The year was 1492. The month was August. The mission was to find, at the behest of Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, the riches of Asia. Lacking the magic of GPS, Waze and Google Maps that we know, the challenge was a daunting one. Instead of arriving in Asia, navigation by the stars led Italian explorer Christopher Columbus to the Americas two months later, opening an entire New World for mankind to explore.
Centuries later, the discovery of the New World was observed and honored by the creation of Columbus Day on October 12 each year. What has happened to how some Americans view Columbus and his discovery, and to so many of the traditional values and standards of our country in recent years, evidences the degradation of the culture that America was built on.
Many of us senior citizens remember the time when a family consisted of two parents — a mother and a father — and usually some children. While divorces were not unheard of, they were not common. The family unit usually remained intact throughout the life of the parents, children were taught personal responsibility, and the children carried that family structure forward.
A more conservative idea of appropriate sexual behavior kept unwanted pregnancies at a low number. And those children were generally raised in the family, or occasionally given up for adoption. Abortion was a murky, immoral and not-widely-known concept that carried great risks.
Religion was a strong and positive influence on the culture, and even those who were not religious, including atheists, generally had a solid moral center. People knew right from wrong, and most lived within the cultural and legal boundaries.
People had an appreciation for their country, understanding the great benefits provided for them by the nation’s brilliant Founders. They designed a superior form of government that allowed for maximum personal freedom and that guaranteed certain important rights. Most Americans understood that each person was responsible for taking care of themselves and their family, except for those who had some significant incapacity that prevented them from doing so.
They understood that they were to go to school and learn the basics of communications, mathematics, history, civics, science, and literature, get or stay fit in gym class, and avail themselves of instruction in the arts and trades if they so desired. It was expected that people prepare themselves for adulthood, and be able to support themselves and their family.
Life always dealt challenges. Sometimes people were able to rise to meet them, and sometimes not. But they knew that it was up to them to live their lives within the boundaries set by the culture and laws of the land, and to make the most of their situation and circumstances.
In a recent column, Victor Davis Hanson compared today’s Americans to those of the past: “Our ancestors were builders and pioneers and mostly fearless. We are regulators, auditors, bureaucrats, adjudicators, censors, critics, plaintiffs, defendants, social media junkies and thin-skinned scolds. A distant generation created; we mostly delay, idle and gripe.”
Our once self-reliant and responsible culture now takes great offense at things once regarded as mere unpleasantries. So many now believe that if something offends them, they have the right to condemn it so they will not be offended any more. There is little if any regard for the person who is responsible for what offends them, and that person’s rights that are equal to theirs.
Free speech and the importance of being able to say, hear and consider other opinions is no longer valued, as it was for more than two centuries. Unpopular speech often spurs violence by those who disagree. Violence against those they disagree with has become a common tactic among the increasing numbers of the disgruntled. Someone saying something or doing something that others dislike is often considered an excuse for his/her enemies to attack them.
Because one in a hundred, or a thousand, instances of action by police finds a police officer responsible for doing something wrong, many Americans now view the police as enemies. Some even attack them, sometimes violently, when they are peacefully doing their job, such as when they are on the scene of a protest.
We have become a nation that has large numbers of easily-offended people who believe their concerns are more important than those of others. America’s new most abundant product is “victimhood.”
In contests, all young people now must get the same award as the person who actually won, just so they won’t feel bad.
Politically-correct control fanatics now insist that in order for churches to keep their non-profit status, they must forego their religious beliefs and accept politically-correct ideas that run counter to those beliefs.
Our Founders, who sacrificed so much to escape the bondage imposed by Great Britain, must be smacking their heads in bewilderment at what has happened to their marvelous creation. As Ben Franklin said to a woman asking what the Constitutional Convention had produced, he answered, “A republic, if you can keep it.”