Friday, October 4, 2013

The Real Question

I'm not going to go into a long discussion about the behavior of the United States Congress this week, or the government as a whole. I'm not going to rant and rave because there is enough of that going on now to last a lifetime. I'm not going to point fingers or play the blame game because that's already been done to death. However, this week there was one moment when one man's question stopped the whole merry-go-round for me.

There was a news story about a group of World War II vets who had traveled a long way to see the WWII Memorial. There aren't many of these brave men and women left, and to have them travel so very far so they could find some peace and closure only to be turned away because the memorial was closed due to the shutdown was a national disgrace. However, these are folks who have faced much bigger obstacles in their lives than any of us are ever likely to see, and this was no exception. They stood their ground and would not leave until a Congressman managed to get the memorial opened for them. It was the least this country could do for them.

One man in a wheelchair was interviewed about the incident and, with an expression that was clearly looking within rather than out at the reporter or the camera, he asked this question: "What are we fighting for? I used to know what we were fighting for but I don't know now." Wow. What a powerful statement. This is a man who put his very life on the line when it counted and did it without complaint or argument. He understood what this country was about, what was important, and what was not.

It's a shame we can't get that group together in front of a camera and let them all share their wisdom and experience with the rest of us (and especially our elected representatives who seem to have forgotten why they are there). This is a country that ignores one of the most precious and priceless gifts it has: the wisdom of its elders.The children of indigenous people the world over know from birth that their elders are the wisdom keepers of their people and their greatest teachers. Perhaps if we could shut off all the political rhetoric for a while and just listen to the ones that have protected and defended this country for decades, we might all be able to figure out the answer to his question.

As for me, I only wish that I can be half as wise as this man so that I can answer that question for my grandchildren and great grandchildren when it is their turn to ask it.

And so it is.