My generation—I was born in 1937—was raised to believe that character, values, integrity, helping others and welcoming the stranger were paramount. We were raised to think that how one lived one’s life and ran a business mattered more than how much money or possessions one accumulated.
We were not against making money, but how one earned it mattered. How one played the game mattered more than winning or losing. Sportsmanship mattered. This was the American way. This was the foundation of our national identity.
If these are no longer the values upon which our country stands, if this is no longer the bedrock of our national identity, then what is our national identity? What constitutes the American way of life? What are our national priorities?
Does the Golden Rule matter? Do we still believe all people are created equal? Are we still our brother’s keeper? Do we still protect those weaker than ourselves? Do we still abhor bullying? Do we still detest winning at all cost? Do we no longer value character in our leaders?
It appears that we are moving toward (if we haven’t already arrived) becoming a nation that says, me first at the expense of all others, values and integrity are for losers and wimps, strength and power are supreme, and being feared is more important than being respected.
I remember the days of watching the debates between the conservative author William Buckley and the liberal economist Kenneth Galbraith. I was enthralled by their intellects and their civility. While they had very different political and economic beliefs, it was quite obvious they respected one another. And because their civil intellectual discourse, I learned a lot from each of them.
What happened to the days when people with different points of view could actually enjoy each other’s company? Today it seems that long-term friends and even family members can barely be in the same room together. Heated arguments often lead to violence. Instead of respect and civil discourse, we have vitriol, name-calling and even rage.
Alas, I must be getting old. The past looks far rosier than the future.
Edward A. Dreyfus
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.