Impatience Day

On our 244th Independence Day, Americans find themselves in a pot of boiling rage. Whether along racial or political lines, our country has not been more divided than since the Civil War. This rage, stoked by propaganda channels and social media, has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, an invisible and deeply frustrating enemy, where our only immediate weapons are masks and patience.

But Americans are not a patient people. Our impatience has helped us become a great nation. Impatience for freedom. Impatience to abolish slavery. Impatience to improve our standard of living. And the list of targets of our impatience goes on. But we have come to a point where our impatience is not as useful as it once was.

Over a century and a half ago, America suffered a bloody civil war. Even today we see the scars from that conflict, including arguments over Confederate statues. While contentious history makes great reading, the reality was not great living. That’s a lesson we must heed.

Americans have endured hardships before for the greater good. We fought Nazis, communists and fascists. Today, our primary enemy is less-well defined. Some say it’s a virus. But to be honest, it’s not. To quote the comic strip Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.”

Our emotions raging in frustration, our desire to blame, and yes, our desire to hate, have not served us well. We must take a breath and remember what is important: our health, our family, our community and our country. The well-being of these are not served by conflict, but by cooperation and large, almost painful doses, of patience. Rage is easy. Patience is hard.

In the last few months, I have often thought of the British motto which adorned many signs during World War II: “Keep Calm and Carry On,” wise words from our mother country. This message of quiet persistence carries a strength stronger than rage, and more patriotic than mere flag waving. As citizens, we are the threads which hold our country together. While we may fray a little, we must not rip ourselves apart. That is my hope.

Happy Independence Day.

Anything Is Possible

I was nine years old. Like many boys my age in the 1960s, I wanted to be an astronaut. For me, it began with watching TV reports on the Gemini missions. Who could resist reaching for the stars?

That night 50 years ago, we were at my grandparents’ house where we watched the most amazing event of our lives on television. Two men were landing on the moon! Afterward, my parents raced home. And then, in my pajamas, on an old Zenith black-and-white television, I watched Neil Armstrong place the first footprint on the lunar soil, an event that in the history of humankind had never occurred before, and was replicated only a few times since.

To be honest, the “Space Age” became a disappointment for many. I never got my flying car or jet pack. We never got to Mars by 2000, as promised. But for that night on July 20, 1969, anything was possible.

In the intervening years, we’ve put satellites in orbit, enabling us to use GPS to easily navigate on land and sea. Diseases have been diminished or eliminated by medical science. Knowledge is distributed in a way never before imagined through the Internet. Thousands of innovations have come out of the space program or from those who were inspired by it.

Yet today, science must constantly reprove itself in the glare of selfishness interests and prejudices. Science deniers of many stripes abound. But on that night 50 years ago, we were one people, one species, imperfect to be sure, but we were inspired to become better.

As we reflect on that mind-boggling event, still delivering awe 50 years later, I ask can we do better? Can we be better? The answer is YES, if we show the same courage and adventurous spirit shown during Apollo. There is no problem that faces humanity that it can’t solve if we are united.  Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin did not go to the moon on their own. Thousands of workers made it happen. Millions supported the effort. When we are truly united, anything is possible.