These Are The Times That Buy Men’s Souls

Mar 25, 2012 by

I think it is reasonable to look at U. S. history in increments of approximately 50 year periods from the founding. The evidence seems to point to this period as a natural wave of events and trends in leadership that significantly shift the countries direction. From the founding to the early 1820’s we were defining self-government. The period from the late 1820’s to the early 1860 is the struggle to define federalism, state power versus national power, and the ending of slavery. The growth of the United States into an economic power was achieved from the late 1860’s to the early 1910’s. A very significant period from the late 1910’s to the 1960’s was the emergence of the U.S. as a world power in a tumultuous period of unrest and war. Significant events ended that period with the election of John F. Kennedy as President. President Kennedy broke many established trends when elected President, for example he was younger and Catholic. When President Kennedy was assassinated, it set into motion a chain of events that destroyed our sense of control and security in our lives. How could an individual who spent his entire adult life trying to be noticed and praised, failing miserably be able to take the life of someone so revered and loved? It was unbelievable, so we had to invent other scenarios to put our minds at ease but that did nothing but fuel the fire. With the war in Vietnam escalating and young people dying with no clear understanding of why or for what purpose it further added to a feeling of loosing control over our lives. Within a short time, Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated by individuals that had little or no redeeming qualities as human beings. These individuals were responsible for ending the lives of two great men who could have continued to inspire and lead the United States to a future grounded in justice and economic prosperity. Instead, we were led to Watergate and the distrust of our government.

At the end of each period we were faced with two logical choices, to remedy the mistakes of the past if need be and right the course towards excellence or continue the course if it is already on the path. The end of the first period, the 1820‘s, it was evident that self-government could work and the peaceful transfer of political power was possible. The struggle to define federalism was not so clear until the civil war. The states had definitely lost the battle for equality between state and national power but had furthered the cause of human equality. We became the economic power that had been predicted by the end of the third period. America emerged as a leading military power, but by the end of the last period of great struggle both in the world and on the home front, it became apparent that the next period was to remedy the mistakes of the past. Have we accomplished this task? I think not. Instead of providing solutions as Americans had done before we took the easy way out, concentrated on getting what we could, replacing MLK’s timeless message about being judged by the content of our character with the content of our image and personal gratification. Worst of all, we have made a clear choice to replace the fight to preserve our principles in favor of negotiating and compromising with evil. The choice of expedience over excellence will be our undoing as we become more complacent and less vigilant towards doing the good.

Excellence requires a more difficult path of personal action over a sustained period. Instead of finding a solution by reasonable individual and collective action, the weak choose an expedient course purchased to create an image. Money becomes the force to complete the gratification that requires no effort of the purchaser. The more money spent, the more immediate the gratification. If this is our true path of choice, we are near the end. We are loosing the soul of America.

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