Friday, July 15, 2016

240 Candles

It's the fourth of July, 2016. The United States of America is 240 years old. That's about bar mitzvah age (12-years-old) for a nation when compared to the history of more distinguished European countries, and brit milah age (7-days-old) in respect to the world's most venerated nations. Yet, we've set the Stars and Stripes atop a Mount Everest sized summit of accomplishments for a country of such tender years. Just to name a few of these milestones,

  • The American inventor Thomas Edison lit up the darkness for all mankind in 1879 with his efficient and affordable electric light bulb.

  • In 1884, we lit the way to the future of cities when we built the first skyscraper in Chicago.

  • An understudy of Mr. Edison, Nikola Tesla, left his mark upon the power grid in 1885 by developing the AC induction motor and championing  alternating current which electrifies our modern world.

  • A couple of Midwestern brothers electrified the world by taking to the air for 59 seconds over the sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina just before the Christmas of 1903.

  • The Panama Canal was first considered in 1513 by the explorer Vasco Balboa, but it took four centuries and American engineering to make that old Spaniard’s Christmas wish a reality exactly 400 years later in 1913.

  • When the Japanese attacked our Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor, we shipped millions of tons in much needed munitions, material, and G.I.s through the Panama Canal in order to return that war to the Japanese who surrendered in 1945.

  • At the same time Americans were building Liberty ships on an average of three a day, one in as little as 111 hours from keel to christening to keep England afloat long enough for American General Eisenhower to march the Allies from the beaches of Normandy to downtown Berlin.

  • Although, America started out as the underdog in both these conflicts, we emerged from the ashes of world war reborn as a superpower in 1946.

  • During the post-war years, we took on the peace in the same manner we had won the war by shipping millions of tons of American manufactured goods and American grown grain to every affected nation to rebuild the world which war had destroyed.

  • We took America’s superpower status to new heights when  astronaut Neil Armstrong took one giant leap for mankind onto the surface of the moon. That was July 20,1969.

  • In 1981, we lept into the personal computer age which made technology, well… personal.

  • The demand for personal computer operating systems opened doors around the globe for Microsoft Corporation to open Windows 95 which opened My Documents on My Desktop of My Computer.

  • As we moved into a new century we linked hundreds, thousands, and millions of those My Computers together and did a stellar job of turning the planet into MySpace.

Today, America faces stiff competition from a world market we helped to open by the creation of a global collaborative social network, workspace, and shopping mall. For the first time in our history, the human race  shares a common repository for all of our things, stuff, and magic built in a mystical/digital place we call “the Cloud”. Our American ingenuity has provided us with many advantages and the ability to build bridges to places our fathers couldn't imagine. This is where our focus and our target should be. However, we seem distracted by other matters.

We've passed some truly astounding milestones for a nation with only 240 candles on its birthday cake. When you consider that I’ve noted only a smattering of all the great works Americans have done over our nation's lifetime, it's really quite awe inspiring. We, Americans, often feel so high and mighty above the rest of the world it's like we're looking down from the Cloud...

or is it smoke reflected in mirrors? 
Do you smell something burning?

Looking back at our more recent history, it appears that we've been focused on targeting and destroying a lot more bridges than we've been building. While our infrastructure crumbles beneath our feet, we've been spending trillions of dollars bombing the infrastructure of other nations. It seems that we have been rushing headlong and blind into every hotspot, factional blaze, and tribal conflagration we could find or help kindle on the planet. Moreover, when we've done so, America is not winning wars or hearts or minds. We leave ashes and call it peace. We are using a baseball bat to put out fires.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of this new American trend (and certainly the most alarming part of this post) is that I didn't need to explain what I meant by that last sentence. We are all well aware of the folly of our foreign policy, and yet we are without any real political alternative to our current course of eternal international intervention.

Maybe that's one of the drawbacks of having only 240 candles on our birthday cake, we lack the perspective and the wisdom that comes with age. We think we're invincible. We believe we are ready to take on the world and that we cannot lose. We think we can solve all the world's problems because our ways are best. We believe that 240 candles is proof of our success.

However, I'd like to remind us all of another very innovative people, great civilizers, amazing administrators with remarkable acumen who came to rely primarily on their military prowess to expand their sphere of influence across the globe. A people we know as Romans who had over 500 candles on their birthday cake before some Visigoths and Vandals came to blow them out.

Then, the world went Dark.

Happy Birthday America!
Now, make a wish.