Standin' at the Crossroads

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I went down to the Crossroads,
And I fell down on my knees.
I asked the Lord have mercy,
Save ol’ Bob if you please.

~ Robert Johnson

The legendary father of the blues, Robert Johnson, wrote those immortal lyrics roughly 80 years ago. Mr. Johnson spoke of the stresses of decision between two distinct paths where the choice whether to do good or evil may not be so easy. How does one muster the strength to follow the path to righteousness when the deceptions of the Devil himself lure us to go another way?

Five years ago America suddenly and brutally found itself at a major intersection of its history. September 11, 2001 was America’s crossroads. At that emotionally charged moment, Americans chose the path of revenge. They chose hastily, ignoring warnings from those still possessed of rational thought. Since that moment, America has been charging unchecked and blind toward self-destruction.

Today, Americans are paying for that choice. After five years of Bush’s "War on Terror," America is no safer. And it is our own government we are not safe from.

We’ve become so frightened and paranoid we’re afraid of our own shadows. War by war, atrocity by atrocity, Americans are isolating themselves from the world community.

The blurred and bitter debate whether to stay the course has divided the nation. Many view the choice in terms of simple Left or Right. Believing that nothing can be done, others are resigned and see the path of darkness already chosen.

However, nothing is ever that simple in life. Robert Johnson knew this. Life’s coils had led him down the wrong path many times over. At great expense, he gained the wisdom to know this and yet never freed himself from the seductive path of sinfulness.

Early in the mornin’
When you came knockin’ on my door
I said, hello there Satan
I believe it’s time for me to go.

Who is America’s Satan? Who seduced us? Is it Osama bin Laden or George W. Bush? Is it Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld or the collective minds of the Project for the New American Century? Is it Karl Rove? Is it the state of Israel? Is it Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah? Is it Iran? Is it the 1.8 billion Muslims living in the world? Or as Al-Qaeda might declare, is America’s Satan, America itself? Is it the decades of a manipulative, self-serving US foreign policy in the Middle East? Is it the Communist Threat or the Yellow Horde? Is it the ghosts in the closets of Congress and the White House? Or is it all of the above combined? Maybe the Devil reposes in our unique American belief not only that we are able to change and control the world, but also that we have the God-given right to do so.

There is one thing for sure. If we stay on the revengeful path that we have chosen, a precipice awaits. It is one marked by battlefield humiliation and economic disaster, both paid for with the needless "collateral" slaughter of thousands of civilians alongside the deaths of our own young men and women of the armed forces. All of that blood and treasure have been sacrificed in a quest for payback and power. As George W. Bush said on September 11, 2001, "somebody’s going to pay for this." Can we afford the bill?

We chose a path of revenge marked by abandonment of all the ideals on which the United States of America was founded. Cast aside by the power-crazed are the freedoms for which George Washington led ragged armies to victory over the British at Yorktown in 1781.

Thrown to oblivion are the reasoned debates of Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson and Jay, the wisdom and wit of Benjamin Franklin, the sagacity of our first President.

It is a dangerous road into darkness we are traveling. We have been too trusting, too arrogant and too lazy. We have allowed ourselves to be hoodwinked.

However, soon, in November, we will come face to face with another crossroads. There will be an opportunity to turn from this evil path leading to disaster. For many, the choice will be hard to make. It is always difficult to admit an error.

The madness sequestered within Washington D.C. must be arrested and the perpetrators of our national shame must be held accountable.

If we fail to turn back towards the path of righteousness, America will be singing the blues, an’ it ain’t gonna be no fun baby.

At the age of twenty-seven, Robert Johnson yielded to temptation for the last time. He was poisoned by a jealous husband and died. The actual whereabouts of his grave is unknown.

Standin’ at the crossroads baby,
risin’ sun goin’ down.
I believe to my soul now,
u2018po Bob is sinkin’ down.

Elizabeth Gyllensvard edited and contributed to this article.

Tom Chartier [send him mail] played lead guitar in legendary Los Angeles punk band The Rotters for 26 years until their final appearance in January of 2004. He has lived in Tokyo, Japan as well as Los Angeles working in the entertainment industry. He is the primary caregiver of his eleven-year-old son and currently resides on Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean.

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