"I wander alone, and ponder. I muse, I mope, I ruminate. We have not men fit for the times. We are deficient in genius, education, in travel, in everything. I feel unutterable anxiety."
- John Adams, diary entry, May 1775, on the eve of the Second Continental Congress
More than 239 years after John Adams, quill pen and parchment in hand, wrote the above words, many Americans are again experiencing "unutterable anxiety" as they consider the perils their country faces in a rapidly changing world. They ponder, too, whether they have leaders fit for the times, helmsmen capable of steering the ship of state through a tempest and into safe harbor.
In 1775 the British Empire, on which the sun never set, was poised to crush what it considered an insignificant revolt that had broken out in its New World colonies. His Majesty's Royal Navy, the most formidable the world had ever seen, had complete command of the seas. American ports from Boston, to New York, to Charleston were at its mercy. George III's crack, well armed and splendidly uniformed soldiers had landed, or soon would land.
The only forces opposing them were ragtag militia bearing antique muskets and rusty swords, clad in homespun workmen's clothing. The British were supremely confident this rabble would flee at the first sight and sound of real battle.
Let the drums roll! Let the pipers pipe!
How wrong that proved to be. How wrong, too, was John Adams' doubting appraisal of the stature and above all the character of men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Silas Dean, John Jay and scores of others who came forth to pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to see the American Revolution through to a successful, if altogether improbable, conclusion. Many of them were lawyers. Most were men of property, who today some would call the privileged "one percent."
As we view the world today, and particularly as we assess the competence and sincerity of those who now command and staff our faltering national government, there is justifiable cause for concern, concern for our country, concern for our way of life, concern for what ten generations of Americans have bequeathed to us, heirs to the beloved country, the United States of America.
A radical and terrorist Islamic army, taking advantage of inexplicable American retreat in the Middle East, is a clear and present danger to Western civilization and to the security of the American homeland. Our armed forces, or more correctly their civilian leadership, seemingly has forgotten how to win our wars. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan loom large in the conscience of the American people. The U.S. economy is in the doldrums and quite possibly may soon be mired in renewed recession. Inflation is on the rise. The national debt surpasses GNP. Our borders are unprotected and we are inundated by illegal immigrants. Ominously, many Americans no longer trust their government, no longer believe in its ability or even its intent to preserve and protect the traditions and the values a majority of our people still hold dear.
The mainstream press, the sleeping watchdog whose former duty it was to keep government honest and the citizenry informed, far too often is less concerned with reporting news than with publishing pabulum spoon fed by Washington and the entertainment industry. Great newspapers and television networks seem incapable of ferreting out the truth in the many "phony scandals" plaguing the Obama administration, an administration already marked by some as one of the most corrupt and inept in American history.
We have a president who accepts little or no responsibility for the many things in his administration that go wrong, while taking full credit for the few that go well. He complains of Republican obstructionism to the grand initiatives he unilaterally puts forth. He turns a blind eye to the far greater obstructionism of his own party to legislation passed by a Republican House of Representatives that is denied a simple up or down vote in the Senate by Majority Leader Harry Reid. Where is the outrage over this?
Our president talks too much, promises too much, and delivers too little. The national "malaise" that Jimmy Carter made famous 40 years ago is upon us now with a vengeance. Ronald Reagan's morning in America is no more. Dark night has descended on the American dream. The hungry sheep, the long suffering poor, look up and are not fed. (Except, of course, by a vastly expanded food stamp program.)
And yet, somewhere there are men and women fit for the times. They are waiting in the wings, offstage right. Count on them to make their entrance and bring forth a rebirth of American liberty, a reawakening of the ingenuity and spirit that powered this nation, this people, to leadership of the free world. We have far from finished the play history has plotted for us.
Just as the Founding Fathers rallied in the darkest days of the American Revolution, so shall we. This is America. We are Americans. Don't you ever forget it.
R.L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor.