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  • Writer's pictureMarjorie Robertson

You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe

"Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen. The voice of forest water in the night, a woman's laughter in the dark, the clean, hard rattle of raked gravel, the cricketing stitch of midday in hot meadows, the delicate web of children's voices in bright air—these things will never change." From Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again (1940)

(Photos: Marjorie Robertson, Cemetery Road, 2013.)

In this novel, Wolfe explores changes to American society in the 1920s-30s through the telling of a story about a man who returns home from the city. A scholar, Jon Dawson, says that Wolf'e is criticizing and comparing the rise of capitalism to the rise of fascism at that time.

We see the rise of fascism in our country today with the increasing corporatization of basic public goods, such as public schools, and the slashing of education budgets to increase yet even more (is it ever enough?) the financial holdings of the few and powerful. It is another example of the reach of greed and power, the last great, untouchable frontier—more testing companies and businesses seeking to enrich themselves by using children, millions of powerless children. Those with control of the megaphone repeat their reasons without evidence enough times until it sounds true.

Teachers in the state of Wisconsin are leaving the profession and fewer are pursuing degrees in Education because of draconian changes and the abysmal state economy. They aren't alone. Teachers in other states and in other countries, such as England, are experiencing the same trend with disastrous effects.

But I didn't pick the quote above to write about my frustration with a trend in American society or generally about responding to change when it's been proven wrong and harmful.

Instead, in these posts, I've spent some time looking back at my Midwestern upbringing with longing, as it used to be and not as it is now. I want to put it in writing so that I never forget it wasn't always this way, not only in Wisconsin, but throughout the Midwest.

(Photo: Robert Williams, 2013)

Despite unfathomable political changes in the region, the land remains.

It is still a place where words sound like heartbeats.

Old words like Wakonda, Osage, Kewanee and Mendota.

I've spent much of my life wandering, but there was always home, embodied not only in family but in the land, the place that knows my footfall. One day my family might not be where home is.

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