are the times that try men's souls." Thomas Paine
one hand, the last few decades have introduced incredible advancements
in technology. New conveniences crop up every day. The abundance
and variety of foods at the local market is something I never imagined
as a child. On the surface, it appears that we are living in
"the best of times," to quote Charles Dickens.
But the best of times was only half of this famous quote. In certain
respects we are living in "the worst of times"
Wars, terrorism, unemployment, a fragile economy
just rising from the brink of collapse, and a society so distracted
by technology and constant entertainment it can scarcely uphold
the things that are meaningful. The once healthy tension of political
ideologies now has many of us snapping at each other's throats.
Inappropriate fear and anger are being encouraged by the media to
the point that it threatens everything we believe in. As individuals,
we feel little hope in changing things for the better.
You and I have little or no control over the
wars and politics of the Middle East. We just inherit the debt and
mourn the losses. The insanity of terrorism lies outside our influence
as well. Many, if not most of us, continue to suffer in various
respects from current economic conditions. As for the media, we
can always turn a skeptical ear away from the propaganda, or write
letters of complaint, or change the channel, or shut the radio and
But there is something positive that we can do
also, something we have to do if we hope to protect
the very best of our own human nature. We can stop allowing ourselves
to be shaped by the events around us, including the proliferation
of anger and fear. We can live up to the principles we really believe
in. Our patriotism need not be limited to regional concerns, but
can include the overall ideals that America was founded upon.
We start by displaying the healthy self-control
and moral dignity of acting with courtesy toward others. Yelling,
threats and angry demonstrations are signs of regression, not patriotism
or heroism. The inability to communicate with courtesy and reason
is not something to be admired. It is not a sign of strength. It
is a sign of weakness, a refuge for those who do not know how to
cope or effect change properly.
Some adopt bullish behavior and use it to get
what they want. What they fail to realize is that such victories
come at a terrible cost. When social courtesies are ignored, the
society becomes more coarse, more unreasonable, more contentious.
Temporary personal gains produce long term losses. Problems multiply
and resolutions are thwarted. Instead of teaching our children proper
behavior that will make them happy and capable, we slight their
growth with all the wrong lessons.
As a civilized people, we actually start to devolve.
Even freedom loses its main significance, which is the attainment
of our full potential.
Our nation was founded on ideals based on reason
and virtue. If we do not incorporate reason and virtue into our
relationships with other people, including strangers, we are not
living up to the expectations of our founders.That includes courtesy.
We live in the best and worst of times. And yes,
they try our souls. But we must not succumb to barbarity. We must
not only defend our ideals, we must live up to them as well.
Golden Rule tells us to "do unto others as you would
have them do unto you." That was written thousands
of years ago. That it has morphed into "do unto others
before they do unto you" is something that should
shock us all into serious reflection.
is time that we take our behavior seriously in everything we do.