Sunday, January 20, 2013
"When Giants Walked The Earth"
In an age where America must be coddled, spoon fed, inoculated, medicated, cared for by the government and spared being told that "there really is no Santa Claus", we might remember the legacy of American courage.
America is now a nation of whiners. We don't want to acknowledge our own failures and find it much more convenient to blame the rich, blame God, blame our neighbors for our own life choices.
We now live in an age where conservative politicians rant against the gay lifestyle, yet are themselves caught in an airport restroom soliciting gay sex. It is an era where a Congressman Barney Frank and a Senator Dodd take preferential mortgage offers from lenders in exchange for looking the other way as preferential lenders exploit the poor. We live in an age where a Democratic Senate is so utterly cowardly that they will not pass an annual budget, lest their vote for annual trillion dollar budget deficits be recorded for posterity.
Given the state of the American union it might be interesting to remember "when giants walked the earth".
George Washington led our country in war for seven long years, fighting an enemy that never had less than a 10 to 1 troop advantage. While the well equipped British Army had the wealth of the British treasury behind them, Washington led troops who went shoeless at Valley Forge and went without pay for a year or more. During those seven years, while leading a rag-tag army, Washington's estate suffered massive losses and left him deeply in debt when the war was over. And sadly, Washington lost both of his children while fighting for America's "birth". A Giant.
John Adams, while fighting for American independence, lost a son, then a daughter to breast cancer, but not before having to witness her double mastectomy performed without anesthesia. Adams sacrificed a thriving legal career, as well as the health of his farm, while working tirelessly to build an American government that might assure freedom for his countrymen.
Thomas Jefferson wrote our Declaration of Independence, wrote the legal codicils that assured our religious freedoms, expanded the American empire from the Atlantic to the Pacific, all the while having endured the loss of his wife at the age of 33 and the loss of eight of his ten children before they ever achieved adulthood. A Giant.
Abraham Lincoln was vilified by most of America as he assumed the Presidency. He was called an ugly ape, an ignorant backwoodsman, a dolt. During his entire Presidency he was under threat of assassination. He suffered the agonizing loss of children while also agonizing over ever young man lost in a civil war that would kill 600,000 men before it was over. To everyone of his enemies Lincoln extended an olive branch, and even in victory, he insisted on mercy for an enemy that wished only to destroy him. And only weeks after winning the peace, he was gunned down by those he chose to forgive. A Giant.
Ulysses S. Grant was a forgotten Army Captain selling hardware in his Illinois hometown when the Civil War began. Four years later he would sign the peace treaty with Robert E. Lee at Appomattox wearing four stars on his shoulder boards. A Giant
Theodore "Teddy Roosevelt, from a family of great wealth, was elected Governor of New York, hand picked by the corrupt "wealthy 1%" in some smoke filled back room. Upon being elected he opted in favor of "the people" and swept the corrupt out of power. Upon assuming the Presidency, he fought the "robber barons" of Carnegie and Rockefeller and enacted anti-trust laws and fair labor laws. Never afraid to "speak softly but carry a big stick", he led the charge up San Juan Hill in the Spanish American War but sufficient reverence for peace to win the Nobel Peace Prize. A Giant.
Within three years of taking office, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, while trying mightily to bring America out of the Great Depression, was forced to confront the rantings of a monster emerging in Germany. As country after country fell to the Nazi's, an isolationist America refused to approve our involvement in another world war. Roosevelt had to use guile and subterfuge to enact "lend lease" to equip the British who were the last European nation standing in the way of the Nazi invasion of America. After Pearl Harbor, it was Roosevelt who coached and charmed and dictated actions that would turn America into one massive war manufacturing machine, to arm and equip an allied army of fifteen million men.
He would die in office, two months before the end of the war, a war that could not have been won without his leadership. A Giant.
In 1939 an obscure Lieutenant Colonel had already served nearly twenty years in the U.S. Army. Four years later that same light Colonel would be a four star general directing the movements of a ten million man allied army and preparing for the largest invasion in history. To achieve victory, Dwight David Eisenhower would have to be "diplomat", massaging the egos of Roosevelt and Churchill and DeGaulle, and Stalin, and "General", commanding the respect of a Montgomery and a Patton to achieve military victory. Eisenhower would late assume the Presidency and preside over the most prosperous era America has ever enjoyed, built the national highway system, then retired to civilian life, but not before warning America about the potential for corruption of an out of control military industrial complex. A Giant!
In 1960 the first of a new generation was elected to the Presidency. John Kennedy, a handsome and youthful President, with his beautiful and elegant wife, and charming children, brought a re-newed sense of youth and confidence to the American scene. New hopes for improved race relations, new hopes to eliminate poverty began to emerge. A 20th century "Camelot" was declared. A war hero who hated war, Kennedy none the less was forced to admit failure at the Bay of Pigs, and two years later confront, and triumph over a nuclear crisis that took the world to the edge of Armageddon in the span of a few brief days in November. A year later America lost her optimism and her hope as this young man was taken from us in Dealy Plaza in Dallas. A Giant.
And lest we forget, America in her first two hundred years was well populated with people who were collectively "giants". People who braved the frontiers to homestead the west. People who worked dawn to dusk, hard scraping a life out of the wilderness. Immigrants who came to America every 20 years or so and continue to refine the "American Dream". People who endured a ten year "Great Depression", but continued to love America sufficiently to fight for her in a savage World War. People who emerged from that war and came home to build roads and homes and schools and factories and dreams. From those people came Jonas Salk who developed a vaccine for polio, like Martin Luther King who preached equality in peaceful protest. People like Steinbeck that reminded us of social conscience. All Giants.
Where are today's "Giants?" We in America today seemed to be a nation of "pygmies" and our icons are named Bieber and Beyonce and JayZ and Lady Gaga. We have a Senate that won't pass a budget and a government corrupted by corporate influence. And worst of all, Americans today are content to tweet and text and sext ....and whine...about how tough life is. And on the horizon I see no "giants" coming to the rescue.
Sad. Damned Sad.