…. The truth is we’ve been here before, more than once. We know the way out. The question is: Do we, as Americans, still have the guts to make the tough choices and execute the plan knowing that the healing process will be more painful than our current condition, or will we kick the can down the road and leave it for our kids to take care of. Time is of the essence as we have levied some pretty high financial stakes this time around. Recorded history reveals what prominent figures had to say about the crisis’ that surrounded them.
We’re in a rough spot right now. It seems every week brings a new crisis for Americans to swallow. The economic meltdown, oil in the Gulf, setbacks in Afghanistan, stagnation in the Middle East, movement in the wrong direction in North Korea and Iran, terrorism on home turf, political incivility, high unemployment, WikiLeaks, corruption on Wall Street, ineptness in DC, high deficits, bleak financial forecasts …. the pile seems to get higher each day. Leaders on both sides of the aisle point fingers, question motivation and in the end, add very little to ease our concern. These events have a cumulative psychological effect leading Americans to ponder the unthinkable; Are our best days behind us?
All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don’t. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.
I remember being in elementary school when I asked my dad if the United States was going to end. That may seem like an odd question to ask but consider the times. The country was getting over JFK’s assassination. The summer of ‘65 was marked with nightly reports by Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on the riots in Watts. It looked to a 10 year old like Los Angeles was burning to the ground. The smoke had barely cleared and Life Magazine graphically portrayed the murders of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. That same summer Chicago was the ungracious host to a rancorous Democratic National Convention and the civil violence that defined it. Viet Nam was a confused mess and the protesters just seemed to make things worse.
If you’re going through hell, keep going.
Places that I’d never heard of before, Cambodia and Laos became front page news as military leaks reached Congress and Americans got to learn where the war effort had strayed. The Vice President of the United States was forced to resign after pleading no contest to charges of corruption. Watergate then exploded bringing down the leader of the free world who had become an accomplice to the crimes of others by following his own misguided moral compass.
America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
Unelected President Gerald Ford found himself in a mess that he actually did inherit. His place in history is secure if for only one thing; he applied much needed salve to a dispirited country that had received traumatic wounds. But, the healing was temporary. Jimmy Carter’s feckless efforts to right the country’s economic and foreign relations woes only made the Misery Index go higher. ‘Stagflation’, 18% interest rates, US hostages in Iran and the Panama Canal give back once again veiled Americans with melancholy.
Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem.
Henry A. Kissinger
The country not only survived this era of dysfunction, but it recovered and thrived. We had done it before following two costly world wars, a devastating stock market crash, and a horrific Civil War. Not necessarily because of who led us out of the woods but because of the unrelenting force of the American spirit.
I always seem to get inspiration and renewed vitality by contact with this great novel land of yours which sticks up out of the Atlantic.
From Watts to Panama was 14 years of history. We recovered from wounds that would have put many governments under. We’re now about 10 years into our current malaise if one starts the clock at 8:46 a.m. on 11 September, 2001. I imagine there are 10 year olds that watch TV and listen to the headlines that are asking their dads the same question I asked mine. I hope we can recover from this one as well.
The people will save their government, if the government itself will allow them.
This time is different though. We are no longer the country of limitless resources and deep pockets. The time when our government had the luxury of relying on the generosity of the American people to bail them out each April 15th is over. They’ve reached their limit for graciousness. We’ve spent our last dollar and exceeded our credit limit to the point where the only way out is fiscal restraint. Financial austerity is a discipline every well run household understands intimately but a notion that is foreign to Washington politicians. The ongoing civil unrest in Greece, France and England is offered compliments of those that have gotten used to promises and the free stuff with which their government bought their votes. These ugly scenes from Europe and Great Britain may be precursors of what will happen in California, NY and Illinois if common sense becomes too elusive. That would be a very bad omen for recovery.
A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.
Gerald R. Ford
The next two to five years will flush out the core of American sentiment. Will we have the courage to make necessary changes on all fronts to ensure our future or will we concede and fall into line behind Western Europe. I remain committed to the notion that we are a country of exceptionalism and betting against an American is never a good idea.
My dad’s answer to me? “We’ll be fine”. He was right.
The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.