When you find yourself in a hole the important factor is not the hole’s depth but the size of the ladder you have to climb out. After 7 years of an expensive, dual fronted war with a cunning enemy, a devastating economic predicament where the genius’ that caused the problems have the upper hand in fixing them, and a populace that hangs on sheer hope because they have so little confidence in those holding the reins of political power, we Yanks find ourselves in a pretty substantial hole.
We’ve been in some pretty tough spots in the past and things turned out ok.This time however, many are asking the basic question; how big is the ladder?
Our ladder was big enough in the 1860’s to save us from ourselves after loosing 51,000 men over three days at Gettysburg and over 600,000 Americans or 2% of our total population in the Civil War. Our ladder was resourceful enough to recover from the financial crash of 1929 and the Great Depression which followed where the DOW bottomed out at a mere 41.22 accompanied by thousands of bank failures and 25% unemployment. Our ladder was strong enough to declare war on two fronts half a world apart with determined enemies within days of each other in 1941. I could go on about American resiliency but you get the point.
In 2009, we find ourselves in what would appear to the ‘glass half full’ crowd as a perfect storm where a grave economy mixes with a dire global geopolitical environment.
I like our odds.
This is the stuff that makes for great stories down the road. In the end, how we react as a nation will reveal who the heroes and villains will be. Certainly the Obama administration has the best shot in the protagonist role however the bit players, all 340 million American citizens, and likely a whole slew of illegal ones will shoulder the heavy lifting for this success story.
If we are to win this struggle we will have to make some sacrifices. They will be difficult and there will be great grousing by those that live and die by a personal interpretation of “their rights”. Furthermore, the most significant of these sacrifices won’t necessarily be in terms of the material things that Americans love so much but something more difficult; much needed behavioral changes.
We must stop the whining about our economic state. We’re all in the same lifeboat, we get it. So shut up, grab an oar, and row. Get your own financial house in order first and you would be surprised at how much less you’ll be inclined to talk in desperate tones. Get smarter than your neighbor on general macro-economics, recessions, depressions, and our history in dealing with these things. There is reason for optimism, especially if the treasury runs out of ink to print more money. (Politicians: reread this paragraph)
We must realize the world is an incredibly dangerous place with evil factions that want the worst for us. We must continue to expose them and take appropriate action to protect ourselves from them. We do this very well already but know additionally that so much of the battle is covert and will never stop. Our story’s villains are plotting while we sleep. Don’t limit your view of evil factions to those from outside our borders. Madoff, Blagoyevich, and a long list of homegrown white collar colleagues also fall under this category.
We must have greater discipline of our speech. The villains of our story will construe this word discipline as an infringement of rights and freedom. It is not. This will be very difficult for many of us, especially politicians, media, bloggers, and activist communities who have become unbridled in our post-911 world. We are complicit every time we allow such manner of discourse without rebuke. Toleration like this leads to an acceptance of lower standards of behavior and thus a deterioration of civil society. Debate must be elevated. Partisanship bickering, zealous dogma, personal attacks, and emotional hyperbole have no place in a recovery of the magnitude which we face.
We must not shield the next generation from these tough times. They should know what difficulties exist in this world and what steps are to be taken by the family, the community, and the country at large to mitigate them. If they grow up never knowing the full breadth of these things they will likely be ill prepared to deal with them when they’re in charge. Sacrifice isn’t such a bad thing to learn at a young age. This type of behavior change was evident this past Christmas season as retail numbers came in. Consumers across the board acted responsibly by choosing fiscal restraint in lieu of overextending their credit. Unfortunately that presents a bittersweet pill for our economy to swallow but one that is good for the illness in the long run.
We must stop looking for more and more from government and a handout at every turn. Conversely, those that we elect to mind the purse strings must cease the practice of hidden earmarks that spend your tax dollars capriciously to promote in essence what is best for them in the short term.
We must reject the move to self flagellate and blame our own country for everyone else’s problems. In spite of all our issues we are still the worlds leading economic catalyst and purveyor of research and technology, while also the most generous in terms of charity and aid for those in need. For over 230 years the American spirit and intent has not been malicious, but rather virtuous. We are not the villains in this story. If we were to lose confidence in ourselves what reason would there be for those that look to us with confidence that we could respond in crisis.
Like him or hate him, Richard Nixon got it right when he spoke of our nation in the following words. “We have faced other crises in our history and have become stronger by rejecting the easy way out and taking the right way in meeting our challenges. Our greatness as a nation has been our capacity to do what had to be done when we knew our course was right”.
The hole isn’t too deep and our ladder will be just fine.