A TIME TO SAY NO
I am an American and proud of it, but I feel disposed to say I think we are as a whole moving away from something that gives us our strength as a nation. Is it pride? Not exactly. Is it patriotism? Not exactly. But something akin to things like that.
I still get misty-eyed thinking back many years to the haunting soft and slow notes of a bugler sounding “colors” as the flag is lowered at day’s end, when I held my salute until the final note had faded. I never reach the end of The Star-Spangled Banner with dry eyes. My dearest friend of seventy years believes that only God merits such homage as salutes and pledges and are exclusively in His purview. In all those years, and as many times as we have been together, there has never been a moment of discomfort over the differences in what we believe. I know him to be a man of courage and principle and respect and accept that what he believes are to him true values. There are far more similarities in our beliefs, respect for the truth, loyalty of friendship, honoring commitments and consistency of character. Standing side by side if a flag were to pass in front of us, neither of us would feel discomfort with one saluting and one not, as being emblematic of the freedom America accords all of us.
I think one of the reasons for our drift is more that we lost our self-confidence in being able to say no and mean it. In my view, the lack of self-confidence crept in because we didn’t care deeply enough about our history, our country, our education and our children to invest whatever time and effort was necessary to find out what is going on and become confident that we knew. This is not an easy thing to do. It is so much easier to succumb to the temptations and distractions of modern life than to work hard to be a good parent and to seek the knowledge and make the contribution that is the hallmark and duty of a good citizen.
The camel’s nose appeared under the tent many times when a firm no might have kept the rest of the beast from coming any further, but we failed to say no and hold to it. (A friend says when you see the camel’s nose, you should keep in mind that the ass is not far behind.)
Atheists or the like who demand that we exchange our principles for theirs. – I was a Marine and include atheists among those I would have fought for – but for their freedom, not their ideology. Everyone from Madeline Murray to the local school board who demands we take In God We Trust off our currency or say we can’t set aside a quiet minute in the classroom for reflection on whatever our children want to use it for should be told, in justifiable self-righteous indignation, to go to hell. We didn’t do that and still aren’t doing it and tiptoe around every crackpot view on whether or not we have to whisper God’s name and give the Constitution as justification. If you have never read the Constitution, how can you have any confidence in whether this is what it means or not? If you have never attended a school board meeting how can you judge whether or not these are good citizens dedicated to finding solutions that make sense through a democratic struggle for consensus or are simply a roundtable of strut and big egos taking safety in numbers for any decisions made.
People who demand special status, not because of talent or accomplishment, but because of what they bring from birth – I accept if you are black and female, for instance, you understand discrimination better than I ever will, and I would be first among those who say all of society should want to see justice done. But I would say to you to do whatever you can to help it along. Show the world why faith in you is well-placed and you’ll get there long before those who don’t. The only thing that can possibly help you overcome those things you cannot change about yourself including your talent and still hope to compete in an indifferent world is a dedicated and driving will combined with hard work, hard work, hard work. It is a formula by which you can change the world as did Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison and Winston Churchill, all of whom were adjudged to be losers at one time or other in their lives. If you are not willing to make this kind of effort, go ahead and sit on you ass and vegetate, and no one will feel he owes you a damn thing.
People who haven’t the foggiest notion of the principles upon which the country was founded – It is a travesty to have easy access to such a wealth of material as we do today and have the time and freedom to explore it and not do so. I am about to stop and go watch the Redskins and the Steelers. We need fun and distractions in our lives, but we also need a sense of accomplishment that helps us to be proud of who we are and gives us that little extra bit of courage to stand up and say no when the time calls for it and to have a clear understanding of what you are voting for when you go to the polls to vote soon. You may never feel you are entirely right about any decision, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to give it your best shot whenever you can, for your country, your friends and family and for yourself.
I say these things with the conviction of being right and remain open to being convinced otherwise.
(I just watched the Redskins and the Steelers and wish now I hadn’t.)