Once a great nation adopted petrified wood as its symbol. In the past this country had taken pride in claiming an eagle, and only an eagle, would do to represent it, but in an anxious age, when standing fast against threats both from without and within was how its highest officials saw their legacy, something less embarrassingly prone to flight than a bird seemed called for. The choice of petrified wood as the new symbol was the outcome of a long national contest. Numerous suggestions of flowers, animals, historical figures and so forth came in, but given the temper of the age, when a mix of personal conspiracy theories and official paranoia created an atmosphere of paralyzed terror nearly everywhere, petrified wood easily carried the day. The outcome was very reassuring to contest organizers. What other symbol could you count on in uncertain times not to alter? Conditions might change, challenges might change, the world might change, but petrified wood would remain rock steady. That was its great virtue. It could be relied upon against all the day-to-day forces that shape reality to maintain for eons the precise state in which it had turned to stone. Beyond its obvious value in giving the nation a more secure image of itself, petrified wood had real commercial potential as well. Lucky charms were only one of the most obvious products that promised to bring people together with their mass appeal. This after TV testimonials by former big-city mayors and one-time security czars extolled their potential for curing all manner of the jitters. Still greater merchandizing opportunities would lie, however, in stocking souvenir shelves with miniaturized renditions of spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, and fruited plains at those national parks scheduled for privatization in the government’s commitment to decreasing the diversion of much-needed funds from its primary charge of safeguarding the land. Nor was that all. The country’s flag might also prove quite inspiring to many if offered as a fossilized lapel pin.
Copyright © 2007 by Geoffrey Grosshans