Guest op-ed: United States not as indivisible as it once was
Most know of the column in Parade magazine called “Ask Marilyn” (Marilyn Vos Savant, supposedly the world’s highest IQ at the time). In the early 1990s, she was asked the question “What internal situation do you feel poses the largest threat to the well-being of the United States?” Her response was, “Over the decades to come, I believe one of the greatest threats to the stability of the United States may well be the declining number of people who call themselves Americans. I wonder how long the hyphenation of nationalities can continue without bringing the hyphenation of loyalties. Whenever people ask me whether I’m a French American, for example, because of my name, it irritates me, and I tell them, ‘No. I was born in this country, I’m a citizen and I’m an American.'”
Marilyn’s fears (in one way or another), are now here in America with a vengeance, and instead of being just external, they are internal and self-inflicted. Today in 2021, our country appears to be hyphenated, polarized and threatened at many levels and directions. One could highlight a number of obvious ones — too many to name here. I consider the fundamental causes of our own toxic domestic sickness (which did not develop overnight) have been a continuous decline in moral/ethical behavior, unimaginable foolishness and gullibility, and a contentment with gross mediocrity. A prime example is our dealing with the COVID virus. Even though lies, distortions and ulterior motives engulfed us, there was/is no excuse for not making the honest effort necessary to sort out what is most truthful and accurate. Actually, it is not that difficult — common sense reasoning goes a long way.
Take the issues of wearing masks and getting vaccinated. It was my hope that Utah might set an example to the rest of the country as to the civic responsibility needed — NOT by mandate but voluntarily. Although there has been commendable action shown, for the most part this has not been the case — Utah being labeled as among the least admirable state responses in the country. If we had all done the right thing early on, we would not be in the midst of this fourth spike we are now in. Even so, and very regrettable as it is, one can empathize somewhat with those who genuinely fear a COVID vaccination. (Crazy isn’t it, that a new born baby is supposed to vaccinated for the hepatitis B virus even before leaving the hospital, and 14 other serious diseases before the age of 2 — makes one wonder whose side Mother Nature is on?)
At the least, mask wearing in enclosed public space seems a tolerable inconvenience when thinking of the “common good,” and not too much to ask. (People also hated and rebelled against mask wearing and mandates during the 1918-19 flu pandemic here in Utah — there was no vaccine at the time.) But to be the cause of infecting someone (directly or indirectly), resulting in much misery and also greatly overburdening our health care system, should pain us all deeply. In rephrasing the Biblical query, “Am I my brother/sister’s keeper”? You answer! (Well worth listening to “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBI9i3HlFVE). It might also be kept in mind that there are risks to most everything we do, and the sins of omission can be just as grave as commission.
One thing we can be quite sure of is, if we can do no better than at present in our quest for “E Pluribus Unum” (out of many one) before the year 2076 (our 300-year anniversary), our country will be more of a Brazil of the North than anything else, and any hopeful future for the younger generations bleak. (Consider the sobering find in a recent poll of 16- to 24-year-olds from 10 countries around the world, that 6 out of 10 were “extremely worried about the climate crisis and … fear of having [their own] children” under such conditions.) The best future possible for the younger generations should be the DOMINANT focus that drives everything we do! (Once again, the results of the “sins of the fathers” are falling on to the children!)
I have lately started reading the Time/Life book series on the Civil War, and it is most enlightening and heartbreaking at the same time — and how tragically unnecessary! The North and South both believed fervently in their own cause, praying to the same God for deliverance and thanked when victorious. Actually, it was a very brutal — hardly civil in it’s ideal meanings such as: courteous, harmonious, neighborly, peaceful, kindly understanding, accommodating and respectful. These are all much lacking in this Un-Civil War now going on in our own country. This cannot continue indefinitely without dire consequences.
History has shown that nations rise and fall, and usually of their own undoing — America is no exception. In the years ahead, the United States will be challenged by financial, environmental and demographic issues that will test us to the very limits — regardless of which political party is in control. Take a look at the April 1990 Time magazine cover story “Beyond the Melting Pot.” Whether we like it or not (and as a grumpy old man, I don’t), we each now have a choice to be part of the problem or the solution — sloppy thinking and business as usual surely won’t cut it!
Warren S. Wright resides in St. George.