Intemperate Thoughts

The latest events across the country and dare I say, across the world, can serve to wash each of us in a veritable sea of hopelessness once we consider the situation as it appears to be. First and foremost, we have a terminal oil spill in the Gulf. I do not use the term ‘terminal’ lightly here as that is what it appears to foretell for the future of the coast. Not in the very least the beaches that I grew up around and have loved for so long. I’ve spent time working and fishing in Grand Isle, and I’ve lived in Panama City Beach. I’ve vacationed in all points in between at various times in my life. My earliest memories of the Gulf are picnics when I was too small to remember much else except the fact they occurred amid the sugary sands of Henderson Point on the Mississippi Sound. Many of my carefree, teenage summer days were spent taking the ferry from Gulfport out to Ship Island, and it is something I still try in vain to describe to others who have never made that trip. Looking back, was there any reason not for me to join the Coast Guard when I made the decision to serve my country?

I’m no Jimmy Buffett, I’m just saying.

There is a lot of emphasis on the news these days on the spill, with the assorted blame game played out daily between the White House and BP. In fact, so much of the coast is under the microscope that you have to look hard to see the other ‘things going on’ that are interesting and viable. Venezuela took over our oil rigs on their coastline, in effect nationalizing them, without a peep from our government in response. Iran is closer each day to joining the nuclear club. The economy continues to totter on the brink of collapse. Wars continue in Afghanistan and Iraq, and now the Argentineans are stirring up a new debate over control of the Falkland Islands; the same islands for which a war was fought back in the 1980’s. There are many more things happening out there and I could go on and on. Truly these are the times that try men’s souls.

What is next for our country? What lurks behind the closet door or beneath the bed, merely waiting for the right moment to jump out and scare us out of our remaining sanity? Is this the end, or merely the beginning of the end, in a manner of speaking? Yes, things are bad now, but even so, what will they be like down the road in my own eleven-year-old son’s lifetime? What will he face in his future or will we even make it that far?

Ah, gloom and doom, Shannon. Cut it out. But it’s Thursday and I can be gloomy if I want. I’m off tomorrow, getting a fast start on the whole July the Fourth weekend thing and I deserve it this year. We celebrate our Nation’s anniversary annually on this date, and it is worth celebrating. We have a great Nation, and one we should still be proud of despite the evening news or our recent faults and failures. I’m going to burn up some meat and spend some time in the sun. It will be good for me, I tell you.

I know the answers (but no one is asking me, I know) to all of the problems we seem to be encumbered with these days. I don’t blame the President, totally. I don’t put the onus for catastrophe on the Congress or the Supreme Court, either. At least not all of it. But it is easy to point the finger of blame in their direction - it makes it easier on all of us. After all, we get the government we deserve, eh?

Most of our problems we face are the sum of our fixation on the economy, but that in itself is a result of how it affects all of us. We have to have jobs and we have to pay bills. And taxes are always going to be an issue either way. It’s a tough row to hoe when you are forced to watch your tax dollars being frittered away on handouts, bailouts, and other frivolous schemes emanating from inside the Beltway. It might make you become political and join a Tea Party or otherwise become involved, and that’s not always a bad thing. But it is not the crux of the matter and all that ails our society cannot be encircled within the realm of ‘it’s the economy, stupid’.

Our problem is morals, or the lack of them, and it started a very long time ago. With good moral laws and codes, the kind laid out for us in the Bible, the economy would take care of itself. No one would be embezzling their company’s retirement funds and heading to Mexico, no one would be slacking off and taking handouts from the government unless they truly needed them, and wages would be paid on a scale based upon knowledge and talent instead of via policy. The harder you worked to attain that knowledge and develop your talents would show results, as it used to do. Honesty would prevail in the marketplace without any needed coercion from the powers that be. Schools would prosper as students (and parents) realized knowledge was key, and extracurricular activities would simply become extracurricular once again. The societal burdens we face with crime, drug use, and even illegal immigration would become taboo instead of being glorified in songs, movies, and various other media forms.

I’m speaking of a Nirvana that has never existed, I know. But by the same token, our country seems to have gone completely in a diametrically-opposed direction until it is no longer a semblance of what it was even fifty years ago. I fear we may never get back what we have lost in the process.

Solomon writes in Proverbs, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” And I think he knew what he was talking about when he wrote this. I’d much rather see my Country exalted on the world stage instead of becoming a reproach on this earth. But on this Fourth of July, I find myself pondering: where do we go from here?

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