Sunday, April 03, 2011

What I Learned On My Vacation I

It would truly be a waste of time if, along with spending time with my family and generally enjoying myself away from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, I didn't drag from amongst the rest a few things that are pertinent to the topics of this site.

First, driving down and back, traveling from the earliest days of spring to the middle of glorious summer in two short days - when we left last Saturday morning it was below freezing and threatening snow; when we arrived in Orlando on Sunday, it was 92 degrees and the concierge actually apologized to me for the heat - watching spring move through its round of days as the miles sped by, I was entranced by how beautiful and varied our country is. From the prairies of Illinois and Indiana to the rolling hills of Kentucky and the mountains of east Tennessee through the plains of Georgia to the verdant swamps of central Florida, the beauty and variety would have been missed completely had we opted to hop a plane and fly down.

I also realized how much I love the variety of flora. While Tennessee provided a display of Red Bud trees in blossom, central and southern Georgia had dogwood and wisteria, the latter occasionally exploding across several trees in a display of purple against the green that was truly a wonder. The dogwood made me miss the dogwood tree in the front yard of the parsonage in Jarratt, VA, whose blossoming in mid- to late-March was the signal that spring really had arrived.

One cannot spend four and a half days in the Disney complex without reflecting on people. The sheer mass of humanity one encounters from the moment one walks out the door of one's room makes it impossible. On the whole, I had my basic faith in the root goodness and even intelligence of human beings reinforced on this trip. Monday and Thursday it rained heavily, enough to drag down the spirits of even the most upbeat vacationer, yet people were unfailingly polite, always quick with a smile, even a "Hello" as you passed. The huge crowds, one could argue, made courtesy necessary to keep tension at a low ebb, yet there was no etiquette police present, no one demanding that all greet one another with a smile and a laugh, sharing moments with complete strangers as we waited in the unusually short lines (the longest wait for any attraction we encountered was about an hour, although the introduction of the Fast Pass certainly helped in that regard) was not a rule posted at the entrance.

I was also impressed with the variety of types of people. Southerners and northerners, western folk and those like us from the upper Midwest. White and black and Hispanic and Asian and non-Americans by the score. Muslim families, the mothers with their heads wrapped in scarves that were beautiful, framing their faces wonderfully standing cheek by jowl with a family of Jews from New York, the men and boys with yarmulkes on their heads, dressed uncomfortably (so it seemed to me) for the warmth of the Florida spring.

Finally, I think the criticisms and derision with which Disney the man and his ideas are addressed by many on the left is rooted as much in ignorance and the kind of earnest silliness one finds all too often in people for whom adherence to ideas is more important than just being with other people. Sure, Disney may well have been an anti-Semite. Given the age in which he lived, this is nor surprising. Compared to the same sentiments among, say Henry Ford or other powerful individuals who were near contemporaries, his was quite less virulent. His company did, after all, produce on the eve of the Second World War a cartoon, "The Three Little Pigs", that effectively showed that he, Disney, was aware of the threat Hitler's regime posed and articulated a courage in the face of Nazi might that was utterly lacking in the rest of the country at that time.

Disney was also a naive, optimistic member of the Church of Progress, who saw in the expanding technologically-rooted ease of life in the 20th century a sign of human improvement that, given the realities of that time, should have been lacking. Yet, he coupled this naive belief that we could make the world a better, more decent place with an abiding belief that in our children - regardless of background - lies our best, perhaps our only hope. We should teach our children to keep their minds open, to work to realize the fondest wishes of their imaginations. As Disney himself was proof this was possible, even as he faced occasional setbacks and failures, it seemed a faith rooted in his experience that one is hard pressed against which to argue.

There are always exceptions to the rule. In particular, my encounters with the thousands of people present were not always enforcing of a kind of base faith in their wisdom or intelligence. How couples could bring infants to Disney World resorts was a source of constant wonder to my wife and me. Even young children, under the age of five or so, it seemed to us, would make enjoying the parks difficult, to say the least. The sight of pregnant women trying, and failing, to get on various rides also made us shake our heads. Then there was the car in parked in front of us at a stop in Tennessee, with various bumper stickers that revealed a narrowness of mind that made my wife cringe. My only thought, still trying to be generous, was that it takes all kinds to make a large country like ours. Someone advertising their ignorance and bigotry as proudly as this person was doing is far less a threat than the silent ones who keep their beliefs to themselves until they explode in an orgy of rage and violence.

By and large, these reflections are a small part of my experience. Most of the time, I was quite simply enjoying eight days of nearly uninterrupted time with my wife and children, in a warm and accommodating space set aside for families to enjoy themselves. We laughed and commented on the rides and attractions and ate and slept and rode together, rarely apart for more than a few minutes at a time, without ever being rancorous or exhausted with one another's company, a testimony, I think, to our abiding love for one another. We shall return there before too much longer, not only to enjoy what we had enjoyed before, but also to experience so much that we missed. Even the very long days we spent in each park were not enough to take in all they had to offer, and we all agreed there was so much yet for us to experience, not least a sunny day at Disney's Animal Kingdom and The Magic Kingdom.

Virtual Tin Cup

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