Familiar Words From The Past

I used to ponder the meaning of the phrase “we can’t see the forest for the trees.” However it becomes more apparent each day just what that means in our lives. With so much clutter, so many things to spoil the view of simpler times, America appears to have lost its way.

A British historian, after visiting the United States made these observations: “The American taxpayer, and even the American congressmen who vote the tax money, can no longer keep track of how the money is being spent and what it is being spent on.”

He went on to say that he no longer believes the administration is telling the truth and that we are witnessing “a struggle in America for the American people’s soul, and this struggle is fateful for all of us.” Those words were written by Arnold Toynbee in 1967.

Those comments prompted then Wheeling News-Register editor Harry Hamm to pen these words:

“No other people – in no other era in the history of the earth – have had to face the challenges of such change. We are afraid to be alone and afraid to be together.”

He then spoke of the “good old days” when there were rules that kept the country and the world in check. “Rules concerning life, limb and property, rules of governing deportment, manners, conduct and rules defining dishonesty, dishonor, misconduct and crime. The rules were not always obeyed, but they were believed in, and breaking them meant punishment.”

Again, these were observations made in 1967. “I believe that what has happened to us is that we have become obsessed with our own power … it is showing up all around, the belief that we no longer need the blessings from above. We twist and distort the Constitution. We bend and bow to the demonstrators and those who openly defy the law. We give freedom to the hardened criminal.”

Those words could have been written today regarding the state of our country.

Every generation has its moments. For my baby boomer allies, our parents believed rock and roll and long hair would be the ruination of this country. Yet we still have the Stars and Stripes overhead and the Washington Monument, though cracked, still standing as a reminder of where it all began.

In the 1930s, the Depression years brought this country to its knees, but following World War II, the 1950s and even the early ’60s saw growth and prosperity. The turbulent ’70s and uncertain ’80s followed a course of fast-paced changes in manufacturing and challenges – both good and bad – to the energy industry. This was followed by the slide into chaos on Wall Street and the increasing notion of “bailouts.”

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t wonder what the history books will say about these times we are living at this very moment. What will historians and editors write about 44 years from now? I hope it’s worth reading.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at ziegler@theintelligencer.net.