The Nation's Pulse

Helpless

Once we knew whose side we were on.

By 7.7.10

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A few weeks ago, I bought a book of front pages of newspapers from World War II. I have been reading it avidly ever since. The news is terrifying and uplifting, of course. But it is the sense of Western resolve against the Axis powers that is so powerful. There is a purpose in the stories of the whole nations of the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union joined to fight the Nazi and Japanese war machines. Fighting, producing, rationing, restraining, cheering, mourning, all done with a will to win.

And, you had no doubt whose side the newspapers were on.

Now, it is all different. The major newspapers sometimes seem to try for impartiality between us and the terrorists. The headlines are at least as hard on our armed forces as on the terrorists. As my wife said, "I have no doubt whose side the big papers are on. The enemy's."

But the sadness of reading those old newspaper stories as compared with today's news has more to do with a sense of purpose and determination. From Pearl Harbor on, the U.S. was determined to win. Not to just keep slogging, but to win. From September 1, 1939 on, the British were determined to win, and thus to "...brace ourselves to our duty so that if the British Empire and Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, this was their finest hour." (I get chills just reading it.)

Now, we are helplessly bogged down in Afghanistan, begrudging the military every fighting man and humiliating the commanding general for his staff's trivial improprieties. Now, we are leaving Iraq, with that situation (let's be honest here), a complete violent mess, helpless to stop it.

At home, we are helpless to stop the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico despite offers to help from abroad. Helpless to lift ourselves out of a long lasting and cruel recession. Helpless to get housing started again. Helpless to put people back to work.

Just helpless. We have slid a long, long way. What's the problem? We still are a great people. We have great men and women fighting for us, great workers in the labor force. The problem is the uncertain sound of the trumpet, and it has been uncertain now for a very long time.

The country deserves better. Can we even remotely say that this is our finest hour? Even remotely? It is sad times.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.