Archive for January, 2018

248 – “Letter Grades”

Monday, January 29th, 2018

By Hetty Gray

# 246 – December 13, 2017

“Letter Grades”

I attribute the huge hiatus in my columns over the past months to both necessity and choice. The necessity surfaced as the result of major shoulder surgery the last day of October. A sling and immobility of my left arm made typing a chore and physical therapy sessions interrupted my otherwise normal weekly schedules. Choice surfaced due to a prolonged frustration with the state of affairs at the national level. To avoid cracking and collapsing my soapbox, I simply held off on columns.

Now, I abandon that odd position and go for what I consider the federal jugular. To that end, I assign letter grades to those who undergird the Congress and the undergirding and unelected bureaucracy that, in essence, wields far more power than the ordinary American realizes.

Instead of pursuing every letter, I focus on the top and the bottom. The “A” section consists of three genres: ambivalence, alienation, and abrogation.

First, ambivalence…. I am worn out with those in leadership who go about the nation’s business with the cavalier attitude bordering on the inane. Truly important issues fall to the side while insignificant ones command undue, and largely unearned, positions. An example would be the odd juxtaposition of national security concerns and human failings.

I lay this one at the feet of establishment politicians more interested in their own power than the fate of the American people. The current international situation in Iran and North Korea should hold sway over personal shortcomings of people on both sides of the aisle. Yet, our news media target prurient stories and ignore the big picture. Take this past week for example. A disgusting sexual harassment discussion topped that of a failed terrorist attack in New York City. Now, using what is left of common sense, which one merits the most attention?

Next is alienation…. If there is one movement that describes the last decade or so, it is the constant drumbeat of those who seek to divide us from one another. As I listened to a caller on a major syndicated radio show this week, this particular specter of our societal condition really struck me as critical.
The caller, a young man (in his 40s), described himself as an American and only as an American. Black, he refused to use the hyphenated African-American. In his words, he was not from Africa, claimed no heritage from that region of the world, and attributed his success in life solely to America’s freedom of opportunity. He lamented the fact that far too many of his people voted year in and year out for those who claimed to work for them even though results were few and far between.

There are those who would have us dislike one another for a myriad of reasons, but the main one is race. Instead of celebrating the fact that, even in light of difficulties, Americans have the best chance of any people on earth to achieve a happy, fulfilled life, we see a determined effort to portray every social problem in the light of race — especially white versus black. How sad to see our nation squandering the chance to uplift all our people for a unending movement promoting hatred and distrust.

Others among us seek to divide us by gender. Again, sad….

Each of us knows a man or woman who falls short. For example, women not only have the right to vote in this country, but they also hold high positions in business and politics. It seems that whenever something goes awry, instead of self-examination, we see another chapter of the blame game. Nobody is perfect, but we cannot allow ourselves to be warped to the point that everything is viewed through the lens of gender.

So we come to abrogation…. Duty is job one, whether it applies to our personal lives or our jobs. When voters elect someone to a national office, those same voters have every right to expect their elected officials to put duty to country first. Oh, would that were the case. Not so in many cases.

I am not sure what kind of rarified air hovers within the beltway, but it fogs what should be clear minds to every one of us at risk. Far too often someone enters the Congress as with what is assumed an average level of wealth only to leave office a millionaire. That does not happen by accident.

When personal ambition and financial gain tops duty, the government is hobbled. We see this more and more. How do we end this? Not easily, I can say. Yet, we have a president today who sees the “swamp” for what it is and is determined to make changes. We can only hope that he has some measure of success in his efforts. Entrenched bureaucracy and ego-fueled politicians make for a toxic mix. This is not new. When someone threatens to put a lid on their financial “cookie jar,” the resultant backlash should be expected.

Old as the nation itself, these problems date back to the founding. However, our Founding Fathers never foresaw a professional political class. Instead, they expected citizens to run for office, serve, and then to home to assume their former careers. That, my friends, is rare today.

Abrogation of duty threatens our freedom, but you would never know that by listening to the talking heads in both the political arena and what passes for the majority of the “news” media today.

And now I come to bottom of the grade scale, the “F.” These three genres pose a truly existential threat to America. The proof of this is the fact that over the last fifty years, attacks have whittled away at each of them.

“F” number one: family. If one goes about the task of dismantling a society, there is no better place to begin than the family unit. Before integration, it was rare to see divorce or unwed mothers among black families. Contrast that with today. The high percentage of single mothers among our black population is scary. The ones hurt most by this are the children, and the lack of a father as the solid family male role model contributes mightily to the crime problem. This is not to dismiss those mothers who work very hard to keep their kids on “the straight and narrow” and away from gang evils that lurk about them. For far too many youngsters, a gang becomes their family.

Once shattered, the family unit portends a grim future for a nation.

“F” number two: faith. Once a nation founded on God turns its back on that God, the result is dim indeed. Removing prayer from school did nothing to improve the lives of our children. When I was in high school, a group called “High Y” began each day with a prayer over the PA system. It didn’t hurt one of us. In some cases, it was the only exposure some of our classmates had to religion. Love, sharing, and respect were hallmarks of those prayers. My, those personality traits are lethal to a good life, aren’t they?

Currently, there are those in the wider society who seek nothing less than labeling faith a weakness. Instead of seeing faith as the bulwark of a steady and virtuous life, these venomous people view it as a target for their anger. It is much easier to incite hatred than love. Love demands sacrifice and attention. Oh, goodness…. That is really too much to ask of us, isn’t it?

When we lose faith, we lose our moral compass. Sound familiar? Just what has commanded so much attention recently than human failing in the moral department? If each of us began to live a life according to The Ten Commandments, problems that imperil us would evaporate. Sadly, free will enters into the picture. Sadly, society wide — and not unexpectedly — greed tops need. Need I say more?

Foundation is the third “F,” and it is two-fold. First, I cite the written foundation most critical to our republic, our U.S. Constitution. Written by men of faith, who recognized themselves as sinners before God, this succinct document spanning two hundred forty-one years is priceless in terms of what it guarantees each American and how it sets limits on the three branches of government. Burdensome British rule compelled the Founding Fathers to put into writing the freedoms we take for granted each day.

I feel sure that no man involved in crafting the Constitution would believe today’s practice of judges legislating “from the bench.” The Founders’ firm belief in the separation of powers would never approve anything close to it. It threatens the foundation itself. We see it consistently. If lawmakers fall short of a faction’s wishes, then a sympathetic judge simply steps in to “correct” the situation. This is judicial activism, and it is very dangerous.

Part two of what I deem foundation is our shared history. History stands forth as a series of warning signs. Ignored, history repeats itself. History is the ultimate teacher. If we do not learn from history, we are at great peril. We cannot change history by removing statues from our public places, changing names of entities to be more in line with political correctness, or editing our textbooks to a bias that should scare anyone with a decent background in both American and world history.

If you doubt me, pick up a current textbook and read it. What is within the pages is shocking. The missing history will make you shudder. Ask many young people even the most basic question about history and a blank stare serves as your answer. When we do not know our history, we are at great risk. That should concern all of us. We need to hold textbook editors accountable for their omissions. It is not surprising that many of the younger generation have no respect for flag and country. With no real background in history, it is easy to sell students a bill of goods in place of facts. My, that’s convenient for those who want to paint America as imperialist and evil. America has never won a war and taken over a country. We have defended countries such as Germany and Japan, but we have never taken their territory. So, charges of imperialism are fallacious.

Ambivalence, alienation and, abrogration (of duty) bode ill for us. Alone, you cannot fix all that ails us as a nation. But there are things you can do.

Extol family life and marriage as priceless. Praise parenthood as the finest of human efforts. Live your faith and serve as a role model for others. Find out what passes for history in your district’s schools. Be an informed voter. Base your vote on facts not feelings.

As a teacher with a Master’s Degree in History, I bypass A and go for we all grew up recognizing as the lowest letter grade. I go for F.

We recognize F as academic failure. Yet these three Fs function as a trio of what should be paramount for every American: family, faith, and foundation.

Think about it.