Thankful that in tough times I am an American
With the 24-hour news coverage of bad things happening anywhere on the globe and the constant drum-beat of security issues everywhere, many citizens are plainly afraid. In times like these, I thank God I am an American.
Growing up, my education both in and out of school prepared me well, especially lessons learned in history class about past conflicts that provide me with a perspective on the current situations we face.
We spend much of every day conscious that the evil terrorists are after us, and it is just a matter of time before they strike our citizens because they are completely ruthless. However, you must know this: Terrorists are not the first people to threaten America.
When I was a youngster, the Korean War was big news. My father being in the military meant that the conflict connected to me personally. Korea was then the biggest threat I had ever known. My parents were wary, but not scared.
Not being alive in 1941, I missed the intense feelings of concern Americans felt when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Nor while growing up did I feel, as had my parents, the storm clouds of war gathering that preceded the Second World War. My grandparents felt much the same fear and uncertainty of conflict preceding America’s entry into the First World War. The war came closer and they were powerless to stop it. Likewise, their parents worried about the Spanish-American War when it suddenly came up. The effect of fear reaches back throughout the history of our country.
Rising to the task
The current terrorist events are deeply troubling. However, our American education can give us perspective. The United States has been directly involved in what I name as 12 major wars: Revolutionary, 1812, Mexican, Civil, Indian, Spanish-American, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and, finally, the current Iraq/Afghanistan/war on terror.
Without debating the merits of these wars, each conflict brought times of concern for Americans. Dozens of lesser conflicts also affected the American psyche. Bombings and regional attacks have occurred over the years. In each, America rose to the task and normalcy returned to the population after the conflict.
When I was in school, we studied the Revolutionary War. I remember thinking how scared those kids must have been during this war. How uncertain the future must have seemed to them. At the time I was in third grade. We practiced nuclear attack drills by hiding under our desks until the all-clear signal.
In school I looked carefully at the paintings of the Revolutionary War that showed young men being comforted after being wounded. One caption read, “Before he succumbed, he said to keep on the good fight for liberty.” I had to look up the word succumbed. The thought occurred to me that he had not succumbed to fear; perhaps we all should not succumb to fear.
Teaching them right
Students in schools are vulnerable to unnecessary fear at times like these with the talk of terrorist attack everywhere, especially if someone is flying. It is less troubling to me because I have a perspective on such things happening in extraordinary times. A student in high school today may not really remember the Gulf War, other than it was a conflict. I have had moments of apprehension over the years, but not real fear. As a young child with no historical perspective, I did feel fear in the 1950s.
At that time I went to bed with my parents listening to programs on the radio that spoke about the communists taking over our country and killing all of us. I could not judge how likely this was, but I got comfort from the fact that my father was in the military and, of course, he would protect us all.
History can provide not only a perspective, but also a balance for our school children if it is taught adequately. With the proper perspective and balance, students today may not succumb to or even be bothered by their fears. They may understand their duty to serve our country because someone must volunteer to protect the rest of us or we all will perish. They will do so if we teach them right.
Swickard is a weekly columnist for this site. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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