Whoever does not see the hand of God in this is blind sir, blind!Stonewall Jackson 1862
I was reading Sarah Hoyt’s list of predictions when I woke up 1st thing this morning concerning how the reverberations of this crisis will treat us over time, some good some not so good and I thought of my parents and how their lives shaped me.
My parents as depression era people and as children of people who basically had little or nothing but what they grew or produced themselves did not waste, did not splurge (well my Dad would TRY to splurge for mom but it just wasn’t her nature too need or want anything more than to be at home with her children and grand children around her) and had a profound sense of gratitude for all the good life brought because believe me they had plenty of bad to deal with and the most dangerous place to be when near them was as a threat to their family in any form. Any man who purposely put themselves in that spot was taking his life into his hands
They were also quite different in their outlook toward people. Dad was a natural optimist, Mom was a realist. Dad was always willing to take a chance (too willing sometimes). Mom was a person who played everything close to the vest. Dad couldn’t bear to see people in pain or want if he could help. For example when he got a plow for his truck he would disappear for hours because if he knew you needed to be dug out it was unthinkable to him not to do it when he had a plow handy. Mom would make sure the house was taken care of 1st and a nest egg secure before quietly offering her hand. Dad was chivalrous to a fault, no door for a woman was ever left upheld, no kid crying left without a piece of chocolate, no guy down on his luck to be passed by without being given a buck or two, even if it was his last one and no person stranded by the side of the road to be un-towed and if it was a woman with children he’d usually get them towed to a friend who would take care of them either at cost or for nothing. Mom was always unfailingly proper and polite, but minded her own business and never even volunteered advice to a friend unless explicitly asked. Dad was universally loved and when he died, too young at 65 the funeral home was overrun with people to a point I haven’t seen since the death of Mike Romano. Mom was universally respected and her wake despite taking place in 2012 a full quarter century after her husbands took place in her own home in the room she died in with her very large immediate family in attendance along with her children and grandchildren a private person to the very end.
Beyond all of this there was one other trait their shared. In any kind of a crisis either or both of them were the best people to have around. I never saw either fail to rise to the occasion in any crisis personal or public the only difference being that Mom hand, being full blooded Sicilian, would be less visible to others when deployed.
In my youth I saw their best traits minced by many in their generation but as I’ve grown older and seen all of my mothers family die and only one sister and brother-in-law of my father’s still remain those traits have become rare to the point of non-existence. That’s because those traits were built on a culture that had seen death and trouble up close and had handled them so thoroughly that their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren thought that peace, comfort and safety were the norm in society rather than the incredible historical exception made only possible by the genius of America and the efforts of her people.
And having seen the errors that this assumption has caused, particularly over the last twenty years I have been remarkably delighted over the last month with my fellow Americans.
With the exception of a few hoarders and some idiots I’ve seen a nation and a community that has done rather well in showing its best face when the chips are down. From hard working staff at the local grocery stores to the folks at the local diner, worried stiff about being able to make it, to folks carrying on at their place of work with a mask on their face I’ve seen Americans rising to the occasion, bending but not breaking.
Even in the field of politics, with some exceptions which must be expected I’ve seen people willing to lead and to do the hard work in concert with others. I’ve seen folks willing to deal with realities on the ground even when their personal philosophies may contradict with them, sometimes they’ve been forced out of their bubbles by events, sometimes with great reluctance, but on the whole reality has been respected and actions have been done accordingly
Only in media have I seen the bubble, shored up by the efforts and cash of our country’s enemies, resist puncture but with the new media, social platforms even if this bubble hasn’t burst it we have seen it bypassed.
When all of this started it was my opinion that we as a country would get though it. The more I’ve seen of our people over the last month the more I’m convinced that we will not just get though it but will thrive to a degree that we didn’t realize we were still capable of.
Perhaps I see to much of the world through my father’s optimistic eyes rather than my mothers realism or perhaps I’ve taken Eric Idle’s advice to always look at the bright side of life too to heart, but if the last three years had brought back the hope that America’s best years are ahead of us, the last month has turned that hope into a conviction that will require a lot of evidence to the contrary to shake.
God has put us to the test and so far it appears that America has decided it will not be content to squeak by with merely a passing grade. I think my father would be proud and my mother, while showing her best poker face to the world, would be pleasantly surprised.