Friday, July 15, 2016

The World Intrudes

Day 15

There is a pattern developing to life here in Maine. Just about the time I find myself thinking that life couldn't possibly get any better, some deranged psychopath kills a bunch of innocents. Last night when I read Pam the horrifying news from Nice, she asked plaintively..." Why can't these people just come to Maine?" She hadn't intended to make a joke about so serious a catastrophe, but I couldn't help laughing. Why, indeed?

Part of me wonders if it's entirely appropriate for me to be enjoying such a leisurely, care-free month up here while the rest of the world seems to be falling apart. I read about the 80 dead in Nice right after a meal of steaks from the grill covered in garlic butter sauce, Brussels sprouts-kabobs in mustard sauce, and grilled potatoes. The news of the cop ambush in Dallas came while we were having lobster. So, because I'm an heir of western civilization, I battle with the one emotion that the West does best...guilt.

But, I deal with the G word swiftly. Unlike many of my younger friends, I refuse to accept the premise of the day that suggest that any success I enjoy comes from some entrenched privilege. I find no evidence that requires me to apologize for my good fortune, as if the very fact of my success suggests that somebody else more deserving was denied the chance. This view of the world requires the assumption that the world is a finite pie, that there is only so much success to go around. It's impossible to expand the pie, so we must allocate the pie more fairly. This world view empowers only those holding the knife, the bureaucrats, the redistributors. 

In my life, I have had a lot of help. Nobody is a self-made man, nobody. I had great parents who taught me right from wrong. I got a great education thanks to a series of life changing teachers who challenged me to think. I benefitted from several amazing mentors who taught me what no teacher could. I was blessed to be born a citizen of a country that allowed me to decide what I wanted to be and do. Me, not some government hack in an office somewhere. But, my government helped too. They built a network of roads and bridges that allowed me to move about with ease. They provided a system of justice that protected my rights and my property, and although that system is flawed and has had glaring failures, it's still the best in the world in much the same way as democracy is the worst system of government in the world...except for all of the others. 

But, despite all of the help I have been given, success was not guaranteed. It wasn't preordained. Good government, good parents and good teachers are present in the lives of millions who wind up in the gutter. All of the tools in the world can be given to someone, but the house won't get built until work is done, and mistakes of effort are made. Trial and error, multiple failures, then at last, success. Everyone I know who has done well in life has had to overcome failure, sometimes many failures. Luckily for us, we live in a country that supplies us with the most essential tool of all...freedom.

So, no. I will not apologize for being an American. I am proud of my country,( although that pride is taking a beating this election cycle). But, this too shall pass. We have overcome worse than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

And no, I will not feel guilty for being on vacation while terrible things happen to innocent people. Instead, I will double down on my profound gratitude for the blessings of life, and endeavor to be a mentor to someone struggling to find their way in the world when I get back home.