‘In order to find wisdom, we have to be honest with ourselves’

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 6/30/20

In the 1960s, it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Civil Rights Movement, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and the Vietnam War. In the 1980s, there was …

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‘In order to find wisdom, we have to be honest with ourselves’

Posted

In the 1960s, it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Civil Rights Movement, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and the Vietnam War.

In the 1980s, there was the Iran Hostage Crisis and imminent death with a reckless president staring down the Soviet Union.

In the 2000s, there was the Florida recount, the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina.

And, of course, 2020 has brought with it a series of catastrophes and horrible missteps that sound like one of those stories written by a team of people sitting around a table, where each person gets five minutes, then has to pass the story to the next one. And the people at this table are Stephen King, Quintin Tarantino, Wes Craven and Jamie Lee Curtis.

In some ways, it’s comforting to know that we’ve survived horrible seasons like this, as a country, before. In fact, every 20 years it seems like we go through something like this. I could track it back, but I think most of you can do it on your own. Well, most of you who graduated high school when they still taught American history, at any rate.

On the other hand, this doesn’t feel like quite the same sort of thing. I think MLK really was working to form a “more perfect union,” a country made better by drawing on the talents, skills and perspectives of every American. Quite pointedly, many of the loudest voices these days are trying to silence the talents, skills and perspectives of other Americans. And, to accomplish that, in many ways, some of those voices have to work to actively obscure or eliminate parts of our history.

The pandemic has presented us with a challenge unlike anything we have seen — navigating our way through this requires the wisdom of Solomon.

But, instead of wisdom, we’re approaching it with the petulance of Bart Simpson, the anger of Mike Tyson, and the power-lust of Cercei Lannister. Nothing even remotely resembling Solomon.

Of course, Solomon ended up with 700 wives, so, ya know, his wisdom failed him, too.

But in order to find wisdom, we have to be honest with ourselves. You cannot attain enlightenment without self-knowledge. So let’s start with this: this is who we are. This is who we have been. This is what we have accomplished, and here is where we have failed.

It does us no good to gloss over our warts; likewise, to act as if we’ve never done anything that wasn’t evil would rob us of any confidence that we can move forward into a better day. So let’s look at all of it, fairly and honestly.

Now… let’s move forward together.

Otherwise, I fear this Independence Day is going to have to be marked less by John Hancocks and fireworks than by the opening stanza of the Declaration:

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…”

In closing, I offer my most abject apologies to my readers in Golden. Both of you.

Of course, the Battle of Gettysburg happened 21 months before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, not the nine I wrote in last week’s column. No excuses — that’s what happens when an amateur tries to do things from memory. My bad.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” is available at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or through MichaelJAlcorn.com.” His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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