There is a stretch of land, in Western Oklahoma called the ‘Staked Planes,” or, in the original, Plano Estacado. It was supposedly named by the Spanish Explorer, Cortez, because it was so incredibly flat that he had to mark his route with stakes so he could get back…and, in fact, if you drive across the Oklahoma Panhandle, you can’t miss this land feature…or lack of feature, as the case may be. Before I knew what it was called, I drove across this part of the country, and it was one of the most depressing drives I ever had, mile after mile of emptiness, like crossing the ocean, but without waves to break up the monotony. I couldn’t wait to get over it, to the other side.
I knew a woman, once, who felt the need to take her horse across the country. She started out in Missouri, and planned to spend a half a year riding to California, where she lived. She described the trip in glowing terms, except for the point where she hit the staked plains. Here, she became overwhelmed with the sheer emptiness of it all and, at one point, decided she couldn’t go on any further. She got off her of horse, and sat down, and waited…and waited. Finally, she realized that giving up was not an option, because the only choice that left her was to die, so she got back on her horse and finished that trip.
That is the problem with giving up. There is really no place else to go, and the alternative is often far more drastic than simply going on, no matter what the difficulty, and giving up negates the possibility that better things can happen. The woman, mentioned above, got over her hurdle on the Staked Planes and had a wonderful trip afterwards, that she would have missed if she had decided to give up when things got hard.
We often reach that point in our lives, where everything seems just too hard to go on, and where it seems easier to achieve the peace of eternal sleep, or other simpler alternatives. In truth, in many cases, it is hard to argue with someone that this might be true, especially someone for whom the pain seems to never end. Some of us are born into a life that is far harder than anyone to have to bear, and no one is really in a position to judge that life; the ability of each of us to weather pain is different, and some of us are simply not as strong, brave or fearless as others. My only point is that giving up removes the possibility of things getting better…and if the Universe has some eternal plan for you, perhaps those hard times are in preparation for something better. You’ll never know.
This idea holds for peoples and nations as well as individuals. Nations go through good times as well as bad times, and often the bad times are pretty bad; imagine Germany during the 1920′s and 1930′s, with an inflation rate that couldn’t be calculated, people starving in the streets, and with little hope that anything would get better. Imagine Britain during WWII. Imagine Leningrad during WWII, which survived 998 days of a horrible German siege to triumph in the end. The Germans chose a form of suicide, abandoning their Democracy to revert to a totalitarian state which made their lives, ultimately, worse. The British and Russians persevered, and chose freedom. These times are a test of a nation’s character, and the British and Russians can be proud, at that time, that they passed.
The United States is a great nation. We are great not because our people are better, though there are few who are more generous than Americans. We are not great because our culture is better, though it is a culture that is widely emulated throughout the world.
No, we are a great nation because we have advanced a system that enables the greatest number of people to strive for the most they can be…and, because of that, we are able to harness the energy and creativity of our people to the strength of our manufacturing and productivity sector, to accomplish what no one else is able to accomplish.
I have written, before, that it is because of this that the survival of the United States is essential to the survival of civilization throughout the world. It is only through the strength of our invention, and the strength of our arms, that the dream of peace and prosperity for all is most likely to be accomplished. If the United States is strong, the world is more secure. If the United States weakens, the security of the world is in serious danger. What weakens the United States weakens the world.
There are many, in this country, who see this strength as dangerous, and seek to make us weaker. Most of these people, in this country, do not see themselves as doing wrong, they are simply following some sort of intellectual appeal…but their interests are not in strengthening the nation, but in some other goal they see as important. The survival of the nation is almost secondary…as if it weren’t important. Much of this is hubris, the feeling that we cannot be hurt…so that secondary issues are acceptable, because we are strong enough to absorb them.
We became what we are due to a particular set of principles and circumstances that promoted strength and growth. Among these are our Christian (Protestant) heritage, which promoted a work ethic, sense of community and strong moral character that is rare in the rest of the world. We work harder an we have a stronger belief in God than any other Western, developed nation, and we know that hard work will pay off.
If we lose those principles, if we decide that our life is too hard, and we get off the horse, we have chosen to surrender what is our strength…and we shall probably die. It is up to the people to hold our leaders to the course we know to be best. If we allow them to lead us to surrender what made us strong, we have no one to blame but ourselves.