above it all
JUNE 10, 2010 12:14PM

Is it time to use the "S" word again?

Rate: 12 Flag

I am beginning to sense a theme here. . .

During the break of a wildly frenetic concert last night by the Portland-based band “March Fourth” (see them at your peril.  Don’t see them at your loss) my brother and I had a conversation.  As usual, these conversations run to politics.  Gary is a voracious reader and deep thinker.  These days, his thoughts run to libertarianism to tame a government gone amuck. 

“What does your friend think of this mess in the Gulf?” he asks me.  My friend is a highly placed BP engineer.  I tell him that we were playing golf back in April when the platform first went down and my friend said then that they wouldn’t stop the gusher until August, when the relief wells would be completed.  Looks like my friend was on the money with that.  Gary says he has read that because of the extreme pressures, there may be more leaks pushing up outside of the well casing. 

From there, the conversation drifts to general mayhem and destruction to the Gulf shores and marine environment in general.  We talk about the need for other sources of energy and then he asks me if I’ve spoken to another friend of mine who is developing a huge solar power generation station in AZ.  “That guy looks like he is in the right place right now.  We have to have alternatives.” 
“Well, yes we do, but that means some interim sacrifices doesn’t it?”
“Yeah, and therein is the problem.  No one wants to give up their Camaro for a bus ticket.”
“Nope,” sez I.  “Ain’t gonna happen.  Americans don’t like sacrifice.”
“No we don’t, if it can be avoided.”   

What followed was a short discussion about our parent’s generation and what they did.  Dad was born in ’21, mom in ’25.   They lived through the Depression and dad signed up on Dec. 8 1941 to go shoot artillery around the Pacific.  Mom and dad, those two made sacrifices, not only during the ‘30s and ‘40s, but all those years afterward raising four boys. 

Here we are.  Americans don’t like sacrifice.  At least not the current iterations of Americans.  Why?  And now we get back to the theme. 

You see, Gary and I were draft-aged during Vietnam.  Our oldest brother graduated in ’66 and went straight into the military (by choice).  Gary pulled a very high draft number so he was safe.  I pulled a 69 in a year they drafted to 120.  I had the good fortune of a “spontaneous pneumothorax” (or some such thing – it means a lung collapsed for no good reason) at 18, so this insured a three year deferment, by which time the draft was over.  But the draft meant sacrifice could come to any household in the US not lucky enough to have a Congressman daddy.  

The Depression.  World War II.  Korea.  Vietnam.   

When was the last time you were asked to sacrifice anything?  I’ll tell you.  It was when Carter Carter the peanut farmer pulled on a sweater and said “Lets end our dependence on foreign oil.  Turn down your thermostats.”  Along comes a B-grade actor who says “No!  Its morning in America!”  Screw the peanut farmer, I want my ‘Merica back.  Give me morning!   Even better – “Beat the terrists! Go shoppin’!” What’s happened since then? 

Have you turned down your thermostat?  Did you trade your Camaro for a Prius, or better yet, did you move back into the city so you could use public transportation?  I haven’t.  I like my 256hp turbo-charged Volvo parked in my suburban garage for my 23 mile commute to work.  Well, I don’t like my Floridian-type wife to crank the AC in the summers, but for the most part in Colorado it isn’t quite the necessity it was where she lived.  

But Vietnam taught our politicians to not ask us to sacrifice (Ok Jimmy was a little slow on that lesson).  Vietnam told them that if you want to be able to lie cheat and steal at the highest levels you better tell Americans everything will just be fine if we will just go back to our TV sets. Now as I look at the images of the blackened, slicked sea birds, the dead fish, the greased wetlands, as I hear about tar balls in Texas and Florida, I wonder,
“Is it time to get over Vietnam? 
Is it time we start the sacrifice conversation again?”

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I seem to think in circles......
an interesting juxtaposition.
Americans in general are spoiled. Growing up poor, it has never been sacrafice for me, but rather neccessity. I think in the near future, most are going to learn that unless they do sacrafice, neccesity will be the word of the day for everyone, not just the poor.
Tim - This was a very, very well written piece. I jumped into it not knowing what to expect and came out with absolute confidence that at least ONE person gets it.

When we have a president who once again stands before America and says "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," we're on the right path.

Do your part needs to be a part of who we are once again.

I'm on board Tim, but it needs to come with a big, fat dose of Nationalisim from our political sector.

Bring the jobs back to our shores, show the people that the Government still has a shred of decency and patriotisim left, and the people will stand.

Sure, we suck now, but I'm willing to bet the "good old days" could be right around the corner if we just had the guts to try.

Thanks Chuck. I suppose that happens because I get fixated on single issues from time to time.

Dragonangel, what concerns me is that nearly everyone will be poor once all the potential wealth has finally been concentrated into the hands of the very few.

Thanks Doug. The perfect storm of weariness of war drafts coupled with a need to feel powerful again while the "greed is good" crowd came to power brought us to this place. We need leaders who are willing to inspire us to greater social good rather than personal gain.
Tim: Vietnam was a worthless war fought for reasons that still cannot be articulated by the very same people that advocated Americas involvement there, at least those that still are breathing thankfully not that many. You are talking about sacrifice here as if our present corporate sponsored circus had some kind of mandate from its people that it could exchange for their cooperation. No healthcare our borders wide open, toxic sludge fouling our food supply, A media and “educational system ” that is the laughing stock of Europe and anywhere else literacy is held in esteem and stagnant economy. We are teetering on the brink of revolution. Your attitude towards your brother seems to be dismissive because he is a voracious reader and deep thinker and would jeopardize your Golf game with his insistence that you start digging a Fox hole. People make sacrifices for what they believe in, its human nature the cause will always be more important than the individual and about the time the bullets start flying is when you shall bear witness to mans capacity to sacrifice.
Great post, Tim. When I think of what my parents and especially their parents sacrificed, we are wimps beyond belief. I wrote a post about the Great Depression and my great-grandmother's experiences when I first came here and I am still in awe of her. They gave up so much and they did it willingly for the most part. Nobody has that kind of backbone today, and I include myself in that. We are weak.
Jack I think you've misunderstood what I was saying, perhaps because I am not the most artful writer. I am very close with my brother and am in awe of his ability to devour material. It is a skill I dont have anywhere near his level. That said, he and I disagree often, but its mostly about levels, not about content. I believe that Americans have shown historically that when called to service for a greater good, most of us will join. But we arent being called because our leaders (a term loosely used) dont want us to think about what we are really giving up in exchange for what they are taking from us.

Emma, we can be those people if shown a need and given a direction. My son, career military that he is says he doesnt support a draft as he would only want to fight with those who wanted to be next to him. I understand that. But in WWII, people got gas ration cards, recycled cans and stockings and did everything they could because they were asked to do so by leaders who knew the sacrifice was needed. If not in the field they sacrificed at home. Where are the leaders today who dare ask us to give up going out to dinner and our precious TV (or even golf!) time?
Great post, Tim. yes, I think it is time to have that conversation again. Very well said.
"Sacrifice" is a word most often associated with Jesus Christ and why he died on the cross for our sins. Word association of a Catholic raised girl.

Sacrifice is a little known, rarely taught concept in today's world.

Yet, the terrorists would have us believe they are 'sacrificing' their lives to prove a point and please their god.

Sacrifice is a term often taught in schools with religious instruction, otherwise, it is an ellusive theme in the common vernacular.

It may likely come from necessity and not with forthought. All that you bring up here are so worthy of discussion and deep contemplation.

Parents often sacrifice their own needs for the betterment of their children's lives, education and well being.

Sacrifice is a virture, rarely found in everyday life in America, as you illuminated so well.

It needs to be taught in the home, in our schools, churches and emphasized as much as all the other things we cherish and need to survive.

It is a word less often used and effected than it should be.

Great and thought-provoking post.
As Marshall McLuhan said many years ago, the automobile is the last local of privacy for the individual.Great, clear, alarming piece Tim.
Thank you Trilogy. You and I are similar in age and experience. I'm glad to know you are having similar thoughts.

Cathy - Sacrifice is most often heard today in religious context. We have lost some capacity to consider it in secular arenas. But I think if Americans are the religious/spiritual beings that we think we are we might find that the concept could translate more easily into our lives if our leaders would take the time to invoke it.

Hello Gary. Always a real pleasure for me to have you visit. McLuhan also said "Diaper backward spells repaid. Think about it. " And while that isnt germane to our discussion, I do think it says a great deal about the sharpness of his perceptions!
Our parents worked hard so we wouldn't have to. and this is the result. A nation full of people that don't know hard work, or thier idea of hard work is comical.

I lived on ramen noodles and tuna fish for a year. I work hard so that my kids won't have to. But some other ass ignored morality and now we all may need to sacrifice, including our kids.
2T- yeah, we've been watcing this movie since Gordon Gecko pronounced "Greed is good" in Wall Street. I worry that my kids wont have even the little I was able to provide for them, while the slimeballs at Goldman Sucks swallow their futures, and the futures of entire countries like Greece. Something is deeply deeply wrong with our system of laisse-faire capitalism.
Sacrifice applies as you have used it here, of course, but it has a sacred meaning as well. That is, religions require sacrifice as a way of demonstrating the need for respect for things more important than ourselves. But sadly, the "drill, baby, drill" crowd that dares to call itself "conservative" has given up that religion for one that has as its only tenet "greed is good, govt is bad".
Yes Tom. That about sums it up!
Sacrifice is a concept I grew up with and tried to instill in my children. They did plenty of volunteering as did I, figuring that even if you don't have legal tender to offer to a cause you believe in, it was always possible to forego something "selfish" to help someone else. I fear that this is a philosophy that many Americans just don't understand, for whatever reason. The only way I see it changing is either by some big glamorous examples, or by mandatory service, whether military or social, to our country.

I'll just add as a side note that during the Vietnam War, my grandmother, a staunch Republican who really didn't think like one, opined on more than one occasion that we weren't sacrificing enough and therefore couldn't really feel like we were part of the effort. The kind of engagement the American people had during WWII was, she believed, the necessary component that helped achieve the victory.
Your children had a good mother, Coyote, and their mother had a wise granmother.
Americans are more than willing to sacrifice. But...
just as long as it's some other guy sacrificing and not me.
A horrible attitude but I would imagine a fairly accurate one.
Don't worry. The time for sacrifice will be coming soon enough. It will be imposed on us one way or another.
Tim, It is disconcerting how easily we push aside the fact that we are engaged in two wars! Our engagement would be hard-wired into the pulse of any smaller country. For Afghanistan, it is devestating, for Iraq, the county has been turned inside-out...yet here we are, so far away, removed from hainvg anything drag us outside our comfort zones. It's time to talk about justice and sacrifice.