Lebanon, Kansas, USA

There is a small stone pyramid about two miles northwest of Lebanon, Kansas. Lebanon has a population of something a little over two hundred people. It is on the crossroad of highway 36 and highway 281. Highway 36 runs in an almost straight line about 1400 miles or 2200 kilometres from Ohio to Colorado. In  the middle, near where the town of Lebanon lies the country is flat wheat fields and looks a lot like much of Australia – small towns with few people and huge grain silos. And the highway isn’t a big highway. As in much of wheat farming Australia, the road is two lanes and narrow.

None of this is relevant but it does add to the poetry that is to come. I have been fascinated by maps for as long as I can remember and the reason I know about Lebanon, Kansas is because it is almost exactly in the geographic centre of the USA. Buried into the soil next to the small pyramid that I mentioned above is an Australian dollar coin. At least I hope it is still there. Twenty five years ago there were two young graduate teachers who came to Australia on scholarship and worked in the same school as I did for one term. One of them was from New Hampshire and the other from Illinois. When they were to return home I gave each of them a dollar coin and asked them to do something for me. It was a gesture only – I only do things like this for fun. The girl from New Hampshire promised she would drive down to Lowell, Massachusetts and throw my dollar coin in the Merrimack River – the same river in which a young Jack Kerouac fished. I’m a great fan of Jack Kerouac.

The girl from Illinois also promised me that she would take a long ride on a motorbike with her boyfriend to Lebanon, Kansas and bury my dollar coin in the centre of the USA. Within a month they each sent me a photograph in proof of the fact. I remember Danika from Illinois and I remember the girl from New Hampshire but I don’t remember her name and I am sorry about that. I remember Danika more because she and I worked for the whole term together.

There is a point to all this – if you were wondering.

In the 2020 election Biden won New Hampshire – Biden won Illinois. Kansas voted for Trump. I kept my eye on the results. Why? Well for starters because I knew two really lovely women and I wondered how things would be going. And, because I have lost contact with them, that was as close as I would get.

And also because, whether we like it or not, what happens on the other side of the world – in the USA – concerns Australia.

Three years ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The specialist explained that it was an early diagnosis and that I should have it operated on. I asked about a prognosis and about side effects. Well, said the eminent doctor, it will possibly kill you. It might not. Your heart is good and it could well outlive the prostate. But if it gets worse it will definitely grow, as cancers grow, and in the end it would kill you. So you can leave it and take your chances or have something done and then wait for old age to kill you. Are there side effects, I asked. Yes, some. So I had the treatment and now live with the side effects. I can put up with the side effects. I wasn’t happy to be waiting around for the cancer to kill me.

Back to Danika. Danika was fascinated by Ballarat and the Eureka Rebellion. The Eureka rebellion was a turning point in Australian history. Within 50 years the separate British colonies had been granted independence and had federated into the Commonwealth of Australia. What piqued her interest was that Australia’s most famous civil war happened so close in time to the American Civil war. Only seven years separated them. But every other statistic was so radically different.

The Eureka rebellion lasted for 20 minutes on the 3rd of December 1854. There were 30 deaths. The American Civil war started seven years later and lasted for 4 year and 27 days and over three quarters of a million people died.

The Eureka rebellion is referred to in Australian history books but I can tell you from personal experience very few Australian history teachers give it much thought. I am sure that Danika, more that most, understands its relevance. I remember her saying one day that she wished the American Civil War would fade into history but she doubted it ever would. The last four years testify to that.

The United States has a virulent cancer growing in its psyche. Like most cancers it can divide and spread throughout the body. It has; the unresolved cancer that is the Civil War and the unresolved cancer that is the racial divide. The racial divide is exacerbated by the wealth divide. In round figures 90% of the US population have only 20% of the country’s wealth. At the other end of the spectrum 40% of the countries wealth is owned by only ONE% of the population. The wealth dive is another branch of the terrible cancer that is America. Like most cancers it will kill unless it is operated on. Most countries have issues that fester and divide the populace.

But only the USA, and Mexico, in all the world, have such a deadly cancer as is the right to bear arms. The right to bear arms was made a part of the Constitution because America did not trust an army made up of professional, full-time soldiers. That is ironic. Therefore they needed an armed Militia. Now they have both and the armed population is less trustworthy that the standing armed forces of the US.

The last four years has shown that the US has no interest in operating on these cancers.

I don’t believe I will die of cancer. Not now. Not since my operation. But I fear that the US well may. I am terribly fearful that my children and Danika’s children will see the cancers grow and will experience the terror of a country breaking apart. I do hope I am wrong.

18 thoughts on “Lebanon, Kansas, USA

  1. Your analysis is absolutely spot on. I would add one more cancer to the list, the American belief that helping people who are poor is Communism.
    And to think that I can remember the days when it was called Christianity:

    Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

    Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Oh, John! I so admire your ability to put things together in multiple perspectives that reach across the globe and back into history. This is a remarkable piece of writing. Among other things, it shows how deeply connected we are, whether we like it or not. It also clarifies the depth of our differences (Australia and the USA). All very sad, given where we in the USA find ourselves today.

    As for your cancer, I wish you all the best. My husband had his day of reckoning years ago and chose surgery. My beloved theology professor in seminary chose not to have surgery, and
    died a very painful death. May you live long and prosper! Or at least something like that…. 🙂


  3. I’m guessing you might be asleep right now. This is to let you know I’m reposting your piece. Thanks so much for writing it. We here in the USA don’t often get such clear-eyed vision from afar.


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