Whither our country?
The Norman TranscriptJuly 02, 2005 12:30 am— For The TranscriptDisarray abounds. But our country still nurtures millions of honorable men and women, many thousands of dedicated teachers, sensitive religious minds, creative personalities, masters of science, mathematics andengineering, and millions who earnestly plod their way through the grind of life.Sometimes choices are so difficult, and ideas are so controversial, so threatening we do not want to deal withthem. Turning on television, going to the "game" or idling hours in the mall are less stressful alternatives. Thetrouble is these are often a waste of time and resources. The vast majority of what is offered on television isan affront to good taste and reflective judgment. As for the game, it makes little difference who wins,although emotions are warmly massaged by the challenge, the conflict and the "victory." And the mall,although providing useful services and playing a helpful role in our economy, is often an escape valve. It isfilled with multiple retail outlets selling much the same merchandise mostly made by "slave labor" in China,Indonesia or other Asian countries. The irony is we do not need most of it. As the world gets morecomplicated, congested and interdependent the more important emotional balance and maturity become.Unfortunately, there is little evidence that our growth in emotional maturity ? an indispensable foundation of good judgment ? is proportionate to our intensifying stresses and strains. One notes with regret that "talk shows" and numerous commercial diversions are intended to deflect attention from the war, from the rapidlyexpanding national debt and the corruption of government by money.The United States was scarcely a nation when Wordsworth wrote "She Was a Phantom of Delight" ? a tributeto his future wife. He said she saw life with "eye serene," and although he understood she was a pilgrimbetween life and death he recognized her strong will and her strength, endurance and foresight. These are thequalities that can carry us through perilous times. Foresight is perhaps the most critical. It requires that wesubordinate our egocentric ambitions to the larger good, that we undergo self-imposed deprivation, and thatwe bring psychological maturity to our uncertain future.Many of us immersed in the luxuries of the 21st century suffer cultural myopia. Like numerous rulers, kings,dictators and their loyal followers we seem led by moral blindness, andwe may undergo their same fate. Onlyby careful reflection guided by humane sentiments are we likely to avoid this outcome. One of the greatestironies of existence is our presumption that what we have ? our institutions, our comforts and our freedom ?are permanent. The first lesson of reality and maturity is that nothing in this world is permanent. Nothingabides, for change transforms everything. Growth, change and erosion are inescapable qualities of the greatcosmic processes of which we are a part. Paradoxically enough, the threads of change seem to be the tie thatbinds together the seemingly infinite elements ? objects, items, "things" ? of our universe.The years speed by, even the centuries seem to hurry past, and although long historical periods slip onlyslowly by they nevertheless pass. With the speed, the hurry and the slip of time, our lives and our institutionsare inevitably modified. That the dynasties of the Manchus, the Bourbons or the Romanovs would provetemporary never occurred to their powerful, self-confident, authoritarian and narrowly focused rulers. Neverin his wildest fancies did Louis XVI think his fellow countrymen would detach his head from his body.Napoleon's ego never permitted him to anticipate defeat at Waterloo or the humiliation of St. Helena. The"coon-skin cap psychology" of Lyndon Johnson blinded him to the importance, complexities and realities of Asian geography. And Hitler corrupted what might have been an honorable love of his Fatherland withpsychotic hate and brutality. If Americans can learn to think beyond profits to be made in the stock market orin the oil business, and the soothing comforts of conspicuous consumption, it may occur to them to study thegeography and anthropology of the Eastern Hemisphere beforeseeking to reform our oriental cousins whom