When Captain Shackleton found rescue from his ill fated Antarctic expedition in 1917, he said “Tell me, when was the war over?” “The war is not over,” his rescuer answered. “Millions are being killed.
Europe is mad. The world is mad.”
I can empathize with Shackleton’s harsh realities of the world he was coming home to, from the one he left behind. I can sympathize with his rescuers who speak of the madness, the maladies of the mind, as well as the outright barbarism, and vengeance, that had arisen. 103 years later, and a half a world away, those sentiments are not far from the forefront of thought. As in that time a pandemic raged throughout the world as well as here at home. A world war was being fought with new weapons and their amazing appetite for death and destruction. The conditions today are much the same, the weapons are on the psychological, and digital variety instead of the chemical weapons that still pollute vast areas of Europe, or the ordinances that require evacuations of neighborhoods. The contemporary virus a daunting strain of variable outcomes, with lasting side effects. The spread is reaching beyond the critical mass, the deaths overloading our abilities to cope, to function, to offer internment.
The nation, and the world are definitely gripped by the immense tasks we now hold, and will soon be engulfed in. The disease of misinformation as deadly as the virus itself, and the battles that were overt and obvious to us all those years ago have gone into hiding within our very construct. A populace unsure of what to do when the media cycles don’t allow our functioning to forget, when the messaging has challenged comprehension levels, and crimped the inferred rights of constitutional scholars graduating from the turnip truck. The thought of Quixote engaging the windmills comes starkly to mind.
The importance of history is to be able to learn from that history, to not make the mistakes of the past once again. It also holds import on what we have done right, those aspects are often lost in a world of short attention spans and progress that can run over its own foot at times. Having asked the question time and time again, the answers will be available shortly; “Do we still have what it will take to save our country?” The question is valid, the answers unclear, our future a coin flip of the human equation. It is, at this time more than ever before in my lifetime a fertile field to plant the hopes of our futures, the blueprints to a better tomorrow. As my good friend would say, you have to look at your own history, what does it tell you? While that is a tool for internal acknowledgement, it is also a tool for those matters like these that are bigger than ourselves.
As the coming months produce challenges unparalleled, the history that we share holds much to what we will, and can do. Because as much as this is a beginning of a different era, it is also a referendum, of our character, our abilities, our strength, and our purpose. In looking back at events and times that have shaped the world such as this, we will prevail. How well we prevail though is going back to that question of whether we have it or not? I think, and believe we do, but it will take more than the course we are currently on. In the coming years the changing economy, the dearth of businesses vital for growth will be stagnant. As our economy shrinks, more and more will find themselves in a decidedly different situation. As in the past, we will find that we do need everyone to help everyone else. That is the human equation, that is the landing spot of the coin flip. When push comes to shove, that other human being takes precedence over all of our perceived differences. That is what history has shown us through our wars, and our at times barbaric colonialism. That expansion was driven by something encapsulated in three themes, and given the overall name of manifest destiny.
*The special virtues of the American people and their institutions
We have a common goal with every other nation on Earth, a rare occurrence as far as history goes. We are in a position to soon be able to alleviate some of the crushing illnesses, and deaths. But the damage is already done in many places. To be fair the damage was already done well before this historical period. That is why what we do now is so vitally important, it is not enough that we simply do not make the same mistakes, but eliminate them from the equations of governance, society, and that human experience. This is our past, present and future, all held within the grasp of a convulsed populace’s septic shock. To build foundations again in all areas of the land will require the task of finding the bedrock again, finding the places where stability and security can once again grow from. Those foundations stretch across all classes, races, religions, and regions of this country, there is no ground to leave unworked. The work ahead is impossible, it is overwhelming, it is back breaking, and we will do it all before we can be made to believe we can’t. Because that is, and this is, our history.
The stories of our past are filled with our divisiveness, our angsts and our defeats. They are also filled with that tenacity, strengths, our diligence. The lessons of that pandemic over 100 years ago tell us that we did not fare well from that event, and the coming years the rampant fears of Americans were revealed in the weave of society. It took until the Great Depression in 1929, to begin a new deal, to begin to plant once more not the bodies of our dead, but the fruits which would indelibly mark the last century of growth. The recovery from the pandemic took years to accomplish. They were filled with xenophobia, class warfare, the breaking down of civility in all of its corners. It took a complete breakdown to show us our humanity again, those same folks that were bitter social enemies became the very lifelines to making through another day, another week. Those same attitudes perforate our contemporary society, the ills of our past once again the toxins of our societal health today. Then as now, the vacuum of pointed leadership has set up a catch up and hope response. We are creatures of habit, and it is our very lifestyles that in times as these are our biggest foe.
**The mission of the United States to redeem and remake the west in the image of the agrarian East
The concepts and vernacular that inhabit our collective history are sometimes viewed as outdated, accomplished, or irrelevant. The concept of manifest destiny are filled with our colonialism, and expansionist ways, the genocide of indigenous peoples, the acts that are judged as crimes today, the inhumanity in our stated purpose. We have grown much from that time, yet the concept of exceptionalism, providence, and innate superiority, has lingered in our actions, our society, and our political ambitions. They have not grown well into acceptable ideals though, but warped into bigoted, and unacceptable behaviors. The agrarian East has largely disappeared, the West is populated. This singular theme, this bellicose mantra, is the only theme that needs to be changed to place it in better context of the current century. Because it is now our mission more than ever to rebuild, recycle, and to conserve our lands, our infrastructure, our environment. When our ancestors did set out West, it included the expansion of technologies, the telegraph, electricity, and modern farming methods. It was filled with the expansion of education, and the promise that an education was a given right. That expansion created many issues that still survive today, but that premise of bringing our best along with us could be the very point of the change we could make. We are still in need of those things today, technology to our rural areas, and educational opportunities available to all those who wish to use them. “The mission of the United States to redeem, rebuild, and preserve, our lands and peoples, to ensure a more perfect union.”
It is difficult to encapsulate the magnitude and diversity that arises where history is concerned. It is not a function of a single person to determine. But it is the function that must be made by many, and to that end it is my consideration. The necessary actions that are arising are not pieces of time to muddle through, but to overcome, create, and work for our future. That is the interpretation we have the opportunity to grasp ahold of, the very definition of manifest destiny; To build that future, those tomorrows, and leave something behind for the people to grow from. That is the history that we all share, there was always room for dreams, for aspirations, for hard work, and that tranquility we are so tentatively acquainted with. We are seldom reminded that we have power, the power to change what tomorrow will bring in a very real manner. In that power we also have a responsibility to administer and manage that power. In the challenges that we now see, and the ones to come, it is necessary for our purpose to do so with a more common commitment. These are the promises that we undertook when accepting the duty to a more perfect union.
***An irresistible destiny to accomplish this essential duty
While it is difficult to encapsulate the depths of our combined history, it is not as difficult to encapsulate our passions. They are the very cornerstones of those stories of our past, and the provider of examples of what we have and can accomplish when our irresistible destiny is put to the test, put under a great strain of change. Our history determined by all those lives before us, that together created this opportunity to continue. The work that we must employ ourselves in doing will determine the lives of others, will determine their opportunities, and their lack of them. Determine the world they live in before they are born, before they have the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness that was afforded to us. Even if it was not a perfect offering, it was still there, it had not become extinct. To that our course must not drift farther from that compass point we are in at present, to that we must all shift the weights of burden to right the course. These are our present duties, they are our prerequisite responsibilities, and our imperative behaviors that must be met if we are to continue. To what degree we will manage to come through this seismic change on our culture is yet to be seen, the compass point unchanged. It is not a determination, or treatise that one can make alone, but must be made by many. A thought, a prayer, and a hopeful heart pertains, that our collective future can grasp a more common purpose, a more perfect union, and through our actions, a version of the new Manifest Destiny.