Let me begin with a shout-out and then, a joke. First, the shout-out.
Without France’s help – and the support of its powerful navy, in particular – the American colonies most likely would have lost the Revolutionary War. Of course, I think the French were more motivated by revenge against their perennial nemesis, the British (especially after losing the Seven Years War), than they were by compassion for the colonists. However, credit just the same.
Now for the joke. Every time the United States has been attacked or suffered a national calamity; two things have happened. Americans have stiffened their resolve and banded together… and France has surrendered.
My apologies if you are part-French, like my wife, but the point remains that over the past 100 years, France has developed a reputation for folding faster than a poker player with a pair of deuces. But now, it seems like the ol’ US of A is poised to follow France’s lead by becoming a nation of crybabies.
Exhibit A is the victimhood culture that has swept across our country like the Bubonic Plague. Whereas generations of Americans grew up believing in rugged individualism and the so-called Protestant Work Ethic, far too many of our fellow citizens are now content to play the blame game. Instead of accepting personal responsibility for their lives and forging their own futures, they come up with a laundry list of self-perceived injustices.
Now, just like in France, people are complaining about having their retirement benefits delayed for a year or two. So what if Americans are living an average of 17 years longer than when Social Security was first enacted. And what does it matter that the worker-to-recipient ratio has gone from 16-to-1 in 1935 to 2.5-to-1 in 2023?
The heck with future generations of Americans whose financial well-being we have already mortgaged with mountains of bone-crushing debt. Like J.G. Wentworth, we insist that “It’s my money and I want it now!”
In France, President Macron has seen the actuary tables first-hand and has tried to make the necessary adjustments by raising the retirement age to receive full benefits from 62 to 64. As a result, a collective cry of “Mon Dieu!” can be heard from Nice to Nantes. Meanwhile, Paris – the City of Lights – has been set ablaze by protesters night after night.
When I was a toddler, a young, charismatic President climbed the steps of the U.S. Capitol and declared that “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage – and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”
John F. Kennedy then made the following pledge: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Finally, JFK concluded his address with a challenge. “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
I don’t know about you, my friend, but I can work a little harder for a little longer so that my children and grandchildren can share in both the American Dream and the fruits of their labor.
Now is not the time to whine. On the contrary, it is the time to shine by embracing a spirit of self-sacrifice and sheer determination. As the plaque said that sat on Ronald Reagan’s desk throughout his illustrious terms in office, “It CAN be done!”
Please know that I am not excusing the financial irresponsibility of generations of Congressmen and Chief Executives. These spineless and self-serving bureaucrats have bled our nation dry by spending money we don’t have on programs we don’t need, all in a vainglorious attempt to placate the public and prolong their stranglehold on power.
Instead, I am echoing the sentiments of Abraham Lincoln in his first inaugural address by appealing to “the better angels of our nature.”
Lest we become France…