What in the world could that headline possibly mean?
Some of my best thinking occurs in the shower (no, but we’ll get to that later) and when I saw the text alert that Joe Paterno had passed away from complications of lung cancer I was heading to the shower this morning, and naturally started thinking about the man and his legacy. I began to search for someone to compare him to and this is what I came up with.
Joe Paterno was born in 1926, 3 years before the Great Depression. He was of my father’s generation. The Generation Tom Brokaw dubbed ‘The Greatest Generation’. Men who lived through childhood not really understanding the deprivation of their youth but having a great impression made upon them by it. Men who came of age when the entire world was engaged in a clearly defined struggle of Good vs. Evil in World War II. Many if not most men of that age served and many died in the Armed Forces of the United States all over the planet. The survivors returned from war and set about living their lives, having children… many children, in fact, they spawned the largest generation in human history, The Baby Boom. My generation.
‘Uncle Sam’ wasn’t really ‘born’. He’s a creation. It is what Uncle Sam represents that I wish to discuss: the United States of America. The country does have a ‘birthday’: July 4, 1776. On or about that date 56 men, many of them the richest & most politically powerful men from their respective areas of the country signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With it they started a war with King George III, ruler of England, the most powerful man in the world. They were his subjects and now they had chosen to openly rebel against his rule. They were massive underdogs. England had the most powerful armed forces on earth. These wealthiest, most powerful men in the country knew that they had collectively signed their own death warrants. The quote by Ben Franklin ‘We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately’ says it all. Their only option was Victory which through long years and much struggle they achieved. It was never a sure thing.
The last line of the Declaration of Independence is:
‘And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence,
we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’
‘Our Sacred Honor’ those words wouldn’t probably be used today let alone ‘divine Providence’. They must violate someone, somewhere’s ‘right’ to not have to think of or even hear about God, or the ‘Sacred’ or Honor. Those are bygone words of bygone eras. My father’s era and the ones before it.
Under no circumstances am I claiming that my father nor any man of his generation or prior generations was perfect. But I’ll be happy to debate anyone if the subject is the ‘Honor’ of that generation in general. I’ll further be happy to juxtapose that generations Honor against the Honor or lack thereof of my generation. Radio Talk Show Host Dennis Prager says that The Greatest Generation gave birth to The Stupidest Generation. I’m in it and I strive to not be ‘of’ it, but I agree.
We are the Selfish Generation. The generation that is very much concerned about Our Rights, with little to no corresponding concern about Our Responsibilities (except, of course, our responsibilities to Mother Earth [please Recycle]). That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if the rights we were concerned about were the same ones the Founders and the Framers (of the Constitution) outlined, but we’re less concerned with those than the invisible ones that really ‘bright’ lawyers have ‘found’ in the ‘emanations and penumbras’ of the Framers words. Of course those imagined rights spawn other ones as well and what looks like an increase in our rights is actually a diminishment of our liberty.
There is a scene in ‘The Godfather’ where Vito Corleone is negotiating with the ruthless drug dealer Virgil Sollozzo about where Sollozzo will ply his trade and if the Corleone Family will protect his operation. At the close of the negotiation Sonny Corleone, Vito’s Eldest son interrupts, as he declines the deal Vito says, ‘I have a sentimental weakness for my children and I spoil them as you can see, they talk when they should listen.’
We want what we want and we want it now! That is the fault of my father’s generation. Those men and women who came up in the deprivation of The Depression didn’t want to visit that upon their children. They built a great nation. They built a booming economy in large part in response to the fact that they kept having kids. Hungry children are great motivators to men of character and honor; they do not let them continue to go hungry and they did not run away from their responsibility. They invented Slinkys and Slip ‘n Slides to amuse their children and profit from the needs of other men to amuse theirs. They built jet airplanes and rockets that landed man on the moon and safely returned him to earth with only slide rulers, paper and pencil and computers on board the spacecraft with less computing power than the iPhone. These were the men I grew up with and spent my teenage years in particular in close contact with on long road trips. My father died at the end of my teens, but I knew what men of honor and character looked like and as I looked for other role models for my life I looked for those men: Men like Joe Paterno.
Paterno was head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions (not ‘Nittaly‘…dope) for 46 years, he was a coach at the school for 61 years, he won more games than any other Division I Football Coach in the history of the NCAA. He won two national championships. He didn’t demand a multi-million dollar salary like so many other college coaches. He lived in the same home for 50 years. He imbued his players with morals and ethics, Penn State was a solid program. ‘Joe Pa’, as he was known, was ‘Old School’. And it worked.
You can spend generations building your reputation and legacy only to have it come crashing down in a moment like a poorly constructed brick wall in an earthquake. That too is the story of Joe Paterno. Allegations surfaced of one of his assistant coaches sexually assaulting young boys as witnessed by another assistant and reported to Paterno himself. It’s further alleged that all this ‘honorable man’ apparently did was tell his bosses at Penn State. Nothing more…
This is where I’m virtually certain Joe Pa and the men who were friends with my father and my father himself differ. There would have been blood had this happened to one of their children or to anyone’s child at the hands of any man that they knew or could even get their hands on. Did this kind of thing happen involving men of that generation, obviously, yes; but not to my knowledge with anyone I knew or even heard of, and nothing has ‘surfaced’ like a deep dark secret from ‘The Black Lagoon’ since.
How does something like this happen? How does a man whose public persona was so deeply identified with morals, ethics and character have such a massive blind spot and deep dark secret? How could he not have known that this would eventually come to light? And finally why didn’t he drag Jerry Sandusky by his hair to the police?
We’ll never know.
The cracks in the will started to appear almost immediately at the foundation of the country. You may have heard of The Federalist Papers, a series of essays written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay and published in New York newspapers to explain the reasoning behind and promote the Ratification of The Constitution; There are also The Anti-Federalist Papers, a collection of writings and speeches by other Framers who were afraid of the Consolidation of Power in a Central Gov’t and argued Against Ratification of the Constitution without a Bill of Rights for the People and their States.
That battle has never ended. There has never been a cease fire. No treaty has been signed. There is an on-going struggle for the control and the very soul of this nation.
One side is constantly chipping away at the foundations seeking to ‘Bring it all Down, Man‘ so that they can build something new.
Oh, I know the country was founded with the ‘Original Sin’ of Slavery… (Interesting how people who are anti-religion will attempt to use religious language to bolster their point of view), and how Slaves were only counted as 3/5 of a human being in the Census (revealing their lack of knowledge of how crucial this was to the North to bring about the end of slavery [It was about Seats in the House of Representatives, not their Humanity or Lack Thereof]) and this means that it must be torn down and ‘We’ will build something new, and ‘better’. ‘We’ will build something ‘Fairer’ and more ‘Humane’. Only we don’t ever really know who this ‘we‘ is or what exactly they would build.
The other side is the stupid and lazy side. It’s my father and his generation’s side and in large part my generation’s as well.
This is the side that indulges its children’s childish impulses to throw temper tantrums in the street, impinge on other citizen’s rights, destroy their property and call them ‘protests’. It’s the side that believes voting is enough while the other side is organizing, consolidating power, fund raising and campaigning.
We are on the side that allowed the takeover of most powerful machine for the dissemination of information, ideas, morals, culture and dreams in the history of mankind to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of our enemy without them firing a shot. Do you think Bob Hope could get a show on tv today? To go that one better we feed the machine with our dollar at a declining but still astounding rate as they fill our minds and especially our childrens minds with morals and beliefs that are entirely counter to our own. We can hardly wait to come home and plop down in front of the box to get indoctrinated every night because we’re just so worn our from working all day to earn money that ‘they’ take about 50% of. Which means they’re taking 50% of your life since you’re expending the precious finite resource of your time on earth to earn that money.
We’re the ‘Fiscal Conservatives’ who only care about the finances of the country, as if you deigning to tell the representatives in government how to spend the money and what to spend it on isn’t a Moral discussion.
We’re the ‘Moral Majority’, the ‘Silent Majority’, the ‘Tea Party’ who, filled with Moral Indignation, jump up on our hind legs once every generation or so whether we need to or not and think we can win one election and everything is supposed to be right with the world again.
We’re the side that has allowed the Left to gain influence and power in every crack and crevice of our society rather than driving them from the public arena with the derision and howling laughter accompanying their shameful exit that their foolish, dangerous and unworkable ideas deserve.
Approximately 2% of the population of the colonies actively fought the British and won the right to establish the greatest civilization in the history of mankind. While our culture as America is relatively young at 236 years our form of government is one of the longest surviving ever, but nothing lasts forever. 2%.
Maybe it’s too late.
Maybe we’ve passed the point of no return and there’s no way to reverse the course our nation is on.
Maybe I do know what Joe Paterno would have said, ‘I don’t why I didn’t do anything, I just didn’t.’