In all of us resides the great modern American coward. He is a strange mixture of confidence, fearlessness, moral righteousness and cowardice.
We are, despite those who would profess our perfection and superiority, only human. Our frailty is not unique to our species, but because of our other successes, we may perhaps be blazing a trail unique in the evolution of modern man. America is the vanguard of modern history, and as such, is also the vanguard of the modern man.
The manufacturing revolution, electricity, light, communication, computers and space travel, as well as civil rights, separation of church and state, and due process, all seedlings in the world at large, found fertile land here and grew enormously and quickly. With the good, so too grew the bad. The throwaway pollution, the crime, the selfishness and the cultural trash.
As modern Americans, we are living a contradiction. In an agrarian society, the founders laid the foundation for our modern success with a system of checks and balances and individual freedoms. The power over everyday life resided in the individual. As citizens of a modern world, we are evolving toward a system of entrenched static posturing. Not only is one’s control over everyday life slipping away, but free thought is dying along with it too.
Throughout the world, including here, local horrors have waged war against individual societies. Ethnic cleansing, opposition killings, purges and pogroms have all weakened the intelligent in favor of the strong. It is a sad Darwinian drama, but one which gives America yet another advantage in its string of successes. And it is here that the great American cowardice in us reveals itself.
There are plenty of brave people in America. There are lots of men and women willing to run into a burning building, fight crime, work in the military. Doing brave things is fearless. The cowardice I loathe in myself and others is the “go along to get along.” We go along with far too much. We risk far too little to protect and improve what we have. We need to dare to sit down on a bus again, to break the blue wall of silence, to expose the backroom deals. We sell ourselves far too cheaply.
Power and money corrupts in concentration. Schools have gotten worse as the unions have gotten stronger. Healthcare has gotten worse as the insurance companies have gotten stronger. Benefits and job security has gotten worse as the businesses have gotten stronger. Pollution has gotten worse as the manufacturers have gotten stronger. Government has gotten worse as the parties have gotten stronger. Egalitarianism, a recognizable impulse in agrarian times, has been buried beneath a mountain of spin, greed and self-indulgence. There is nothing in this country that can’t be had for a buck.
Is this really who we want to be? Venture capitalists, day traders, stock brokers? We turn a blind eye to so much, when it would take so little to be greater still. We have erected demi-gods all around us. Individuals and institutions of great power that seek nothing of real value. Shoppers shop for the best deal, clipping coupons like there were valuable freedoms. We gather possessions and squander the wealth of time. Nothing real has value, and the best values are discounted. Freedom 50% off. Liberty 75% off. Oh what savings our cowardice brings. Please, lower my taxes and sell me my liberty at 85% off. I am proud to be a coward, I am proud to be happy.