“What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul.”-Mark 8:36
This quote stood out to me this morning as I did my morning run through the streets of Oxford.
As I passed each waterfront home, each million dollar property, each small home, each small business, each luxury car gas powered and electric, I wondered about Oxford, its soul, our soul as citizens of the town and this country.
When I first moved here over 40 years ago, Oxford was very different. While there were big houses and waterfront properties, the town was more active, more participatory, more working class. The restaurants, save the Robert Morris Inn, were more casual, more like crab houses. Pope’s Tavern was just that, a tavern where watermen and their families went to play pool and socialize over Natty Bo and crab cakes. We had a little league field and a team to play on it. Children could be seen throughout the town on bikes or walking the shoreline. The town park had a jungle gym to go along with the swings and picnic benches.
I remember some of the older citizens of the time talking about how Oxford was changing. People from D.C. and Annapolis were coming here and buying up property for their “summer” homes. They talked about how these new homeowners were changing the town, making it more like a rich retirement community and less like the friendly little town it used to be. My father in law once said, ” if they could, they would make this into Gibson Island.” Gibson Island was a wealthy gated community near Baltimore.
Newcomers complained about the noise of the workboats leaving early in the morning, about kids walking on “their ” shoreline, about the “dangerous” jungle gym, about visitors to families parking on the street, and other issues usually reserved for living in the city. They demanded ordinances restricting anything that they didn’t like such as restaurants having music on weekends or the grass in a yard not being mowed regularly.
But there was a more important change happening. Oxford began to lose its soul. People who used to know their neighbors no longer did. It’s hard to get to know someone who only comes down on weekends. It’s hard to be friendly with someone who constantly challenges public right of way or property lines. It’s hard to be friendly with someone who thinks they are superior to you and your way of life merely because they came from a city.
To be fair, not all the newcomers wanted Oxford to become something it shouldn’t be. Some of them embraced the town as it was and loved the simple pleasure of living here. They wanted to preserve the waterman tradition.
But if any year exposed the negative impact of some, it was this year. With the “pandemic” there was a push to shut everything down, restrict movement and even visitors and workers from out of town. Shorelines were closed and neighbors became “tattle tails” about mask usage. One resident even questioned the lawn services using leaf blowers because they might, “blow the germs around.” The DC/Annapolis escapees seized this opportunity to explain to the locals that they knew better how we should protect ourselves. The town newsletter became a nagging reminder of what citizens should and shouldn’t do. People even suggested that citizens quarantine themselves when coming back from other states.
During the 2020 election for a Town Commissioner, something that had never happened before happened. Newcomers put forward their candidate who had barely lived here three years and just recently became a U.S. citizen. Forgive me for being non-woke, but shouldn’t someone live in a place longer than that before running for office?
His platform was generic, created without any understanding of what Oxford was and is. His supporters started campaigning by using smear tactics against another candidate because he was a Republican and a Trump supporter. Just so you know, I can’t remember a single election for Town Commissioner in which political power mattered. The young man won anyway, but it inserted a new partisanship in town that had never been here before.
And then there was the “virtue signaling” of the new crowd. They held “Black Lives Matter” rallies while ignoring calls to rally to support police. This from a group that fought hard against more affordable housing years ago, thus assuring the town would remain rich and mostly white. I guess white guilt only goes so far.
Add to that the contentious national election and suddenly neighbors began disowning their neighbors for having different political views. One candidate’s supporters were called ” thieves” and “racists” on local social media groups and even in a local editorial. One man accused Trump supporters of stealing his Biden signs, only to find out later it was a prank by friends. Another said he ” felt unsafe” because of his anti-Trump letter to the editor claiming that only Biden signs were stolen or had graffiti painted on them and that Trump supporters were to blame.
Now the town where we all knew each other became a town where one’s political sign in the yard designated one’s “tribe.” People walked out of local businesses merely because of a political choice. They refused morning greetings to someone in the wrong shirt or hat. I was almost hit by a car from a local person who disagrees with my political beliefs.
Oxford had lost its soul. Many of us felt it as we traveled the streets. It just wasn’t Oxford any more.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s the only place this has happened to. I think many places in our country are losing their souls.
And what are we gaining? Bragging rights? Political power? Are we gaining safety and security from anything and everything at the expense of freedom? Do any of us feel closer to our neighbors? Do any of us feel human? Do Zoom calls really make us feel like part of the human family? We aren’t even allowed to attend our local churches, pray and sing for goodness sake. And one callous health “expert,” Dr. Fauci, campaigned to cancel Thanksgiving.
Once you lose your soul, it’s hard to get back. And once you’ve lost it, you’ve lost the ability to overcome any hard times you may encounter. If you have no soul, where do you turn when things go horribly wrong?
A country without a soul certainly can’t fight against outside enemies or those who want to do us harm. Once your moral strength is depleted, you are easily toppled like a big oak with no core.
But that is what some people in this country are aiming for, isn’t it? They want no law and order, no freedom, no rights of the individual. They want the right to kill millions of human babies, just because.
If you want to see what this looks like, look at Venezuela. Look at the regimes in Cuba, China, and even the reigns of evil Kings like Henry VIII. A country, town, or state without a soul has no problem taking the life of a citizen, especially those who have a soul and stand up against it.