I wanna pull on your coat about something. I wanna bend your ear. I wanna whisper my thoughts and faith into the cortex of your brain, and, if only for a moment, I want you to see the world as I see it.
There are bombs falling in Iraq. There are bombs falling in Afghanistan. There is genocide going on in Darfur. There is oppressive communism in China. There is a complete freak running things in Iran, trying to build nuclear weapons, and daring us to spit in his eye. A third of the world at least doesnít like us and perhaps even hates us to the point of wanting us dead..
At home we have crime problems, race problems, immigration problems, corruption problems, and health problems.
Every time we look at the news thereís something else to worry about, some creeping doom heading our way.
Whatís a person to do? What should we think?
Well, by Gawd. Iíll tell you.
Friends, lean close and Iíll whisper a secret in your ear.
What is so hard to see, what gets lost in the shuffle of news ratings and casualty reports is the hidden truth, the simple fact that doesnít keep your ass glued to the seat in front of your TV, that dirty little secret that the fear mongers donít want you to here.
Friends, the secret is, we live in the greatest world that has ever existed. Things have never been better than they are now, and they will only get better.
In nights past, drunk and babbling about nuclear weapons, bio-weapons, small pox, the black plague, and what they mean in the current world, good friends have looked me in the eye and told me that Iím the most cynical person they know.
Theyíre wrong. I spend my life trying to tear the blinders from my eyes and see the world as it really is. And when itís all said and done, Iím the most optimistic person I know. Because I watch the trends of history.
Sometimes I feel like the only person who sees it, who sees the tsunami of history rolling forward.
We cry racism over New Orleans without thinking about what the world was like 30 years ago.
We wimper about rising gas prices without thinking about the early 80's.
We swear that Iraq is Vietnam all over again without remembering what Vietnam was really like.
We see failure at every turn without seeing the progress we have made, and it kills me.
I grew up in a time when there was truly a question of whether or not a world would even exist next year. We counted our nuclear bombs, we counted the Russianís nuclear bombs, we did the math and we stared Armageddon in the face.
The bombs didnít fly. The world did not end. The desire of mankind to live prevailed.
Everything after 3rd grade is just icing.
We spent 50 years wondering if communism and our resistence to it would destroy the world. Now we debate whether Russia is free enough or if we should tell our good buddy Putin that he needs to chill out.
In 1900 stepping on a nail was a coin-flip away from a death sentence. In 2000 it puts you on 10 bucks worth of antibiotics.
In 1900 12 children guaranteed youíd have a few survive to adulthood. In 2000 one child is a decision, and a failed pregnancy puts you in a support group.
In 1850 black skin put you on a plantation, in 1950 it put you at the back of the bus, in 2000 it puts you on the presidentís cabinet.
In the 60's - the 80's we were closer to destruction that we had ever been in the history of mankind, and it didnít happen.
The history of the world is a history of death and destruction.
Half of Europe dead of the black plague. Millions dead in Ireland of famine at the turn of the century. Millions dead of government created famine in China. Millions dead in Stalinís gulags. Millions dead in the ovens of Aushwitz.
We wince at the statistics of modern warfare and forget what warfare used to be. We forget Hiroshima, we forget Nagasaki, we forget Dresden, we forget London. We forget the true hell that war used to be.
The problems we face today are the problems of success, not of struggle.
We do not face questions of survival, we face questions of morality.
We ask whether gayís should have the right to be married, not whether they have the right to live.
We ask whether we should spend a million dollars to keep someone alive for another year, not whether we can even dream of keeping them alive at all.
We engage in endless political discussions over whether we should have disposed a dictator who tried to kill our standing president (George Bush the 1st). 1000 years ago we would have killed them all, taken their gold, raped their women, and salted their land.
We ask ourselves whether we have the moral authority to use our might, the greatest might the world has ever seen, when the history of the world is nothing but ĎMight Makes Rightí.
We wonder if we should be in Iraq when 100 years ago we would have rolled through the mid-east, killed everyone who didnít wave an American flag, and taken all the oil we wanted.
Donít get me wrong, I want to see changes in this world.
For my own country, I want to see more gay rights, I want to see more responsibility in government, I want to see more free trade and more attention paid to genocide in Africa. I want to see a woman president, and I want to see a president who is not as Cracker as me.
The difference between now and 50 years ago is, all these events seem possible.
We get so caught up in what might be wrong that we fail to see what we have done right, and that is the great tragedy of our current situation.
We are afraid to stand up and say, ďBy Gawd, we are right!Ē.
This could just be too many John Wayne movies talking, but I really donít think so.
I truly believe we are the greatest country to ever exist.
Sure, we are wealthier and more powerful than any country that has ever existed in the history of mankind (adjusting for inflation), but thatís not what Iím talking about.
There are countries out there that are more liberal than us, who might be a bit more on the ball about civil rights than us. The Netherlands comes to mind, but itís important to remember that the Netherlands only exists because of us.
No one wants to admit it, but the Western world exists and flourishes in the shadow of our protection. After the horrors of WWII, they were more than happy to do so.
So where does that leave us now?
We, as a country and a culture, are in an unprecedented situation.
The history of mankind has never seen our like. A country that has the power to do anything they want, who has the ability to lay untold destruction on swaths of the world with no fear of retribution, but who is frightened by itís own stature, who does not want to take over the world, who really just wants to create a world where they can sell coca-cola to everyone.
Some of you out there, I say this because I personally know some of our readers, think that I am insane, some of you out there truly believe that there is a great Cabal running the show. Well, let me just cut to the chase and say that you are wrong. The closest thing we have to a Cabal in this country is the media and in the great scheme of things theyíre a rather ratty Cabal.
Friends, what we are fighting now is the past. We are at war with a culture that thinks stoning homosexuals and adulterers to death is the right thing to do. And if you can judge the stature of a person by the nature of his enemies, we are doing just fine.
I donít know whatís going to happen in Iraq, I donít know whatís going to happen in Afghanistan or Iran, but what I do know is our ideas will win. We are at war with the Dark Ages, and modernity must win. We are truly involved in what might be the last great war ever known. We are fighting our own dark ages come back to haunt us in the guise of oil dictators screeching at the heavens because they know their days are numbered.
Myself, I walked the long grey walk out of lower manhattan on September 11th, probably one of the few people who wasnít surprised. I saw the blood, I saw the flames, I saw the widows go deathly black in the daylight hours. I walked out of it, passed the abandoned peddler carts buried inches deep in ash. I walked side by silent side with the three piece suit titans of capitalism, and we left it behind. We walked through the ash and destruction into sunlight.
Walking out of the chaos I saw the great people of this nation huddled around radios and TVís, rushing from their doorways to lend a helping hand. I saw this country when the chips were down and Iíve never feared since.
The editor of my hometown paper asked me to write something about that day, and, my own failing, Iíve never been able to do it.
I watched the twin towers fall out my window, I fielded calls from Manhattan through Queens to people across the U.S., letting them know we were still alive. I lived that moment of doubt and fear. Are we next? What now? And you know what we did? We showed up for work a week later, breathing ash choked air and walking through spookily empty streets, we rolled into work because all you can do is put one foot in front of the other with the belief that what you are doing is right,
And what we are doing is right.
The world is a better place now than it has ever been.
There is no turning back the tidal wave which this country has unleashed on this modern world.
We have small backwards people raging at us, shaking their fists and crying at the heavens as they see it bearing down on them.
We might lose in Iraq from lack of will, certainly not from lack of ability. We might bankrupt ourselves trying to create a world we think is better. We might become a footnote in the history of this world, but the ideas and ideals we have striven for, both those we have accomplished and those we have failed to reach, will echo through history.
This modern world cannot be stopped, and I for one want it no other way.
Our country is large, our history is small, but the power of our ideas and our ideals will echo throughout history well after we are faded to the dustbin of history.
Iím just proud to be, no matter how small, a part of it.
Tomorrow a brighter sun will rise. Iím glad youíll be there with me to see it.