Modern America is in rough waters, no smooth sailing – but we can navigate them if we focus. These waters require mental, emotional, and spiritual strength. The fortitude needed is of a different type from what our Founders needed, or what veterans cultivate, but similar.
Early Americans had none of our blessings, none of our conveniences, no mobile phones, cars, planes, electric heat or air conditioning, antibiotics, refrigeration or microwaves. They regularly lost children, suffered prolonged illnesses – no painkillers – and lived on their faith and guts.
Veterans in all eras likewise confront battlefield suffering and stress – of a kind that exceeds simple survival and sadness, involves often unmanageable fear, trauma, and uncertainty.
These strains – high risk, sudden loss, daily fear – require reserves of strength to survive, manage, tolerate the intolerable, let alone thrive. This era also calls for strength, a different sort.
Today, the pace of change, alienation, and societal tumult – cultural, political, economic, and social – tests us in novel ways, borders on becoming intolerable, creates frustration, disorientation, anxiousness, and anger. The rise of anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-constitutional rhetoric and actions test the best among us. We cannot let such feelings define us.
What can be done? Several things, all worth pondering, internalizing, then acting on. In short, we need to take stock of reality. We have it better than those who came before us. We also have ways to address stress, turn it down, and get this country back to our cultural norms.
First, we can take solace – since we often forget – in blessings around us. We really do have it better, in countless ways, than those who came before, and twice the blessings of combat vets.
The pace of change has been fast, but goodness also attends change. Modern medicine extends life, modern communications link families, and modern transport and commerce meet needs. Some among us – the oldest – can recall a childhood without electricity, no lights in the barn, no baseboard heat, no warm place to retreat. We do not struggle with those burdens often.
Second, many blessings hide in plain sight, ready to de-stress the mess. For example, things we do for others – a traditional American strength, service, giving time, the notion of generosity as an “end in itself,” lowers stress, improves sleep, gives us a new lease, rebuilding lost peace.
Third, as midterms approach, we are reminded that – in this land – we are never powerless, just frustrated. We need to get motivated, pool our power to reverse what is not right, what is stressing us, like un-listening, unaccountable leaders. Just voting is an act of de-stressing.
Fourth, we all have reserves of strength – sources – we do not always access. We get distracted by what ails us, worries over higher inflation, crime, political jousting, and societal uncertainty.
These reserves include the obvious and less obvious. For starters, as in our early days and in combat. faith fortifies. The Supreme Court’s recent decisions mean less discrimination against those of faith – in our schools, workplaces, and on the sports field. That is a good turn.
Constancy is another source of solace. When we are told we must redefine ourselves to fit “the new society,” we can say no, stay constant, preserve who we are – finding those who share our convictions, electing those who will allow our resolve to persist and expand, who honor it.
Relying on common sense, self-discipline, and proven routines is another source of comfort – added constancy. Knowing – in our hearts and as facts – that boys are boys, girls are girls, old norms are well-founded, from age-appropriate teaching to parental power, that should comfort.
Political actors who angle for one-party rule have never succeeded in America, as people will not have it. Those trying to twist and trick, coopt, control, cancel, and clip rights – invariably fail.
Main point: In these uniquely trying times, we face stresses unique to our era, but able to be put in perspective by calling up mental, emotional, and spiritual depth. We have that if we look.
We have sources to draw on – to fortify ourselves and each other. We have true cultural norms, established traditions, solid habits, ways of keeping order, finding solace – from prayer and conversation to honoring history, exercising literally and mentally. We can define the future.
Reading news – especially biased, trivial, and trying news – can be exhausting, especially as elections approach, but there is hope in this struggle. If we envision victory and act to make it so, those moves themselves diminish anxiety, weariness, and disgust at social drift. Truth is, our actions can also change wholly the process, turn the dial, preserve what we value in America.
The way to reverse nationwide uneasiness felt by so many is to realize we can, then resolve we will. If we resolve to fortify each other, rely on common sense, gratitude for blessings, service, faith, constancy, mental and physical fitness, we can get beyond this moment, to clear waters. Voting for those who share this view – is a step forward. We finally get the chance – this week.
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