This veteran of too much war and too much talk of it with too little substance, at too great an expense for too many to pay and too few to benefit, has discovered a long neglected and priceless truth, that we now can only ignore at our irrevocable peril. In the Fourth Century-B.C., the super-wise philosopher Sun Tzu uttered an incontestable truth, still valid and destined to remain so: “It is best,” he said, “to win without fighting.” His wisdom was preceded by several generations of combatant statesmen, who were described by a contemporary historian as “…those with the clearest vision of the glory and danger before them, who notwithstanding, still went out to meet it.”
What does the phrase:”National Destiny,” truly mean? Too often, the impassioned palaver of politicians simply get it wrong. Here, where the spirit of the self-proclaimed destiny of unified accomplishment became the gargantuan model of every free individual’s dream, we have created ‘Nervana-Run-Amock.’ The result has been the ‘Malling’ of America, with ‘Big-Box’ outlets and Strip-Malls covering every vestige of green that Nature has grown. This evolution has been accompanied by the corrosion of a nationwide network of infrastructure, unmatched in any other populous expanse. This is the burden with which our ‘National Destiny’ of material acquisition has endowed us. Now our problem is: What to do about it?
The year was 1936 and this now grizzled and sometimes forgetful WWII Veteran sat in the front seat of the family Chevrolet with his father; a good spot from which a fourteen-year-old could observe and prep for that future day, when he might become a responsible driver. We had just pulled up to the tanks, in front of the local gas station and the proprietor came out to greet us, the ever-present chamois in hand. “What’ll it be, Al,” he asked, to which my Dad replied: “The usual; fill’er up, John.” To which John responded, as follows: wiped both the rear window and windshield; checked the tires, then opened the hood to check both water and oil. When all of these were done, he filled the gas tank.
Watching the manically depressed oscillation of an appreciable segment of this nation’s political leadership, during the past several days, hyper-ventilating between vociferous variables over implausible positions, on whether or not to consign poverty-plagued children to starvation-edged cutoffs in their already meager Food-Stamp allotments; and/or exposing their inherently stunted gender incongruity in a malicious maneuver against mysterious female body-parts, for which they secretly hunger, one explication came to mind: an aversion expressed by philosopher Blaise Pascal, nearly four-hundred years earlier, at the irritating repudiation exhibited by the male of the species: “…….what a contradiction, what a prodigy! Judge of all things, feeble sink of uncertainty and error, both the glory and the shame of the universe,” he wrote.
In his “History of the Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire,” Edward Gibbon wrote: “All that is human must retrograde if it does not advance.” More to the point of American history, the Irish philosopher, George Berkley (in 1752) paraphrased John Quincy Adams’ note: “Westward the course of empire takes its way,” thus: “The first four acts already past, a fifth shall close the drama with the day: time’s noblest offspring is the last.”
For a nation steeped in adherence to the prohibition of enforced religious belief and impenetrable separation of church and state, as Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black: affirmed in 1947: “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable……” (Everson v Bd of Ed’n). Political paladins of various organized religions seem to have been bent on subverting and rescinding it, in favor of one or another preferred religious belief, ever since. That bent seems more prevalent today, than at any time since its adoption.
Vincent Dowling left this tortured earth (5/11/13) at a time when his presence and its voice was more needed and missed, than ever in his mellifluous yet unrestrained and courageously candid career. Among his most notable theatrical achievements, beyond the directorship of Dublin’s famed Abbey Theatre, was his giving life to the bedeviling barkeep belittler of political poltroonery, “Mr. Dooley,” who was the creation of Peter Finley Dunne but earned eternal theatrical eminence, via Dowling’s portrayal for the Irish Repertory Theatre’s significant New York production, which achieved historic proportions and endowed both the character and star with a special fraternal identity, that still persists.
Back around 1934 or 1935, when this ancient veteran was in his early teens, my perennial friend and I would saunter the streets of our neighborhood, chanting the latest in ‘smart-aleck’ sayings: “I’m a peaceful guy and I’ll kill the first person who doesn’t believe me!”