One of the many gifts that separate men from animals is that of memory. Not the sort that makes a dog shy away from a chair after being hit on the nose with a newspaper, but real, conscious memory that can make the past as real to us as the present. In some ways this gift is a curse, as it is said that man can suffer pain and anguish in a way that animals never can, because pain most keenly remains in the memory that sometimes produces the most suffering.
Similarly burned into our consciousness are sensual memories like the smell of spring, bucolic scenes, and the voices of our loved ones. Our memory can also be a repository of things not apparent to the senses; those that inspire us and shape our behavior, especially as a nation. As we approach the beginning of a new year, one that heralds the first post-Baby Boomer presidency, we should pause to recollect those things which, it seems, might soon disappear from our national memory.
The most important of these might be the sacrifices of our forefathers. I say this not just because most Gen-Xers have no real connection to World War II, but seem ignorant as well of the Communist threat during the Cold War, though millions of their countrymen who lived through the latter are still alive. The truth is, they just don't seem to care. This is why phrases like "redistribution of wealth" fail to raise red flags in their minds, so to speak. The threats of murderous regimes are oh-so-boring when compared with "change you can believe in."
But maybe it's not their fault. It appears that we are allowing our collective memory to be overcome by the media monster which, unlike its predecessor, an unbiased press, now shapes our culture instead of reflecting it. For example, although most of us of a certain age know better, we are constantly told by the media that the "Ozzie and Harriet" depiction of American life was a lie; that we are to believe them and not our own experience. This indeed is the ultimate betrayal of memory.
And it continues apace. Unfathomable are the number of young people who are chanting the media mantra that today's economic woes are "worse than the Great Depression," a deception easily disproved by anyone possessed of the industry to put down the iPod and open a book. Of course, much of the blame rests on those who have corrupted our educational system in order to produce students whose grasp of American history is abominable.
But it's not just our military and economic history that needs to be seared into the American memory. If we are to continue as a great nation, we need to ensure that we may always recollect the virtues that made us so. Particularly lacking in modern America -- except in our military -- is the concept of honor.
From corporate thieves to sports figures to politicians, we have seen that pride in the acquisition of personal power and wealth has taken the place of honor. No deal is too dirty, no contract or promise so unbreakable, that would restrain the actions of those who have no regard for their reputations in the eyes of others. Why should they? Fame and fortune -- worshipful aspirations as taught by the media -- at any cost are the goals; personal responsibility and integrity be damned. How far away seem the words of our Founding Fathers who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their "sacred honor" in support of our Declaration of Independence.
From the lack of honor proceeds a dearth of its attending virtues: prudence, honesty, self-control and moral courage. Without these qualities, our country cannot endure as originally and most beautifully conceived. As John Adams put it: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." And maybe this is the aim of our liberal friends and their allies in the media, seeing as they seem to regard our Constitution as just so much outdated fishwrap.
So, is it possible to revive the values necessary to continue our voyage on a "skiff made of paper"? Will future generations have a clue about our heritage or even care about "the Glorious Cause"? Let's hope that the old adage about folks who cannot remember the past will work the other way; that those who cherish their illustrious past will be honored with its future blessings.