This is just another outstanding, insightful post by Mike of the “makeaneffort” think tank.
As our readers know, we did a little series focusing on the odds of being born an American, at this time in history (a tad worse than 300 to 1), and suggested that Americans, rather than whining so much, could show a little gratitude. We were right, but our way of expressing it was incomplete.
Our posts suggested that we show our gratitude to the country, while Mike states the oft-overlooked obvious: It was not America that made us great, but rather individual Americans, and their individual efforts, who made America great. Their aim was to make of America a country that served her people as a country should.
A good chunk of our gratitude should be directed toward these individuals. As we look upon Michelangelo’s David or the Sistine Chapel and wonder at their beauty, we easily save some awe and reverence for Michelangelo himself. It should be the same for America. The blathering baboons of America’s left fail every time to realize that they owe everything to those of the very much far right who made the freedoms they so casually take for granted.
There is a difference between serving, say, The Soviet Union, or Nazi Germany — and serving America. There’s no good reason to serve North Korea’s Kim family, short of doing what one must to stay alive. There was no good reason to serve the Soviet Union, or Nazi Germany, or Red China, or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, or the islamists of today. There are base, vile, evil reasons, but no good ones — no reasons that support the notion that we should leave the world a better, a greater, place for our having been here.
Those other countries and organizations view the individual as fuel for the state. I said that carefully. A country, an organization, is made up of its citizens, and its leaders, and they take on a persona of their own. If the leaders view the people as mere fuel or food, then the country or organization views them as such. The leaders are there because the people — either through action or inaction — put them there. They do express the will of the people.
Therefore, it follows as night does the day, that to make service to America a good thing, we must make America worthy to be served.
We don’t do that merely by serving America, but also by making America, as each succeeding generation does, whether it wants to or not. To make America great, we must be great. To make America great, we must be good.
American greatness is nothing more, nor less, than the greatness of individual Americans.
We’ve long been in a mood to disparage people such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, the Adamses, etc. because while they adhered to the moral standards of their times, those standards have changed and we no longer approve of all these men did or were.
We sometimes forget that Washington turned down both the American throne, and a third term as President, setting standards for selflessness that were unprecedented at the time. In doing so, though, Washington suggested that power should not be the goal, but rather that doing the right thing should be our aim.
To make a country great, the people must be great. To make a country good, the people must be good. Yes, this is a re-phrasing of the old line from the Herald and Presbyter of September 6, 1922: “America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
While today we sneer at Jefferson and his “values” — Slave owner! Hypocrite! Slave woman abuser! — we still demand that others live up to the values he so eloquently penned in The Declaration… And on and on and on. The overall code these individuals hammered out, was so revolutionary that its like had never before been seen, as a governing philosophy.
It had been articulated before, and people have called it by various different names, but the most common are Judeo-Christian values, or, simply: Christianity.
In other times, you could have the strange phenomenon of a king who was thoroughly honorable with other kings and courtiers, family and friends, all the while doing nothing to improve the frequently wretched lot of his subjects. History generally looks upon such kings as “benevolent” monarchs, and there is no reason, really, not to continue to respect them. They were products and producers of their times.
The founders of America turned all that on its head, and suggested that we look upon the “king” as the servant of the people, and that if he failed adequately to serve the people, then we the people should remove him from power.
It’s only in the 20th Century that we have built this absurd cult around the President. To this day, many of us look with a sense of awe upon a miserable hack like Jimmy Carter, a man whose ill-advised actions, and ill-timed inaction, brought death and despair to millions overseas, and impoverished millions here in the United States.
Why revere Carter? Because of the cult of the Presidency. It’s only with a half-correct sense that America is great — a notion that America is great by herself — without the efforts of great Americans — that we have such respect for Presidents and past Presidents. It’s a false and dangerous notion.
It pains me to say it, but America was perfectly mediocre under Jimmy Carter. On a precipitous path of decline, we watched as it became difficult simply to go to work for the gas lines. We prepared ourselves to accept double-digit inflation and double-digit unemployment as “normal.” We watched as the forces of death and destruction seemed to be on an irreversible ascendancy. Jabbering thugs had taken over Iran, in a coup that continues to harm the world to this day. The Soviet Union had recently invaded and pacified Czechoslovakia; North Vietnam had overrun South Vietnam and was busy killing and “re-educating” hundreds of thousands; The Khmer Rouge were raining death upon millions of Cambodians; left-wing dictatorship after left-wing dictatorship after left-wing dictatorship was sweeping across Africa, South America. Europe had embraced a kind of half-way socialism that rejected all that had made her great. We were doomed.
Then we weren’t.
A single great American stood athwart history and yelled, “Stop!” and others took notice. And we just stopped being mediocre. Why? Because we could.
Reagan took over in 1981, and indicated that we might want to get our collective heads out of our collective navels and set about the task of making America great again. It’s no fun to be mediocre; to get our clocks cleaned by gibbering thugs; to watch as gangsters and goons swarm over the rest of the world spreading death and destruction everywhere. So we stopped. Reagan suggested that we cut it out, and we did.
It pains me to say this too: We’re mediocre again.
We’re watching in dismay as the rest of the world burns, while we seem as impotent to do a thing about it as an old, old man. Our President — lauded by the press and the beautiful people, and himself, as always the “smartest man in the room” — fails and fails and fails and fails and fails yet again. Our Secretary of State — praised as the Master of Nuance — fails and fails and fails and fails again. Our previous Secretary of State — hailed as the “Smartest Woman in the World” — failed and failed and failed and failed and failed again. On their watch, literally nothing in the world has improved. Nothing. People die by scores in Africa from disease, violence, and just ages-old African-ness; likewise people die in droves in the Middle East, Asia, Russia, Ukraine, South America and elsewhere, pummeled by merciless petty tyrants into the dust; once again the gibbering goons burble and jabber as they hack the heads off men, then thrust those severed heads into our living rooms, confident that they will never pay for the atrocity. Meanwhile, men and women here work three jobs — each — just to keep a roof over their heads. Highly-educated Americans languish in unemployment, because their skills are unwanted in a country that has regulated and dammed and strangled a once-mighty river of innovation into a drip-drip-drip trickle.
“American might” has turned into “America won’t,” and the rest of the world has noticed. The gibbering goons are rushing to fill the vacuum, as we watch in sclerotic dismay.
It doesn’t take much. Either to save this country, and much of the world, as Americans did in the early eighties — or to bring her back to her knees as we then did in the 2010’s.
Still, to save America, we have to make an effort.