Last weekend certainly was one of the best we’ve had in a while here on our little island. It has to have been what many would call a “picture perfect set of days” which allowed us the opportunity to enjoy all of the wonderful aspects of the special place we call home here in Southwest Florida. A great friend of mine in New Hampshire reminded me that they were bracing for another end-of-winter weather event there in the other spot I fondly refer to as my home state.
Great friends of ours, Ed and Nellie, met us for dinner on Saturday evening and subsequently invited us for a wonderful boat ride around the island on Sunday. That tour around the island aboard their boat served to reinforce my decision of 31 years ago to put winter behind me and make Marco my home on a fulltime basis. We hadn’t seen them in a while, and it was great to catch up as we basked in the beauty that surrounds us and talked about what our collective families had been up to.
I do believe the four of us wondered aloud at times as to whether we as a nation may have been losing our grip on “common sense.” Our forefathers must be looking down upon us and wondering the same thing at times, and I can’t say that I blame them, especially given some of the choices we make. It causes me to wonder whether we are squandering or minimizing the great gifts those generations that came before us bestowed over so many years.
We as a nation and a culture have had to grow and mature over the 245 years since we made that fateful decision to seek our independence. We would be foolish to think we haven’t made mistakes, but equally as naïve is to think we haven’t sought to remedy those missteps and correct them during our journey as a nation – a nation which has risen to challenges that might have defeated a country and a people not as committed to spending its treasure, talents, resources and the blood of its citizens to doing what was right at the time, lifting the heavy burdens thrust upon it by history.
Common sense tells us Dr. Seuss was never an evil threat to our children or our society, and that Mr. Potato Head was no danger to anyone. We are wasting our valuable time creating non-issues within our nation, masking the real debates on substantive challenges that truly need to be discussed.
One of America’s greatest threats lies in a Congress that, over the last two decades or more, has continued to grow uncooperative, manipulative and ineffective – a Congress which has become infested with “career politicians” rather than citizens who see it as a duty to serve and contribute back to our nation for a short time. Those career politicians increasingly lack any connection to reality and to those they represent.
The bitterness of the partisanship on both sides has become sickening to those who choose to continue to observe the process in an effort to reform it, while the threat to our Republic continues to grow as this disconnect between those who govern and those who are governed widens.
Throwing out our past will do more to injure our future, as a nation that fails to understand its history is bound to repeat its errors. Winston Churchill paraphrased George Santayana when he addressed the House of Commons in 1948 and spoke of his fears regarding that philosophy. I believe Churchill to be one of those transformative individuals from history that we all could take a lesson from now and then.
In my opinion, our great nation was built upon a foundation of sacrifice, charity and patriotism. None of these should be minimized as we look back upon our evolution as a nation and a people. This is not meant to minimize the “melting pot of cultures” which we continue to celebrate today as Americans.
We truly do stand at a crossroads as a nation. If the kind of America that represented the hopes of men and women like my grandparents, who came through Ellis Island in the early 20th Century, is to continue to grow and thrive in the future, we must look back on those foundations of sacrifice, charity and patriotism that helped to create our nation. We must not seek to “redefine” who we are, but to build on the successes of the American experiment that has served us so well, warts and all.
I know there are some who feel we have failed as a nation and must move in another direction, but one which will doom the many successes for which America is known. Instead, I hope we can look back upon the words of President John F. Kennedy when, in his inaugural address to the nation, challenged us as citizens to “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”