon their homes because the homes hold no equity and hence have no intrinsic value, but their credit cards are valuable. But my home, and the home of many others who share my worldview, if perhaps only subconsciously, have intrinsic value that stand alone outside of commerce. It would be a big deal for me to lose my home. It's not just a box I live in.

That little boy in the picture understood that the way he understood the stove is hot. He did not require a white paper referencing Le Corbusier, Bruno Zevi, Christopher Alexander and Martin Luther King to figure it out.

He knew about the car, too. People used to understand viscerally what it meant, what it really represented. Even a serf knew when he was no longer tied to the land, unable to leave. You are free to go if you must, or you will-- but especially if you can.

The desire and ability to stay in one place backed up with the freedom to go if you so desire, or must. The vast majority of us take all of that for granted; or worse, a very vocal minority are actively opposed to it for reasons that boil down to, in a dark unguarded moment: I've already got mine, to hell with the rabble.

Resist the assault on all of it, lest your children find themselves in a hellish shack, wishing they had it all back.

I hope you got them, John Fredrick's son.


Pastor_Jeff said...

Well, it fits with yesterday's post. There are too many small-minded people who want to make rules for others based on their imagined understanding of things they've never done and don't want others to be able to do. We are indeed losing the right to be left alone, all in the name of "what's good for you."

Pastor_Jeff said...

Can you imagine the courage it would take to leave behind everything you know and sail across the Atlantic in a leaky wooden boat to a colonial hinterland?

As much as home and hearth mean to us, I also think Americans (for the most part) are a restless and optimistic people. We're always looking for new adventures, challenges and horizons. I lived in six different homes in my first 12 years, as my dad chased his dream.

SippicanCottage said...

"I also think Americans (for the most part) are a restless and optimistic people."

Bears repeating.