Monday, July 04, 2016



"I recall when I was a little boy, going to the volunteer fire department Fourth of July picnic. My family doesn’t remember this at all, but they have very poor memories. ... I got the beans on my plate and I had the bun and I had just put the wiener in the bun and I was just squeezing the ketchup and the air turned white and it was snowing. Snow was falling and everybody was amazed and then somebody said, “oh no”, they said, “It’s fluff from the cottonwood trees, it’s just seeds coming down from the cottonwood trees”, and so, that was that, but then I looked down at my plate and there was nothing there. Now cottonwood fluff does not melt. Seeds don’t just disappear. It was snow on the Fourth of July. A snow flurry hit Lake Wobegon on the Fourth of July when I was a boy, but if you talk to anybody, including my family who was at the Volunteer Fire Department Bean Feed that day in 1951 on the Fourth of July, they will tell you that was fluff from the cottonwood trees that came down. I was the only one who knew the truth. A terrible responsibility for a child and one more reason to leave town, you know. There were too many things that I was the only one that knew them...

Stunning thought, but when God sends snow down on the Fourth of July, that indicates to me that he is talking to us in a loud voice and apparently I was the only one who saw this and therefore, the only one who might have a hunch what God was trying to tell us, but I turned down the privilege, thank you very much, no thank you. To be a prophet was too much for me then and it’s too much for me now. To be a prophet is hard work anytime and anyplace, but you never want to do it in a town of less than 2,000 population. If you live there and if you come from there. To stand and to tell people the truth that they have been successfully avoiding is not a pleasant business in a small town.

Back in 1918 in my town, back when the streets were lined with flags and when school children sat for hours of deadly nonsense about glory and honor and this war was a war to end all wars, this war would usher in a New World Order. Sat and listened to this there was a man on a bench outside a grocery store and turned to the man next to him and said, “I wish they’d take the flags down, I don’t think there’s any glory in this war, it’s just a bunch of politicians.” And the word got around town of this man’s remarks, this slur on our country ... and people would not speak to him again for a long time...

You have become a scourge. You have become a prophet and it’s time to time to hit the road Jack. You gotta get out of this town. Well, that never happened to me and I’m not ever going to have it happen to me. That’s what God was offering me when he had the snow fall on the Fourth of July and I saw it. He was saying, “Witness to people about this. Reveal the truth of this and be a prophet.” I said, “No thank you, I don’t want it.” He said, “This will be a great service to people whom you love, to tell them the truth”. I said, “Well they’re not going to thank me for it. I know that for sure. People hurt prophets. They throw sharp things at them. They rip the clothes off them and they make them sit for long periods of time in uncomfortable positions on top of sharp objects that are extremely flammable. That’s what they do to prophets. I don’t want that. I don’t want any pain whatsoever. I don’t ever want to experience any pain. Minor dentistry is more than enough for me. So, no thank you. I don’t want to be a prophet and tell the truth. What can I do that’s the opposite of that?” And so, I got into this line of work. Telling lies and I’ve never regretted it, which is a terrible thing to say in front of children. To say that you’ve spent your life telling lies, but I have and I’ve had a wonderful time, and I have been very well rewarded for this, and I have been congratulated by all sorts of people including members of the clergy, whereas if I had been prophet and told the truth, I would be broke and I would be unhappy myself and I would be despised and I would be condemned from most pulpits in the country. No thanks, I don’t really care for that. ...

No, it’s not that I don’t know what a prophet would say, you see. I do. It’s not for lack of a message. I’m not interested in saying it. If there were a prophet, of course, a prophet would tell us that America is a country that God has blessed so much, we have not suffered as other people have. We don’t know what suffering is like. We have not known war in our country since 1865. That experience of war in 1865 was so horrible in this country, the Civil War, that we did not lift our hand against anybody for years and years after that.

But over the years we’ve become so prosperous and we have developed technology that allows us to deliver war to other people, and it never falls on us. We have no idea what war is like in this country. Our soldiers know, but when they come back to tell us, we don’t know what they’re talking about. We don’t know what war is like in this country and so it behooves us to be careful. And to rain down death on people and then to gloat over it is not becoming in God’s eyes. This is not good. To rain down destruction from this country, which knows so little suffering that our own navels become the source of our suffering is not pleasant or good in God’s eyes. We should be very careful, very careful. This is what a prophet would say, I think.

But who wants to say it, because prophets have an approval rating of five percent, only in some places. No, I’d rather be in my line of work. ... God was disappointed in me at first, but He’s come around to seeing this more and more from my point of view. ... God made spread the truth around and it becomes common and people ignore it. ... Whereas, with someone like me, if I ever do tell the truth, people remember it. ... I remember every time I told the truth. Like a snowfall in July — you remember every time."
Garrison Keilor, 1991

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