Spy readers are intelligent and perceptive, as reflected in their comments. Some of the Spyists choose to send me emails instead of comments concerning my musings.
One this week from a friend whose mental acuity I deeply admire took me time to digest. My initial response missed the mark. He made that clear to me. My second attempt seemed more successful, though drawing no comment from him.
Okay, what was his point, one that I found startling? In his acceptance speech following receipt of the Novel Peace Award in 1912, former Secretary of State and U.S. Senator Elihu Root opined that human connections to the caveman, encompassing barbaric behavior, would take many generations to refine, if not eliminate.
My friend’s conclusion in 2023 is direct and troubling. He just may question my conclusion.
Disappointed by modern-day behavior—mass shootings, political cowardice, rampant corruption, economic inequality, international invasions and democratic degradation—my friend wonders and worries whether the destruction of humanity is ripe for a drastic restart.
Subsequent generations would have “to learn and remember new and different lessons and ideas.” Time would be long and arduous. Behavioral modification is a lengthy, painful process.
My friend’s perspective emanates from a seriously somber view of reality. He eschews fluff and frivolity. He is a Viet Nam veteran who witnessed human destruction. He lives well as a retired attorney. However, he takes little for granted. He’s tough-minded.
I too bemoan our human condition. As I have written previously, my children and grandchildren are inheriting a world much more troubled and disruptive than the one my wife and I did. As opposed to engaging in atomic bomb drills, our grandchildren participate in live-shooter drill in schools.
I cannot imagine their fear. I fret were the real thing to happen, as has been the case far too frequently in our violent country.
The reality of senseless school killings is distressing. Young lives are obliterated for reasons known only to mentally deranged shooters. The young die far too young. Their families and communities never recover from the shock and death.
Where I disagree with my esteemed friend is time. Despite the impending destruction of humanity and its potential usefulness as a new start, my impatience governs my reaction. Throw in some hope that responsible and respected leaders, trusted by members of both political parties, will adopt Superman traits and create a better world, and I promote timeliness over adaptation to ongoing ruthlessness.
I thank my friend for introducing me to the wisdom of Elihu Root, a great statesman who understood the human condition and tried to achieve a more peaceful world. His Nobel Prize Award epitomizes his success, his thrust for a better world. He deserves recognition, even after 111 years.
Maybe the world that we as children of World War II and Depression-era parents is long gone. Faith in government, corporations and religious institutions is weak, if not passé. Honor and honesty are subservient to selfishness and insincerity.
Character is a lost art. Love of country and devotion to shared values are remnants of the past.
Our beloved experiment as a nation committed to democracy—and the pursuit of happiness—is enshrined in history books. But its current allure has suffered from actions wreaking of bigotry and bombast.
Yet, I dread the idea of blowing up what is still good and worthy. I still believe in leadership and integrity. I yearn for authentic goodness and compassion. I acknowledge my unbridled optimism.
Tribalism is pervasive. Thinking conforms to your cadre of friends and affinity groups. Different thinking threatens the status quo, if not your relationships.
Yielding to self-destruction is extreme. Trying to reverse our down- slide, while difficult, is a better, though fraught course of action.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. After 44 years in Easton, Howard and his wife, Liz, moved in November 2020 to Annapolis, where they live with Toby, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel who has no regal bearing, just a mellow, enticing disposition.