The book “The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens” by Richard Haass and other recent works and podcasts speak to the duties and responsibilities of citizenship. There is great diversity in this country which continues to be one of the strengths of this nation.
Each generation deals with its own challenges, and we have certainly had a few recently. We have lived through two recessions, two wars, a pandemic, runaway inflation, and infrastructure issues (please include any more here). Yet, we are a resilient people. We are good people. We are people who can take on all of these issues if we do not become cowardly.
Even though some individuals remain in masks for various reasons, we have come through the pandemic. We survived while others did not. Individuals are congregating in full force and traveling the country again. People seem hopeful for the future. Yet, we are also in the midst of a great reckoning as we search for a complete tracking of why, when, and where the virus began and who is responsible.
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When the reports ae finished, they need to be published openly and individuals held fully and publicly accountable. Something equivalent to the Nuremburg Trials after the Second World War. The truth needs to resonate.
Our manners do not seem much better than they were before the virus. The national debt spins out of control, and every middle-class American understands if the family spent like our current federal government, things would not work out well. Congress must get control of spending because, while things seem OK right now, we are mortgaging away this country to our children and their children. National security involves a budget and sticking fairly close to it. Too much debt leaves us vulnerable in many, many ways. The way we spend speaks to our character as a country.
Speaking of character, there have been too many classified documents discovered at private homes lately. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue; it is a character issue. People want to argue how, and why, and how long these documents remained at these residences and what the degree of clearance was, but they miss the point. Politics is about leverage, and clearly individuals held onto these documents because they wanted leverage on others. Another argument some gave for having the documents is that they did know they had them. Such statements should make them ineligible for election in the future. There is always the possibility these discoveries are politically motivated and that is the leverage factor which makes our current politics extra dirty. This is nothing new but something to watch.
And speaking of dirty, it is never respectful to interrupt a president during a State of the Union Address. When a leader of any party is giving a required address, let the individual finish, then, express differences of opinion. There is absolutely nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone but choosing the right time is important. Showing respect instead of showing off is better.
A quick reading of some of the country’s history reminds us that things generations get all up in arms about tend to be solved one way or the other because people are fighters for the things which are good and right. We have never been short on passion. It is very easy to pick out the things which may not be going well but a lot harder to think about all the good things going on. We are a nation of goodness.
There are things which are worth letting go by the wayside, but we better not individually or collectively mortgage away our character and integrity as a people and a country. Fathers and mothers need to be parents to their children as best they can. As a nation, we cannot afford to mortgage away our values based on solid Judeo Christian ethics such as respect for one another and a healthy observance for the rule of law. We are a great nation for many reasons, but we don’t want to “give up the ship” because we become lazy in mind and body. We must value citizenship and manners. We must value integrity and family. We must value one another for the strengths we each bring. Moreover, we each must be willing to try to get along with each other. In finding common ground, we may discover more common purposes.
The great majority of citizens in this country are doing things such as these. Still, it is healthy to question ourselves: What things are we mortgaging away for the future and not spending quality time on in the present? What are the costs?
Things simply will not improve because we want them to. Both continuity and change take work. Like any other moment in this country’s history, we are in a moment again. There are moments of reckoning, upheaval and victories.
Let us hope we are asking the right questions, and not mortgaging our time away for future generations to have to pick up our slack.
Brent Tomberlin is a social studies instructor at South Caldwell High School and at CCC&TI. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.