Updated: Jan 26, 2021
By J. Hogan
-Gains & Gleanings-
There’s an old Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” I don’t know whether or not anyone uttered that in our general direction, but the times sure have been interesting over the 13 months since a little blurb appeared on the British Broadcasting Network about a cluster of virus cases in Wuhan, China.
The times promise to continue to be interesting in the immediate future.
Sometimes we don’t have much say in how things go. Life deals cards. Sometimes it’s the jackpot, sometimes it’s craps. If you work in an industry that’s been all but killed off by the pandemic and some of the government dictates born of it, you didn’t choose layoff and unemployment, it just was dished your way.
Those things, we tough out. Maybe we get some retraining and try to find something in a field that’s up and running, or find a hobby to occupy our hands until we can get back at it. But we tough it out.
Other times, we have a lot of say in how we deal with the times. The road ahead has some forks and crossroads, and we get to make some choices.
In interesting times, however, it’s more important than ever that we make wise choices.
Beneficial choices. Choices the next generation can observe and apply if the stuff hits the fan on their watch.
When Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II, the nation as a whole shifted into gear in a manner worthy of note. Folks, understanding the threat to freedom worldwide, bought war bonds to fund our military. Factories switched from making cars, machine presses and construction cranes to making tanks, P-51 Mustangs and bombers. Every family dealt with rationing of paint, hardware and commodities and made do.
We’ve got a way to go to match the aplomb with which that generation dealt with an existential threat, and our primary shortcomings seem to parallel our toys. We’ve been trained by the internet and the capacity to choose – and to have the choices made for us – what we see and what we blindfold ourselves to when it comes to news, entertainment and banter.
That’s weakened us. How? Because we’ve lost sight of the reality that others don’t feel the way we do about things…and to the frustrating truth that they don’t have to!
Right now, after a contentious and disputed election, the incoming administration has called for unity at a time when it seems we must decide to get better or live out the War of the Roses in our homeland, where we refuse to separate and refuse to get along.
Yet, the art of reaching across the aisle, of offering an olive branch and approaching the table of detente to find a path forward together has been lost. We’re in the era of unforgiveness, of cancel culture, of domination, of personal ruination of others for the crime of seeing things differently.
In the land where live-and-let-live, agree-to-disagree and to-each-his-own were among our healthiest mantras as a diverse society, we’ve broken into camps wanting to impose ruination upon those who don’t think like us.
That’s only a recipe for war. Cold war right now, but cities burned across America just last year and the U.S. Capitol building was violently breached early this month. Tensions are high and many have already identified their line in the sand, hair triggers ready in outlying sectors of each political camp to turn that cold war hot.
Like in crises of our past, this one won’t be solved by inaction. Our actions must be smart, focused and beneficial if we’re to remain a nation. If our actions continue to be verbose and domineering, the risk of real horror is at hand. Even the giant task of figuring out how to peacefully break into two countries would be easier than war.
We did the Civil War thing 170 years back. It was the ugliest episode of our history together, and the blood cost was unimaginably steep.
We’ll only do better now if we intend to, and draw the best out of ourselves in a time when it seems the best that once lived within the American makeup and rose to the occasion to overcome dark days may no longer inhabit our Silicon-tainted psyche.
I hope and pray we can rise above this.
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.