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Becoming a Mature American Citizen

Posted on Sunday, April 7, 2024
by David P. Deavel



This week I turned fifty. The big 5-0. A half century. Half a hundred. Fiddy, as the rappers say. Though I am a big fan of the classics, I won’t use the Roman numeral “L.” On the internet, that means “Loser.” I will use Latinate terms and say I’m a proud “quinquagenarian.” Mostly because it’s fun to say. A momentous occasion, it was an opportunity for ribbing from my friends and receiving solicitations in the mail from that group that sounds like “carp.”

OK, the group I’m referring to is AARP, the left of center outfit for retired Americans. Sorry, lefties—I’m with AMAC, the Association of “Mature” American Citizens.

The birthday was an occasion to look back with the usual mix of gratitude, regret, laughter, sadness, and wonder that every life provokes. My childhood in small-town Indiana, my young adulthood in western Michigan, the Bronx (in the glorious days when Rudy Giuliani had cleaned it up), and then Minnesota’s Twin Cities (before the Democrats messed them up) were all filled with friendships and great experiences, even if some hard ones as well. So too the last couple years in southeast Texas. I’ve had the opportunity to live in some very different parts of the country and see a great many more.

In thinking over both the good and the bad, I realized that now is a time to remember my own mortality and resolve to live a life that honors God, serving my family and my country. I, too, want to be a mature American citizen.

The consideration of my own mortality has been relatively easy. My mother died when I was twenty-nine, my father when I was thirty-nine. My own “check engine light” has already started flashing. Around my forty-ninth birthday last year, my doctor, citing my blood tests and family history of heart disease (Dad’s big heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery happened when he was 51), told me I needed to lose weight and start taking a statin. I also decided to consult Houston’s Good Feet store because of some severe foot pains. They prescribed me orthopedic inserts to wear in my shoes. All this was a long way from my usual ignoring of my health.

I am pleased to say that at fifty, my cholesterol, triglycerides, and several other things less pronounceable and measured in my blood are now down to normal levels. So too is my weight down—by fifteen pounds. And the orthopedic inserts have worked. I’m not limping along nor am I out of breath when I play with my kids. By acknowledging the reality of my mortality a bit earlier than fifty, I may have put it off slightly. In any case, I’m living more healthily. That in itself is one way to serve God, family, and country. They say ninety percent of life is showing up. At a certain point, it’s not showing up but sticking around that we’re talking about.

I’m committed to sticking around as long as God allows me. Given that my own dad made it to 81, and his older brother is still around at 95, perhaps I’ve got a while. But having a mature attitude toward mortality and health is only part of it. Being a mature American citizen means having a mature attitude toward our country.

A mature attitude toward our country is one that takes advantage of a longer timeline than merely the present. It acknowledges the seriousness of our country’s problems while at the same time remembering that this country has, in its nearly 250-year history, undergone severe testing before and, through the grace of God, come through it. We who have seen some of these tests have an obligation to tell younger people about them—to chasten those getting carried away with their successes and encourage those who have become young “doomers.”

Indeed, a mature attitude toward American citizenship is one that acknowledges that not every battle will be won, but that many can and will be won. It is a refusal to give way to that doomer-ism. If we look for ways to fight the battles that are within reach and put forth the effort, even some of the battles that look hopeless may well turn out to be winnable. T. S. Eliot said that in politics there are no permanently lost causes or permanently won causes. Tending the tree of liberty and pulling out the weeds that would choke it is a constant series of battles.

A mature attitude to American citizenship looks at the national level battles and understands the importance of participating in them but also prioritizes keeping informed about state and local battles, as well as races for offices such as city council, county sheriff, and state representative. That’s one reason I like AMAC—it’s not just a “benefits” organization. It provides the “Newsline” you’re reading to keep informed about issues around the country and even the world; it also provides opportunities for members to act politically in particular states. State and local issues and offices are extremely important for us to get involved in because it is there that we can make a very tangible difference to the lives of our families and neighbors.

Finally, a mature American citizen steps up to serve in whatever way suits his or her gifts and helps out the community. From very early on, visitors such as Alexis de Tocqueville noticed that American life was filled with rich associations with others. In an age in which those associations have waned for a number of reasons, including technology, our refusal to stay in the virtual world is incredibly important. Volunteering at everything from churches to schools to polling stations to little league builds up the community in ways that will help the next generation.

The last time I voted here in Texas, one volunteer who looked a little older than I announced every first-time voter who came through to get a ballot. A couple of the younger people looked slightly embarrassed at this announcement. But they also looked pleased at this mild hazing that was also a recognition of their own growing maturity.

I’m definitely older this year. And I’ll keep getting older as the years go by. It’s unavoidable. But will I become a truly mature American? That’s a question of will for each and every one of us no matter our age. I’m definitely game. What better way to spend my quinquagenarian years and beyond?

David P. Deavel teaches at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and is a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. Follow him on X (Twitter) @davidpdeavel.

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Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
1 month ago

Praise for writing this article David , it is insightful and inspirational – two things that are indicators of a mature outlook, a mature group of people . The need for practicing good citizenship – something that contributes to the betterment of life , is always part of maintaining stability in society – and should have roots in respect for the will of God, respect for truth , liberty , fairness , and a genuine concern for the qualities that respect Faith, Family and Freedom. Civilization is in great need of defense at this time – and those of us who believe in the teaching of Christ, and believe in the values in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights of the Constitution need to be thinking in terms of keeping a highly intelligent frame of mind at all times, having courage ,and being resourceful to deal with the challenges present in the world .President Ronald Reagan had a very good outlook on how to go about keeping good prevailing over evil. Knowing history is another important strategy for doing what is needed .Good character and a code of conduct are always vital for having a Nation that will function properly.

Lona Suomi
Lona Suomi
1 month ago

Keep up the good work (and calling us older citizens to a higher standard!) We still have much to contribute.

1 month ago

Be happy to trade with you? Life gives you the opportunity not to just show up, but show up with a grateful attitude.

An older blonde women laughing in the kitchen with a grey haired man.
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