A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Name: Tom McLaughlin
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Only men over sixty have ever been subject to the military draft in America. Knowing you could be forced by government to fight in a war focuses one’s attention on what’s happening in the wider world beyond the peaceful shores of the Unites States. Today, however, our military is all volunteer. Fewer than 1% of Americans serve now and that’s been true for decades. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to. Is that a good thing? I’m not so sure.
Americans under sixty have led a remarkably pampered life by world historical standards. They’ve grown up in the most powerful country the world has ever seen and have never been forced to seriously consider how brutal other humans can be when they’re allowed. The vast majority of people who lived out their lives on this planet did so in walled cities or constantly looking over their shoulders as they moved about with weapons close at hand.
Some of us, though, have paid attention to what goes on outside our borders. Some have studied history and have come to understand that the Pax Americana we’ve known all our lives is more the exception than the rule. Most, however, never consider Orwell’s observance that: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” We don’t appreciate how fortunate we are to have been born in late-20th-century America. We still have rough men ready to do violence on our behalf, but we don’t have a government that either appreciates them or knows how to use them properly.
I hate to point this out, but we’re not just getting fat, dumb, and lazy; we’re already here, and have been for some time. Obesity is epidemic. We don’t know much about history, geography, civics, or anything else, and more than 90 million of us have dropped out of the workforce. The evidence is overwhelming that our citizenry is in serious decline. Consequently, so is our nation. More and more of us are dependent on government entitlements and, due to our ignorance of simple arithmetic, we are unaware that those expensive programs are mathematically unsustainable. Bankruptcy looms, but we keep on spending as if it weren’t.
We keep reelecting a government that is a reflection of us. Paradoxically however, opinion polls indicate that we don’t approve of the government for which we keep voting. Why do we continue to reelect congressmen, senators and a president we dislike? Is it because they tell us what we want to hear? Perhaps the lyric in the Sheryl Crow number applies to us: “Lie to me. I promise, I’ll believe,” she sang. How long can this continue though? When I ponder that, something columnist Mark Steyn wrote comes to mind: “Sometimes societies become too stupid to survive.”
Peggy Noonan, former Reagan speechwriter and Wall Street Journal columnist, penned something last week that also haunts me. Commenting about the illegal alien crisis on the Mexican border, she observed: “America is the house that is both falling apart and under new stress. Those living within it, those most upset by what they're seeing, know America has big problems—unemployment, low workforce participation, a rickety physical infrastructure, an unsound culture, poor public education. And of course discord of all sorts… They know America can't pay its bills. They fear we're living on the fumes of greatness. They want us to be strong again.”
“Living on the fumes of greatness.” Yes. That is indeed what we’re doing.
Noonan was describing Americans who do pay attention, who understand history, who know we cannot go on doing what we’re doing. But I’m afraid such people are in the minority now. Remember: 52% of us reelected Barack Obama two years ago in spite of what he did in his first term. The Wednesday morning after that sad election day I was forced to realize that yes, the America in which I grew up has fundamentally changed.
First generation immigrant Dinesh D’Souza just released a movie titled, “America: Imagine The World Without Her.” I haven’t seen it yet, but I know what’s in it. He sees what I see. I have been imagining such a world and it isn’t a pretty one, because I know there are brutal people out there who ponder it gleefully. They smell American decline and they extend their probes further and further to see what they can get away with. How far will that be? I’m afraid to think.
I still choose to believe in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary that it’s not too late, that enough Americans are beginning to understand we simply must turn things around. We have to start this November if we’re to have any hope of resurrecting the America we used to take for granted.