Lost Values and Other Sad Songs

By Michael Willard

When it comes to values, I am an aficionado of the old verities, though they’re as rare in today’s politics as that perfect diamond. Other than age-old wisdom, all else is pork belly futures and cotton candy.

Yes, I harken back to platitudes and bromides. They are found on tchotchkes sold at Cracker Barrel restaurants and on the backs of napkins at which southern fare and finger-licking good are proclaimed.

The late architect Jaquelin Taylor Robertson, who was a designer of Celebration, a planned community nor far from where I live and a stone’s throw from Disney World, said something similar, though his peeve was a pean to classicism.

Not to fall into a gully of partisanship, but it seems political values, especially over the last three and a half years, have the currency of Confederate money — just so much confetti. Relevance melts like a kid’s ice cream in the Florida sun.

There is no longer that shining city on a hill of which Ronald Reagan spoke so grandly. It is a fact that the world-over no longer casts its lonely eyes to America. Jolting Joe DiMaggio has left and gone away.

We can claim the best health care system, but does it reside with us. We can say we are the freest, but international markers have us 17th on the list way below New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

No one dare says we’re the safest country with pistol-packing mamas and papas walking the corridors of State Government, thinking that somehow the Second Amendment gives them that God-given right to preen like toy soldiers.

It doesn’t, of course. That diversion from sanity was an errant U.S. Supreme Court which a few years back stretched a “well-regulated militia” phrase about as far as Pluto is from planet earth.

This is more tragic than sad, though sad all the same.

Perhaps this is only natural in the ebb and flow of history. Few societies reign supreme for more than a century or two; and, given a “Breaking News” world measured in milliseconds, a death rattle is perhaps due.

The biggest mistake we make, however, is believing we are the greatest while not making the decisions to ensure greatness. In other words, we hide behind a Potemkin macho mask, only fooling ourselves.

I am more optimistic about the future. But then, I’m a novelist and I make up scenarios to fit my mood. Given overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I wonder if my outlook lacks that famous “suspension of disbelief.”

Still, my books tend to have happy endings. I guess it is the curse of the old Verities Principle. I sniffle at chick flicks.

It would be easy to cast the current President as a foolish misanthrope who has stepped in every pile of dog mess on the pandemic sidewalk. He is merely the current hapless barbarian at the gate. Incompetency is a virus concoction of historic making.

Generally, the malady is caused by ignoring right from wrong with the recipes having been historically prescribed — whether one is a devotee or not — by the great teachers from Jesus, to Mohammed, to the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama.

One can reach far back and wonder if inscribing in the U.S. Constitution that “all men are created equal” was either a misprint or a gigantic fail. Though there were some protestations — namely Benjamin Franklin — slavery ruled the era.

I’m not even mentioning the mistreatment of native Indians and the Trail of Tears or all the hearts buried at the so-called “battle” of Wounded Knee. That’s a rabbit hole long covered with tumbleweeds.

Who today, looking in the rearview mirror, believes the Vietnam War was a noble and righteous undertaking to halt communism at this Southeast Asian doorstep? To a great slice of our society, it seemed a good idea.

Who today believes America is stronger after two decades of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq? Don’t get me started. I’m just one of those snowflakes.

In the final analysis, let’s not kid ourselves. We have a lot of hard work to do before we are the greatest nation. As my departed mom would say, we have to apply a little elbow grease.

Right now, it appears our leadership is drinking the Clorox instead.

(Photo credit Sue Tucker)

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I am a novelist, painter, songwriter and essayist but my day job is elevating the profile of authors, entertainers and business executives.

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