No one is responsible for the sins of their fathers. But everyone is responsible for honestly acknowledging that the sins of their fathers exist, and, for actually doing what can be done to prevent these sins from moving forward into the future. Our failure to do so is our own inexcusable and unforgivable sin that we pass on to our own children. In the words of Steven Tyler’s song “Dream on!,” “The past is gone. It went by like dusk to dawn. Isn’t that the way? Everyone in life has got their dues to pay.”
Each and every one of us is personally responsible for seeing that both the sins and the good deeds of our fathers are accurately recorded in history. We owe it to ourselves and to our children’s futures not to live in the past, not to obsessively traumatize ourselves and our children as we agonize over and over again about our painful losses, and not to expect that the sins of our fathers should be a debt of entitlement to be paid for by the sons and daughters who live among us today.
The extent to which we are willing to do or not to do these things is a measure of our “greatness.” There is no “greatness” in the dishonest, self-serving creation and spreading of lying propaganda that has no basis in fact or truth. There is no “greatness” and no honor in the prejudicial degradation of good people with good intent who mean no harm to others. There is no “… under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” in privileged access to people in positions of power, in privileged access to a good education, to health care, and to voting opportunities in an election.
National pride is about a whole lot more than flag waving for the home team and emotional self-serving declarations of superiority. At the core of worthy and genuine “national pride” is “greatness.” It is something that is measured by our willingness to work together to do the right things in our common interest, for the greater good. It is measured by our willingness to make personal and national sacrifices. It is measured by our personal and national commitment to the principles of honesty, integrity, freedom, and democracy. It is measured by our commitment to do the right thing as a matter of principle, when doing the right thing is the hardest thing to do.
This measure of “greatness” is the basis for our admiration of soldiers who die on a field of battle on our behalf. Without this measure of greatness … without these high standards and ideals, the death of a soldier on a field of battle would amount to the death of an expendable mercenary hit man that we hired and sacrificed to do our dirty work for us, because we had neither the courage nor the “greatness” to do it for ourselves. Every soldier who dies on a field of battle should be an extension of our own individual “greatness.”
The road forward to an indivisible nation will require forgiveness but not forgetfulness. It will require that we see ourselves as being universally connected to other souls with good intent, regardless of their appearance or the nuances of their cultural beliefs and practices. Our future must evolve like “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” where extremely different beings from extremely different cultures unite with good intent and mutual respect, in the pursuit of truly revolutionary new solutions for the problems that have come to overwhelm us — solutions the likes of which no one has never seen or ever tried before.
This respectful and tolerant pursuit of new solutions is what has the potential to make us “great again” … to make us one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Better to light just one little candle than it is to curse the darkness.
John A. Mattsen is a retired federal law enforcement officer with a degree in secondary education specializing in the social sciences, and, he has a minor in psychology. He also served in the Minnesota Air National Guard, and is the father of three grown adopted Korean children.
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