No. 685



Several weeks ago I received an e-mail from Wallace Heller with a subject line comment, “Thought you might find this interesting.” Well, I did find it of great interest, so much so that I wanted to share a portion of it with you. When I went to the Internet to check out Wallace Heller, I learned that he is a psychiatrist who lives in Altus, Okla. This column runs there, so this may be the connection. I hope this is the case, because the article is right on and I am not sure that Dr. Heller is the author, but at least I have given you a disclaimer. I just wish I had written it.
It begins: “America’s greatest enemy isn’t huddled in a tent chanting verses; it’s you and I. Great civilizations decay from within long before they are subdued from without. Doubt that our country is in trouble? Consider this. What happens to a nation when the generation that learned nothing becomes the teachers, and the generation that never grew up becomes the parents?
“What happens to a nation when everybody wants to live on Easy Street, but nobody wants to do the work necessary to get there? What happens when people no longer believe that great sacrifices are required to accomplish things of value, things that last? What happens when people can’t give up today’s comfort and convenience for a greater reward tomorrow, convinced that self-denial is never called for? Perhaps we can only “have it all, right now” when “it” is very hollow, fleeting and pointless.
“What happens to a nation when the primary ethic becomes ‘Get as much as you can for as little as you can get away with?’ What happens to achievement and accomplishment when people believe that ‘something’ can be had for ‘nothing’ and ‘deserving’ replaces ‘earning?’
“What happens to a nation when immediate happiness is the goal of all activity and instant satisfaction is demanded in order to make an effort? What happens when the ability to delay gratification — the defining quality of adulthood — is largely lost, and the loss is not even mourned?
“What happens to a nation where the rules of grammar are considered oppressive or obsolete, where substandard speech laced with profanity signifies trendiness, and where a high school graduate can’t write an expository essay to save his own skin, but even grammar school kids have the latest hand-held electronic gadgets? What happens when thinking and writing skills are no longer considered valuable and the effort to acquire them worthwhile? Who seriously believed that using calculators in math class would enable kids to learn more, not less? What future do our children have now that leisure has replaced learning and diversion has replaced dedication and devotion?”
Here is the real question: “We can see others in the profiles above, but can we see ourselves? Or is the uncrossable line reached when it comes to recognizing how our own values and choices undermine the future? We think we get it, until it gets to us. Please, someone, throw the first stone.” There is much more and I have only scratched the surface, but this piece ends with these words. “Can we save America before it’s too late? Can we make this question as important as the latest celebrity scandal or American Idol contestant? Do we have the courage to ask “What kind of values sustains civilization” and “What kind of culture is best for us and our children?”
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)