I grew up loving my country. I enjoyed reading books about the Founding Fathers and other great American heroes. How accurate they were, I don’t know. I’m sure there was a fair share of legend (i.e. George Washington and the cherry tree), but it was the spirit of them that I remember. Stories of brave men and women who faced daunting circumstances with courage and resolve, oblivious to their own safety and security, captured my imagination and made me feel proud to be an American.
In public school (where I checked many of those books out of the library) we sang patriotic songs in music class and recited the Pledge of Allegiance regularly. National holidays, such as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, further stirred my patriotism.
And now? It’s natural for people to grow pessimistic and cynical as they grow older, and despite any desire to not be a grumpy old guy, I find myself increasingly following that pattern.
I’ve watched politicians let me down—nothing new about that! I’ve learned that those heroes of the past were, at best, flawed humans, and at worst, total losers. I’ve learned more sordid facts about our national past than I care to know.
Yet through it all, we’ve been a country that has tried really hard to get it right. We fought our bloodiest war in part to put an end to the scourge of slavery. Those flawed leaders have struggled to right societal wrongs. Our system of government has yet to be improved upon by anyone this side of Heaven. And the American people have remained fundamentally decent. Willing to fight, sacrifice, and suffer for what we believe is right; always willing to lend a hand to those in need.
The result has been a spectacular run of peace and prosperity, where even those in poverty are considered rich by the standards of much of the rest of the planet.
But sadly, human nature makes it hard to maintain those high standards in the midst of comfort. There’s been an undeniable deterioration of our national character about which one could write volumes.
But nothing has dramatized this as much as the early months of the year 2020.
After vague reports of a mysterious illness in China, it’s as if one day the media moguls of America got together and said, “This is our new crisis. Whip the people into a frenzy of fear! Pound it into them around the clock.”
Suddenly, we found ourselves inundated by ominous reports of a coming tsunami of destruction. How did we respond?
We panicked. Running for cover as if a proverbial mass shooter was on the loose, we cowered in our homes, scared to death of The Virus. Without question and without hesitation, we surrendered our God-given rights. Freedom of Assembly? Naw, we don’t need it. Liberty? An unnecessary luxury.
Despite relying on projections of deaths caused by The Virus that were so flawed as to be laughable, we continued to defer to the “experts,” happily surrendering the most prosperous economy in American history to the throes of a Depression in mere days.
If anyone dare question this reaction, we were quick to pounce on them, accusing them of not caring about lives. “People are gonna die!” We screamed, red in the face. “If we save just one life, it’s worth it,” we chanted in monotonous repetition.
Imagine if you will, if our forerunners acted like we are today.
The Pilgrims, desiring a life where they were free to worship and live as they pleased, when confronted with the perils of a transatlantic voyage in the early 1600s, would declare, “It’s just too dangerous. People are gonna die if we do this!” If any suggested doing it anyway, they’d be shamed with, “How many dead pilgrims are you okay with?”
John Adams, standing up before the Continental Congress, would’ve given a speech something like this: “Gentlemen, while the destruction of our liberties by the King are terrible, and we groan under this oppression, yearning to live free, many people will die if we oppose the British. They’ve already sent thousands of troops over here, and they have a whole fleet in New York Harbor! There may well be innocent civilians who lose their lives! And, were we so audacious as to declare independence, those of us in this very chamber would be wanted for treason and executed if caught. It’s just not worth it! In the interest of public safety and security, I must implore you to stay home, follow orders, and stay safe.”
Harriet Tubman, after alighting on the idea of smuggling Southern slaves to freedom in the North, would suffer PTSD as a result of even entertaining the thought of what might happen were she, or those she helped, to be caught. “It’s just not worth it,” she’d cry. “People may suffer and even die if I go through with this!” At least slaves were safe and taken care of on the plantations, provided they mind their manners and do what the master says.
Woodrow Wilson, when confronted with the sinking of the Lusitania and the discovery of the Zimmerman Telegram, would adjust his glasses and speak to the American People: “I know many of you are outraged by these German atrocities; much of France lies in ruins; and an entire generation of young men from our allies have perished; but at this time our troops need to stay on lockdown, because there’s a global pandemic! Were it not for the Spanish Flu, we’d rush to the aid of our friends, but it’s just too risky. We need to slow the spread, or people will die!”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, speaking to Congress the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, would grip the podium and declare: “Yesterday--December 7th, 1941--a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan….there’s no doubt that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger. So with the input of qualified experts, I’m instituting a national plan to sandbag all our residences. We will be passing out sandbags, sand, and shovels. The military will be dispatched to help make your homes safe from enemy attacks. There are some who say we must fight the Japanese and Germans, but a lotof people would die, and that’s unacceptable. It’s better to run and save just one life, than fight back and have a bunch of our precious people die!”
What would these and others who came before us think if they saw us now?
I've included some old blogs along with the new. Should you ever find yourself suffering from insomnia, this is the place for you! That's as poetic as I get...