Posts Tagged ‘Hope


Frail Honor, the Most Dangerous Kind

Well THIS is not what I wanted to write about. But there it is, Freshly Pressed, all about the protest on Wall Street and the virtue of the down trodden. Our future is in a lot of trouble. Seeing all these young Americans out in the cold to support their cause reminds me of an accidental moment of clarity I experienced in high school. It was Veteran’s Day, and instead of enjoying our new snow, I was sitting in English Lit. I’m pretty patriotic, so I had the thought that reading Lawrence Furlenghetti may not be the best way to honor our precious vets. I stood up and mentioned to the class how our time spent studying poetry was indeed undermining the sacrifices made by generations of veterans. Within minutes the tempera paint and posterboard were pilfered from the art room and we had some respectable signs. We paraded through the halls and quickly gathered a following that represented the ENTIRE school. Every student left class to support the Veteran’s Day cause. There we were, in the falling snow, on the side of the highway drinking hot chocolate and shouting something about freedom and sacrifice. The media was there within the hour and we clambered for their attention as they expounded on our devout patriotism.

Obviously, we were all lying. But the question is, were we lying to the media and our teachers? Or were we lying to ourselves? In that moment, every one of us was convinced that it was our teenage duty to honor the veterans. I was a little proud of my act of rebellion. As a teen, I was NOT rebellious and this would go a long way toward redeeming my straight-laced reputation. However, the pride was tinged with a nameless fear. I knew very well that the only reason the entire school walked out behind me was because they wanted to. I had successfully appealed to their inner-most wishes for a day off and I made it look honorable. At that moment, human nature stripped a layer and I discovered the simplicity of manipulation. Turn a person’s frailty into that which makes him honorable and he will stand for much less than he could be. It is easy to recline in one’s excuses, but so difficult to live up to an expectation.

Now, I see these protesters on Wall Street and all over the country, youth who were traded honor for mediocrity, and I am sad for our future. I would like a youth that is prepared to rise up and embrace the challenges ahead, enjoy the freedom of our new found globalism, and spread a better way of life to the truly downtrodden masses (not the ones being fed organic veggies and pasta in the street). Unfortunately, what sleeps on Wall Street right now is only bringing this nation further into despair. With it goes the hope that would bring prosperity to those who need it most.


Waiting for September 12th

My friend hasn’t slept through the night in about two months.  My husband’s ulcer has flared up.  My coworker is completely despondent.  I cannot seem to hold food down.  Nobody is willing to put a guarantee on what may happen tomorrow.  First I thought it was just me.  I usually live in the worst-case scenario.  But it is not just me.  Not at all. 

The bumper stickers are calling us to be our 9/12 self.  The idea is that we live as the best American we can, like we did on that day when we all resolved to live a life of purpose.  That’s exactly how we should be living.  I would guess that if we all lived in that mind set, we would not be in the position we are today.

But here we are.  Entitlement, greed, and quick fixes have brought us to the brink of economic disaster.  It’s so much more than that.  Everything we take for granted – our national security, our safety, innovation, the environmental debate, even the abortion controversy – will lie forgotten if our economy fails.  So we replace our dreams and the hopes we have for our children with Tums and Tylenol PM.  What we did not notice, because it crept in behind the distraction of the holidays, is that we cannot be our 9/12 selves because we are re-living 9/11 in slow motion.  It is as though Good Morning America has been doing a frame-by-frame since the first plane came into sight.  Slowly, with time to contemplate and fear, we are watching our world change forever.  And, once again, we are not in control.  It is being done to us and we are but spectators, anticipating impact, just waiting for the frames to speed up.  On 9/11, it happened fast.  I remember looking around at every intersection on my way to work.  Everyone was stunned; at one light, all six lanes of traffic sat through a green.  Then at work all of us speculated, some cried.  Many checked on loved ones.  Nobody worked.  We all held our breath and listened for news instead.  Then we went home to our families, held them close, thanked God, and planned for a better tomorrow.  That’s when America united. 

I learned the true meaning of Joy on the evening of September 11th.  There were flags everywhere.  Donations were flying in before anyone even knew where to send them and the media had nothing disparaging to say.  In fact, many talking heads were teary.  Joy is not synonymous with happiness.  Joy is the assurance that trials are temporary.  The pain may linger, but with it comes the sweetly honed pleasure of the memories left from the good times and the hope for tomorrow. 

Hope.  Hope is a strong word.  It is what gives Americans their strength.  There is no nation on earth that offers the promise this country does.  Even now that we are bruised, we can still rest in a hope we take for granted.  But right now, right at this moment, we are watching that plane.  We are wondering if we get to hold onto our hope.  What we need to do, to move on and become our 9/12 selves, is re-evaluate hope.  In this time, we cannot count put our hope into anything that we cannot control.  It has to be personal and we have to be strong enough to hold on.

We may be holding on for September 12th, but it is actually here.  We may feel downtrodden and fearful and just barely American.  But we need to remember something.  This weekend, people will be married.  Right now, a baby is crying for the very first time.  There is a teenage girl talking to her best friend about her first kiss.  A boy in second grade is tugging the hair of the girl in front of him.  Next month, we may not be able to buy a Chevrolet and we may even cancel trips to Disney World this summer, but life still carries on.  No matter the nation we leave to our children, the human spirit is the true gift we leave behind.  If we can show them joy in the midst of adversity, they will grow into joyous lives.  Fear and dread are far outweighed by our capacity to love.  Where love lives, so does hope.  Where hope lives, so does greatness.


Greatness Divided

Fear is divisive.  I was asked today why the American spirit that brought us together after September 11th didn’t last.  The person who asked said that we Americans are more divided than ever and I agreed, saying that so much is at stake now.  After time to reflect, though, I disagree.  There was the Revolution.  If not for the looming threat of the monarchy, the country could easily have turned in on herself.  Nearly a century later our ancestors found themselves fighting against each other in the Civil War.  Another century passed and again America was fighting to remain the UNITED States.  Tempers flared in the Sixties and there was no military to fight that stateside battle.  It was citizen against citizen, youth against adult, individual against establishment, anger against polite complacency.  Now, Americans are realizing that once again we are in a fight for our nation.  Since September 11th, there has been a sub-conscious knowledge that our way of life is being threatened.  

On the one year anniversary of 9/11, I considered that “Post-9/11” had been added to our vocabulary and with that new word came a new world view.  The last six years have proven that to be truer than I expected.  Since 9/11, we understand that there is an evil threat in the world.  Radicals are hunting us for Allah’s trophy room.  Suddenly a surreal world of violence that had been isolated to places like Beiruit and Gaza looms in the shadows of our celebrations.  We are aware of it at concerts, sporting events, and holiday celebrations.  

It’s not just physical threats that we fear, though.  Since 9/11, our economy has been at the will of our cautious mood.  Consumer confidence has been on a decline that is unprecedented, effected largely by such perceived threats physical and otherwise.  The Fed’s efforts to keep the economy from heading south when it was most vulnerable was a knee-jerk reaction that overshot exponentially.  The economy already showed signs of Bubblicious growth, but then that was exacerbated by aggressive rate cuts.  The result was a dollar so devalued that banks were practically giving money away to people who still couldn’t afford it.  Now we have to pick up the pieces.

Then, of course, oil.  The root of our problem lies in the Middle East; there is no way around it.  The area has never been stable, but we have made a choice to remain dependent on it.  It is unconscionable that we have no leverage in the region because our government has prohibited efforts to find a replacement for foreign oil.  Now when there is true turmoil (that will eventually lead to favorable change), we are paying $4.00/gallon rather than providing American jobs pursuing our own energy interests and cutting the legs out from under OPEC.  We have to count on the Saudi’s to do it.  Still not choosing dependable allies.

Right now we Americans are divided because we have real fears of imminent threats to our way of life.  Our nation is in grave danger.  As the nation goes, the way of life we are accustomed to is forever changed and  more is on the way. The great thing about Americans is that this shakes us to our cores.  We all want to protect our families.  We all want our children to grow up enjoying all this great nation has to offer – without compromise.  Something so precious is not to be taken lightly, so we divide.  We choose sides.  We argue our positions.  Before I was asked why the nation divided again within a year of September 11th, I had said that those breathless moments while we waited for thousands to be rescued from ashy rubble, those moments when we held each other in regard for the tragedy we endured, when we truly were the UNITED States, were our finest moments.  However, history proves that these decades we spend divided, when we postulate and argue and effect change, are our greatest moments.  Anyone can stand united in empathy, but it takes an American to stand alone for the greater good.

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