Item: A sideline reporter (a telecast ornament unknown just a few Super Bowls ago, and whose actual raison d’etre remains cloudy) gets bonked on the noggin by a thrown football while she lingers on the fringes of a preseason NFL practice field.
Naturally, she lays claim to that malady du jour, a concussion. Nobody laughs. These really are the End Times.
Item: A recent newspaper article recounts the mounting anticipation of an American astronaut who looks forward to blasting off into space — from a Russian launch site, which is the de facto “Cape Canaveral” now for an America that no longer has the capability to put men into space. Another article tells us the Chinese are committed to placing some of their own citizens on the moon “soon.”
Item: On the Swiss/French border, the world’s smartest scientists circle in on the keys to the creation of the universe, using the most sophisticated large machinery mankind has ever devised. In Texas, tumbleweeds roll across the land where that space-age appliance had been originally planned. Below ground, tunnels actually dug for the project fill with rain water (the enterprise was canceled mid-stream by politicians who decided to use the funding on things that might deliver at the ballot box instead of in the laboratory).
Just as well, probably. We now lack the scientific brainpower to man the thing anyway. Our school system remains a wholly owned subsidiary of the teachers unions; our test scores are the subject of outright guffaws in Botswana; and that this-time-we’re-serious, “no child left behind” silliness (remember all that braying?) is so yesterday.
These stark reminders of our Stuka-like descent into soft tissue and bronze medal status come on the heels of the sober realization that we can’t even manage what unassuming Third World principalities from Kazakhstan to Cameroon routinely accomplish with everyday insouciance: policing their own borders.
A relentless effort by pandering incumbents to lower standards for reliable voting blocs and to outlaw common sense whenever and wherever the opportunity presents has taken can-do America and turned it into you-can’t-make-me America, and I-can’t-be-bothered America. We stand watching with our hands in our pockets while the country of Jefferson and Madison and the Constitution is cattle prodded toward enervating socialism by an administration that quietly makes law on its own, usually on a Friday evening, preferably just before a three-day weekend, using executive orders to sidestep Congress.
How in the world did it come to this? Where did we lose our way?
Millions still alive today recall a far different U.S. of A., one that could routinely step up and get stuff done. Needed stuff. Stuff as mundane as passing a bipartisan budget or, when attacked, responding with vigor and resolve and prosecuting a war, sans excuses and without apology, all the way to absolute victory. And inventing the necessary tools to do that on the fly.
For anyone interested in knowing what America used to be all about, I offer the following from Wikipedia. It describes the creation 70-plus years ago of that quintessential American success story, the military General Purpose Vehicle, pronounced “Jeep:”
“When it became obvious that the United States was eventually going to become involved in (World War II), the U.S. Army contacted 135 companies asking for working prototypes of a four-wheel drive reconnaissance car.
“The Army had set what seemed like an impossible deadline of 49 days to supply a working prototype. Willys asked for more time but was refused. The bankrupt American Bantam Car Company had no engineering staff left on the payroll, so it solicited Karl Probst, a talented freelance designer from Detroit. Probst … commenced work, initially without salary, July 17, 1940.
“(He) laid out full plans for the Bantam prototype, known as the BRC or Bantam Reconnaissance Car, in just two days, working up a cost estimate the third day. Bantam’s bid was submitted complete with blueprints July 22. The hand-built prototype was completed in Butler, Pa., and driven to Camp Holabird, Md., for Army testing Sept. 21.” The better-funded Willys company was assigned the job of manufacturing.”
Five days to go from a standing start to full working drawings with complete cost analysis for the forerunner of what remains, seven decades hence, one of America’s most innovative and iconic creations: the Jeep off-road vehicle.
That same country — which later put boots on the moon — now can’t even run a fence along its border.
You should be embarrassed to be a party to this collapse. I know I am.
Marc Rogers lives in Nevada City.