Articles

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Great People

We are still a great people. The rescuers remind us of that. But we lack the culture or the politics to reflect that greatness. The noble impulses that lead men to risk their lives in flooding are there. But our society no longer has the vessels to hold and sustain those impulses.

The media doesn't quite know what to make of the rescuers. You can see the itching to return to the stories that it knows and likes. Russia. Trump hit pieces. People punching each other in the street over politics. It swerves at the first sight of a Confederate flag on a rescue boat or Ted Cruz's Sandy vote. It doesn't want to dwell on the best of us. Behavior like that doesn't make sense anymore.

Generations have grown up with leftist protesters as their definition of heroes. Look in a history book and the last 70 years consisted of "heroes" who marched around waving signs until they got everything they wanted. And everyday in the news there are more "heroes" marching for illegal aliens, transgender bathrooms, the supremacy of black lives and any other identity politics cause.

But waving a placard to the adulation of the media isn't heroism. Saving lives is.

Our culture has quickly forgotten that less than two decades ago, men carrying half their weight climbed to the top of the World Trade Center to save lives. They died there.

The America of a hundred or even fifty years ago, would have immortalized them. Ours drowned them out in tantrums, in whines, in anger and outrage, in malicious noise.

They were a dangerous reminder that we were a great people. And our destroyers desperately wanted us to forget. They wanted us to sink to the bottom. Not to rise to the moment.

The secret of so much of our greatness was simply that we tried. We took our best and we made it the cultural norm. Every people tell themselves that they are wonderful and destined to rule the world. The Germans and the Russians believed it and it led them to ruin. But we told each other that we were decent and we became decent. We told our children that the moon could be theirs. And it was.

We told them that we could cure diseases. And we did. That we would prevail over the atom bomb. And we did. That we would change the world. And we did.

But more importantly, we told them about sportsmanship. We told them to stand up for principles. To take pride in hard work. To believe in the future. To tell the truth. To help old ladies across the street. To tie knots well. To sacrifice for family. To see themselves as heroes, however unlikely.

We made all of those things into a culture. That was the secret. Anyone could have done it. You just had to believe.

And that culture has been slowly dying. Some days it looks almost dead.

Our culture and politics exist to give us permission to lie in the mud. That has become their unhidden purpose. Decency is a dead language. Shock value is our entertainment. Contempt and outrage are our national discourse. The Chinese build cities and islands. We yell at each other over the Internet.

It's hard to remember a time when writing the Great American Novel was an ambition. The American novel is dead. Literature, like art, has become segmented into high brow garbage and low brow garbage. The aspirational middle brow culture is dead.

The movie theater is filled with billion dollar adaptations of comic books, Disney rides and cartoons. The handful of teens who can be pried away from their phones long enough to watch something they'll forget five minutes later aren't even the target audience. America is a stopover territory on the way to the real markets in the teeming cities of China.

How does a culture like that deal with heroism? It can't. It doesn't have the vocabulary for it.

We can still marvel at it. But it's not enough to be impressed by good men and women doing the right thing. Cultures that succeed don't just marvel, they preserve it and pass it on. They build dams around virtue. They harness it and plug in the next generation.

We wonder why the Iraqis or Afghans can't stop killing each other. We explain democracy to them, but it's as meaningless as trying to teach a goat how to paint. But behaviors have to be embodied in a cultural language. Otherwise it's just so much noise.

Civilization is written in the language of values. That language tells us how to behave and how to live. Without that language, we're savages. And savages are not that hard to find all around us. And when you spend enough time around savages, you begin to go native.

When doing the right thing isn't rewarded, few will do it. If everyone cheats, then not only will everyone cheat, but the idea of honestly doing the right thing will become a strange and meaningless thing. If principles don't pay, why have them. If decency is dying, why be decent.  If everyone cheats, cheat. If everyone steals, steal. If everyone lies, lie. Anyone who doesn't is weak and worthless.

Heroism is the beacon in the night. It inspires and shocks us. It reminds us of what we can be.

Men and women risking their lives for others is not such a rare thing even in our latter days. Men and women who are honest and decent are not all that rare either. But they are rare in our culture. They exist, but our culture has no room for them. The meaning of their lives isn't written into our culture. And so the moment passes and as a dog returns to its vomit, our culture returns to its vomit.

The extraordinary moment passes. But it doesn't need to it.

Everyone dies. Heroes, victims and villains all perish. But some values live on in a culture. And that is our choice. We can be a great people. But at the very least, we must remember that we are.

24 comments:

Infidel said...

Brilliant piece. I saw some of that greatness in people, as a child in the 1950s. Scenes that still stick in my mind.

eagle99 said...

Well said Daniel!

Anonymous said...

Hitler had Drang nach Osten. The Left has Drang nach Debasement. Skyscrapers of culture and values belittle or antagonize those who wish to live 6 inches above the mud.

A house so divided against itself cannot stand - there has to be a parting of the ways.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Daniel. Really great article and a reminder of what we are living for.

Edward Cline said...

Modesty, thy name is Daniel. You're one of the heroes, Daniel, for fighting the good fight for so many years. It's an ideological battle, one of the toughest and probably the least acknowledged conflicts. My hat is always off to you.

HolylandIsraelTours said...

What you are rightly observing today from libtards is a result of Decades of brainwashed students funded by petro-dollars of Wahabbi extreme Islamic cults.

American must wake up and the sooner the better or else it will end up like Eurabia.

Anonymous said...

When I was in high school in the 1950s, we had two teachers with definite physical problems. One struggled to walk with a dropped foot, which mean he had to raise his knee with each step. The other kept shrugging his left shoulder, and would often reach into his suit coat to push on the back of the shoulder. You see, he had a metal plate in lieu of a scapula (shoulder blade.) Both of these men were casualties of WWII. It was less than 15 years since that war, and they were probably in their late 30s and early 40s. Then they were treated with respect and accepted as they were. Now, they would be disrespected, taunted in class and in the hallways, and with contempt at Walmart and other "public" places. It makes my heart hurt that this is what has become of our younger generations. But as an elderly female, I don't dare say anything if I see that behavior, because I fear they will turn on me and may cause harm in their hatred and frustration with their lives. It's very sad. I hope this pendulum swings soon, and brings good values back into the mainstream. But I don't thing so...

alans218 said...

This is a beautiful piece of writing!

YK!!

Anonymous said...

I fear it is to late for our once great country . To quote Abraham Lincoln . America will never be destroyed from the outside . If we falter and loose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.

Michael Neibel said...

Except for his nod to sacrifice, it's a good article. He speaks of values but leaves out the number one value upon which America was founded, individual rights. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is directly opposite of the command to sacrifice it. As long as people believe the surrender of values-sacrifice-is moral they will have no choice to surrender America to its enemies, unless they challenge and reject the morality of sacrifice.

TheOPINIONATOR said...

Currently, one of the most popular movies is Dunkirk. I have not seen the film but I know the story behind it. British citizens took to their boats to save their soldiers stranded in France. The soldiers had fought the German Army bravely but were now pushed to the water and cornered in the French port of Dunkirk. The soldiers only chance to survive was a water rescue and the English citizen flotilla did just that. The bravery, of all, is memorialized in the movie.

What we have seen this week is a different, yet similar, scene. Hundreds of everyday people risking their lives, with many using their own boats, to save the lives of their stranded neighbors. One wonders if the Texan Flotilla bravery will (or could) ever be the subject of a movie?

Betzabroad said...

You are a master!

Anonymous said...

So very true, we as a nation must look inside ourselves and say we can carry on like our for fathers and help our neighbors.

Dennis Latham said...

Nice article. There are good people in the world, and they far outnumber the bad. But as you say, the bad get all the publicity. I saw a sign today that asked how many Antifa, BLM, and Black Panthers, or any number of other radical groups are helping with the rescue. Did they have a collection at Berkeley to help the flood victims? Where is aid from other countries we help when they have a disaster? You are right, the media doesn't want people to know exactly how many good people there are in this world. The last image I saw last night was black looters cleaning out a store cash register in Houston. Nothing good.

Just a common "tater said...

I think you are on to something there! Somehow the narrative has changed over the years from encouraging true public service to becoming a SJW over some real or perceived injustice.

No one ordered people in Texas to go out in boats or high water capable vehicles, but people went out and helped as much as possible with no thought for payment or reward.

I think that the idea of heroism or self-sacrifice got complicated by the MSM joining in to start labeling all professional military, firefighters, and law enforcement people as heroes. Yes, those jobs are dangerous, and are stressful on families. Yes, no one forces these people to do this, they must take tests and qualify to do these jobs. But, they get paid, they get insurance, healthcare, and death benefits.

I think we have lost sight of what we traditionally equated heroism with. That was the person that had no obligation to go into a dangerous situation, yet did so because someone needed help that could not save him or herself.

Our professional rescuers get commendations, medals, sometimes a press release or an interview on some kind of public media. I am not minimizing the great sacrifices and altruism of these people. It is just that the volunteer, everyday, common person in the street that jumps in to help has no likelihood of any of the above. Most volunteer helpers will never be recognized by more than a thank you by someone they helped to pull out of a dangerous situation.

This is what has been outstanding in our western culture, but especially American culture. The ordinary, everyday person on the street rises to the occasion without prompting, without compulsion, without regard for reward, but does the amazing out of compassion or an inner conviction that someone needs to act.

careyrowland said...

Your criticism of our values-deficient culture rings true, Daniel. Nevertheless, I beg to differ on the issue of the great American novel. I have written four of them. You would appreciate the third one, which is entitled "Smoke." It is a great American novel, although the story takes place in Europe in 1937. Part of scenario involves a German family who have chosen to leave Munich because of the Nuremberg Laws. They are trying to decide whether to go to "Palestine," or a place called the "lower East side." There are no heroes, however, in the tale, unless you count those men who are in the cold ground in a place called "Flanders Field," in Belgium, one of whom is the protagonist's father. (http://www.careyrowland.com) Thanks, Daniel, for all the truth you are bringing to light.

Anonymous said...

The decadent, atheist West is dying. The men who defeated the Nazis and Imperial Japan are all but dead. We have politicians and the enemedia embracing the unremitting evil that is Islam and calling it good.

Anonymous said...

NEVER SELL AMERICA SHORT.

Rich Kozlovich said...

Wow! One of your best. Thank you!

Rich Kozlovich

Anonymous said...

Thy character and culture shine bright Daniel. The Irishman.

Mo said...

I'm not sure of this line. Am I misreading, or is it a minor typo?

"The extraordinary moment passes. But it doesn't need to it."

Anonymous said...

Brilliant and true. May we resist.

Anonymous said...

We import millions who do not have those values or history into our country. Our elites proclaim those cultures superior via "diversity."

Why would you expect the American nation's values to do anything EXCEPT fall and fail?

"Dudley" said...

Bravo! America was inspired and conceived in Biblical principles, Natural Law, Liberty and Civic Virtue. Sacrifice and service were taught at hearths and practiced in the Town Square. May Houston remind us of why we say, God Bless America.

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