The World Turned Upside Down

When the British Army at Yorktown, Virginia, surrendered to American General Washington, on October 19, 1781, the British band was playing a British song, first published in 1643,  called “The World Turned Upside Down.” The first verse of this song demonstrates the way the British felt, at this time, that nothing in the world made sense: 

If buttercups buzz’d after the bee,
If boats were on land, churches on sea,
If ponies rode men and if grass ate the cows,
And cats should be chased into holes by the mouse,
If the mamas sold their babies
To the gypsies for half a crown;
If summer were spring and the other way round,
Then all the world would be upside down

 That is the way I often feel, reading the news. Lately, it seems to get worse. In fact, I can date the time I began feeling this way to November of 2006, when the Democrats took over Congress. The news has been asplash with oddities since then.

 One does not have to go too far back to become overwhelmed in the sense that Washington has entered the land of Kafka. The House of Representatives has decided to take a hand in foreign policy, initiating a disaster, when the Speaker of the House visited Syria, and declared that Israel would be happy to negotiate a peace treaty with Syria, surprising, most of all, Israel, who never entertained that notion. Last week, the House passed a resolution condemning one of our most important allies and partners in the War, Turkey, chiding them for an event which occurred almost 100 years ago, as if we had any interest in that event at all.

 In another sterling contribution to our foreign policy, one of our leading Presidential candidates, Barak Obama, suggested that nuclear weapons would be used against another one of our principle allies in the region, Pakistan…and the leading Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, cannot decide if she made a mistake or not in voting for the resolution to bring down our biggest threat in the Middle East, at the time, Saddam Hussein.

 The reason for this disarray, of course is two-fold; the Democrats are in control of the Congress and the Democrats have no principles, besides the need to pander to constituencies in order to stay in power. Thus, they wind up posting comments and passing resolutions that mean little, except to catch the headlines and notice of one group or another.

 What is most disappointing is the fact that they have so much support in the country. A good part of this support arises, of course, from disappointment in the policies of the Republicans in Congress who, over the past eight years, have spent our money like Democrats, without goal or principle.

 And that is the crux. Principle. Congressional and Presidential approval ratings are at an all time low, indicating the American public’s disappointment with the activities of the legislature and the Executive, and the reason is because both are acting like pandering robber barons, Congress spending the public’s money to line their own pockets and garner votes, and the President promoting policies that benefit business rather than the nation.

 Now, I am not so terribly naïve. Congresspeople get re-elected by serving the needs of their constituents, and there is no advantage to them to be frugal when spending money keeps them in a job. Also, there are many who go to Washington to make money…and while I do not it, a certain amount of corruption is part of the job.

 However, there is a trade-off that is expected, that they not throw this kind of corruption in our faces, and that is what they are doing. The Democrats are pandering to their constituents at the expense of the rest of the nation, the Republicans are feathering their nest, and the President is promoting his pro-business agenda at the expense of the rest of the nation. If they wren’t so blatant about it, no one would shed a tear, but they are showing disrespect for the nation by their blatant actions.

 The American people are, for the most part, a principled people. As Winston Churchill said, they will do the right thing, after trying everything else. We got where we are because of the high standards we set for ourselves; I grew up in an era where people got dressed for dinner, for travel, and virtually anytime we went out in public, and it mattered that we did not embarrass each other publicly

 We are obviously not the same people as that. We show up to the finest restaurants, unless specifically told not to, in jeans and even shorts. We are used to poor government service, we are used to living in a high-energy world where the niceties of inter-personal interaction easily go by the boards…and we often have the attention span of gnats. We are far too expectant of others, especially the government, to solve our problems, and I worry that we have lost the knack of solving problems ourselves.

 However, we are still good people; there is no nation in the world that has the level of volunteerism that we have…and there is no disaster in any country for which we do not offer as much help and aid as we can. As is proper in a Democracy, we expect our leaders to lead us, and set an example of how a just life should be lead. I can firmly hope that, if such leaders ever presented themselves, we would rally behind them.

 The people have to take responsibility, also, and that is what I feel is lacking. I can hope that a pendulum will shift, and we will begin demanding better behavior from our leaders…because without the principles upon which this nation was founded, principles of self-sufficiency, helping your neighbor and strong character, we cannot last.

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