Maybe the greatest benefit to growing old (or older) is that it gives us a reference point for change. If we remember how things "were," we can compare them to what we see now and make some personal judgments about our progress -- either good or bad. We can do that in our society today as we try to compare various elements of our lives now to how we believe they were some period of time ago recognizing they are subjective opinions. Having passed the 80-year threshold, I remember the World War II era, but not the "Great Depression" of the late '20s. I remember my first paying job as a farm worker and a relatively brief Air Force career as an enlisted man, seeking a college degree, marriage, starting a family, choosing a working career, etc.
The years turn into decades and as one steps back, the changes become much more evident as we peer through the blur that hid them during the process of living them. Our president today is much different than a Roosevelt, Truman or Reagan. Our nation's needs are different than those required of World War II and the Cold War as other powerful nations have replaced Germany and Japan as threats to our way of life. Nuclear war remains a source of concern, but the threat now comes from a new source with a questionable purpose. As a result the ability of our nation's leaders to influence other countries is our gateway to a safe solution, not just for America, but for the world.
We need a new level of national leadership in our elected officials. Leaders whose priority is selfless not selfish, leaders who acknowledge they cannot find answers within their earthly knowledge of a Harvard degree but must seek the wisdom of a higher power. Money and power as always seem to go hand-in-hand. It is no secret when applied to politics, the combination can quickly corrupt those willing to be drawn into the circle of swirling activity like a whirlpool in water. If you are a Democrat, the seemingly unlimited financial resources of the Koch family are guilty of leading the Republican Party and the nation astray. However, the Republicans see the George Soros of the world as supporting corruption and providing limitless resources for the Democratic Party. How the money is actually used, or spent, is what matters. Determining the true intent of the individual giver or the concessions of the political party is not always evident. A selfish desire to control important issues through the use of financial leverage certainly offers the super wealthy an opportunity to sway the views of a nation through legislation and the power of the news media.
A good friend of mine recently sent me a quote from Thomas Jefferson taken from his notes concerning the state of Virginia. The quote is from a period when the topic of slavery and freedom was on the minds of the majority of the nation, but the theme seems appropriate as our nation struggles with the issue of equality -- both for women in the workplace and social issues in our cities. The question, we as a country face and must answer, lies in where we ultimately look for the wisdom to correct our nation's ills.
Jefferson was quoted as saying: "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever."
This use of the phrase was repeated in several of Jefferson's letters, according to internet sources, but there is little doubt in my mind that he would apply it today to the conditions of our country. Our failure to face up to the changes in society have led to a multitude of current issues -- corruption in Congress, a president using social media to try to govern, women bringing forth sexual accusations in all levels of society, mass shootings without explanation, etc . The major question seems to be who has gained as we have changed in so many aspects of our life ? Are we as individuals better off or has government done more to separate financial classes as they become more influenced by those giving to support the two major political parties? When legislation is passed along party lines it is easy to see the major sources of power.
If Thomas Jefferson were using this quote to explain our condition today, I believe he would change only the word "liberties" and replace it with "moral" or "moral character." It seems to me we have become a nation convinced we are created to become consumers and seek pleasure 24 hours per day. It is hard for me not to blame our selfish political system for leading this parade away from the source Jefferson felt was necessary for our survival.
Editor's note: Leo Lynch, an award-winning columnist, is a native of Benton County and has deep roots in northwest Arkansas. The opinions expressed are those of the author. He is a retired industrial engineer and former Justice of the Peace.Editorial on 12/06/2017
Print Headline: Age provides a different perspective