ESSAY

The Tunnel of Stupidity
 by John Fite Rebrovick

     When I told a new acquaintance that I have children becoming teenagers, a troubled look came over his face. He quietly said to me, “Uh-oh. You’re in for it. They’re entering the Tunnel of Stupidity, and Lord knows if they’ll come out the other end.” 

     He’s right, you know. Anyone who’s had teenagers can identify—no matter how much you love them, how smart they are, or how high your hopes are for them. They can do and say the stupidest things, giving pause to even the most judicious parent. 

     Lately I’m feeling that the United States has entered its own Tunnel of Stupidity. We Americans seem to have strayed from the path laid out for us by our Founding Fathers. 

     We are self-absorbed and prone to picking senseless fights. The lure of materialism, decadence, and caprice seems to have replaced individual responsibility and a strong work ethic as benchmarks of the American character. Sacrifice today for a better future tomorrow seems, well… to have become a thing of the past. And though equality, tolerance, and diversity are loudly proclaimed as virtues by the left and the right, it seems the people who make the most noise about such lofty principles exemplify them the least. 

     I sincerely hope that these disturbing trends are a function of youthful excess, which we shall soon outgrow. I want my teenagers to become responsible adults. And I would like to think that the United States is still a relatively young nation on the verge of greater things, not extinction from its own indulgence. 

     My teenagers frequently use several short phrases to sum up their attitudes about life. Perhaps an examination of a few of them will serve the comparison. 

*** 

Teenager: “It’s not fair.”
Often used when given a low grade or relegated to the back seat of the car.
Always
used in reference to a sibling.
My response: “Life ain’t fair.” 

     Every human being is nurtured by its parents as a baby, but then must be weaned, taught to feed itself, and with time taught to earn its own keep. There will be ups and downs along the way that no one can control; those are the vagaries of life. Fairness has nothing to do with it. 

     Many Americans today seem to have confused the principle that we’re all created equal with the fantasy that we’re all supposed to end up equal. It is up to each individual to do what it takes to get what he wants out of life, whether it be respect, money, power, or just to be left alone. It is not the government’s job. The government only guarantees the right to “pursue” happiness, not to attain it. 

*** 

Teenager: “I forgot.”
Never used when needing money.
Always
used when counted upon to do something Dad has ordered.
My response: “Then forget this.” (…while confiscating the CD player.)

      Over a million Americans have given their lives defending the United States against threats to its freedoms. A MILLION! That’s a heck of a lot of brave men and women who stepped up to the plate, leaving loved ones behind and foregoing their own future, because they believed so strongly in the importance of the democratic ideals that our country exemplifies. 

     Whether war on Iraq is right or wrong is an issue of legitimate debate. But there seems to be a pervasive sentiment among many Americans that all war is wrong. War is awful, and so is chemotherapy. Both are miserably painful and harmful; the latter to save a life, the former to save a way of life. I don’t believe that anyone would march in the streets to stamp out chemotherapy, yet many who oppose the impending war on Iraq do so not on solid strategic grounds, but as if war in itself were a sin rather than the wages thereof. 

     Those who condemn all war dishonor the memory of all those Americans who have sacrificed their lives and the millions more who have risked as much to preserve our right today to protest freely. Let them not be forgotten. 

*** 

Teenager: “It doesn’t matter.”
Never said by girls about clothes or by boys about car keys.
Always
said about parental mandates that are inconvenient to them.
My response: “Do what I say or else.” 

     The discouraging statistics about voter apathy are well known. Far too many people have the attitude that their vote does not count. And in fact, the more people who stop voting, the more profoundly those votes don’t count, because then special-interest groups have a larger say with blocks of votes from robot-voters—those who blindly vote the way their boss or their union or Rosie tells them to. 

     Not voting is bad enough, but voting ignorantly may be worse. Americans should not only vote, but engage themselves in the political process, get to know the issues and the candidates, run for office themselves if they can’t find anyone worth voting for. If all the non-voters and the ignorant voters really paid attention, I doubt we would be working five months out of the year just to pay taxes. I doubt we would have boneheaded interpretations of the law prohibiting prayer in schools and nativity scenes in city parks. 

     Professional politicians and entrenched government bureaucrats like nothing better than voter apathy. It makes it all the easier for them to stay in office, raising taxes and making more and more laws that limit individual freedom. 

     If you value freedom, your vote does matter. 

*** 

Teenager: “You don’t understand me.”
Never said on birthdays or at Christmas.
Always muttered when they don’t get their way.
My response: “You’re right. I skipped being a teenager myself.” 

     It seems that Americans are forgetting that we are all immigrants. Even American Indians presumably wandered over the Bering Strait to get here. No minority group has a monopoly on hard times, nor does the majority. My German ancestors had to work the cost of their passage off as indentured servants for years. My Yugoslavian ancestors fled to the United States to escape famine. Very few people arrived here as gentry and stayed gentry. Most have come here ignorant of the English language, much less loaded with money. Some were brought here against their will, and others were forced out of their homelands out of desperation. White, black, or otherwise, if you scratch around far back enough, nearly all American families have faced hardships, discrimination, and exploitation. Fortunes have risen and fallen. 

     That is part of the magic of America. Everybody is welcome, but there’s a system that has worked better than any other country’s for over two centuries now, and it can be boiled down to “pull your own oar”. That doesn’t mean welfare or preference, just because you’re a certain race or ethnicity or sex or religion. There’s nothing really to understand about it at all. Learn English, adapt to the system, quit looking for sympathy, and get on with your life as a non-hyphenated American. 

*** 

     I could go on and on. There are innumerable parallels between attitudes of teenagers and the social and political currents prevalent among Americans today. But there’s one phrase that I hear my teenagers volley back and forth at each other with a fair degree of regularity, which may really offer hope for the future: 

“That’s mine!” 

     Bingo! That’s one I rarely dispute! Whoever’s cd it is, that’s who keeps it, and the other better keep his/her hands off it without permission. 

     Babies come into the world knowing that what is theirs is theirs, and their cries when you take the juice bottle away, or the toy, or the blankie, prove it. It is a basic human instinct, the foundation of the American Revolution and the basis of the capitalist system: the right to private property. 

     At some point, let’s hope that Americans come out of their Tunnel of Stupidity and realize that they have to protect what is theirs—whether physical property, their freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, or the true equality of opportunity that the Statue of Liberty symbolizes. Maybe then, there will be no question about sealing our borders. We won’t be tempted to grant amnesty to aliens who have come here illegally. We won’t let the government keep taking more and more of our income, and eroding more and more of our right to local control, to bear arms, and to practice our religious, political, and philosophical beliefs freely. And we’ll take America to a new level, impervious to the rot from within that brought down the Roman Republic and exterior threats like Al Quaida.

Books by John Fite Rebrovick...

    

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