#431 Chuck’s Place: Crash

Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences! Today, I take you into my personal Awareness Log.

Thursday January 15, 2009

Went to see Gran Torino with Erica (my 19 year old daughter). After the movie, I was pulling out of the parking space in my 1994 white Chevy truck and suddenly there was a crash, a gentle crash. What was that? I opened my door to discover that a very spiffy Nissan 350Z was kissing my bumper. I was completely calm, yet perplexed, asking myself, how did that happen? Clearly, it came out of nowhere because I had, as always, checked my rear view mirror and probably turned to look. Next the driver of the Z, a man about my age, strolled to the back of his car to check out what had happened as well. Truthfully, in an earlier incarnation, my reaction in a situation like this might have been to greet the other driver with such questions as, what the fuck were you thinking, immediately establishing who’s responsibility this accident was, preparing for police reports and the insurance game, where truth and reality are of little consequence. However, we found ourselves gently reviewing what had happened, assessing the impact. There was no blaming, simply the realization that this truly was a no-fault occurrence. Of course, my sturdy American built truck, with its metal bumper, was unblemished, while his Japanese made Z, with its plastic stylish bumper, had a crack. For those who have seen the Clint’s old white Ford in Gran Torino, and heard his feelings about foreign cars, this is an amusing synchronicity, though personally, I have no prejudices toward foreign made cars. Almost as an afterthought, or formality, we exchanged insurance information and wished each other well. As I drove away, I questioned, what does this mean? The most noticeable components were an unexpected no-fault crash and a calm processing of the incident. Also, there was no damage to my old sturdy truck and probably expensive repair would be needed for the stylish speedy Z. The other factor to take into consideration was that I had just seen Gran Torino with Erica, and she was in the truck with me. That is as far as I could take it at that point.

Upon returning home, the evening evolved into an unusually long discussion with Erica and Jan. Though I choose to not reveal the details of our interaction, I will summarize the main components of this process. In effect, a serious discussion about future plans and present reality, as well as past decisions, ensued. In prior such interactions between Erica and myself, a flood of intense and clashing emotions might prevent the discussion getting very far and, in fact, often might have resulted in a battle and blame-fest. This evening, however, we broke new ground. One might characterize Erica’s expectations of life at this stage as a sporty Nissan, that romantic fantasy of immediately having it all. I recall in Gran Torino Clint’s encounter with his granddaughter who, soon to be leaving for college, coveted and felt entitled to his sparkling Gran Torino. Inwardly, I was cracking open my own protective shell around my daughter’s unfolding encounter with reality, a challenge for all parents who seek to protect their children at different stages of development, who must allow the shell to be broken so that the chick might emerge. The challenge for me, personally, was to deliver the truth without protection or assuming responsibility for her difficulties, letting her assume full responsibility for what comes next. This process includes encountering difficult feelings such as her disappointment and sadness, as she must let go of her illusions. In truth it is very difficult to let go as a parent, and allow our child to encounter their aloneness and find their own way in the real world. The evening ended on a calm, loving, sober note, however, it was evident that we had entered a new world.

The movie, Gran Torino, is all about a clash of worlds and evolution. Clint is solidly a symbol of old America. Yes, he unashamedly expresses every imaginable racist thought, belief, and word, yet underneath he is a man of truly solid values who has been molded through the trials of real life and death encounters in war. He is capable of evolving because he cannot ignore the truth and is compelled to break through all his racism and limiting beliefs to be part of a changing America. Isn’t this, in fact, the challenge now for America? First of all, for old America to get back to its ability to see the truth, and support it, amidst a new generation of changing colors and names, like Barack Obama and Sanjay Gupta. The crash of these cultures is being propelled forward by the crashing down of the old institutions, with a majority of Americans willing to face truth and vote for change. Clearly, a vote for McCain meant an upholding of the old way, and a significant percentage of old America chose Barack.

My awareness log of Thursday January 15th was to, subsequently, include the crash landing of the US Airways plane into the Hudson River after its engines were compromised by clashes with birds. All passengers and crew survived due to the pilot’s calm maneuvering into the water and the immediate caring response of others on the river. What does this mean? One can’t help but immediately associate a plane crash in New York City with the toppling of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It is interesting to hear George Bush’s spin on the value of his presidency where he kept America, inside our shell, safe from terrorist attacks. Today, we are faced with the world reality that his policies have led to the undermining of the world economy and the ability for the world to trade. Amidst the illusion of our safety, George Bush did, in effect, topple the towers of the world economy.

So what does it mean that, on the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration, a United States Airways plane crashes safely into the frigid winter waters surrounding that same great city of New York? First of all, the crashing of a plane, like Icarus, symbolizes the consequences of inflation. America now faces the fact that it is broke, and has lived illusions of grandeur. The icy cold truth is that this is not sustainable, and all must feel these cold facts. Interestingly, birds symbolize spirit, suggesting a spiritual correction to America’s inflation. Nonetheless, the main feature of this dramatic event is the safe landing of America through collective giving and action. I think we are being shown that Barack can safely lead us through this necessary crash, but it is up to all of us to participate in the rescue.