A Retraction: My Apologies, Mr. Holder

Looking back, I may just owe Attorney General Eric Holder an apology. A year ago, I took considerable offense to him calling us a “nation of cowards”. In his speech, Holder pointed to the substantial number of racial inequalities and tensions that continue to haunt this nation.  In my article, I argued that the primary problem wasn’t with the color of a person’s skin, but with the thickness. It was my opinion that the minimal amount of real racism that remained in the country was far outweighed by a residual social guilt kept alive in an out-of-control world of political correctness and perceived insult.

But after the past year, I may actually be changing my mind (or perhaps, just losing it). With each passing day, I’m beginning to think that Holder may have been more right than he knew. The United States of America, land that I love, may indeed be turning into a nation of cowards. Not just in confronting racism, but in the general amount of fear, or at the very least, lack of moral fortitude, its citizens continue to demonstrate when confronted with even basic life challenges.

Whether it’s true or not of the general population, fear and cowardice are certainly nowhere more on display than in the hallowed halls of our elected officials. Congress has, in my opinion, long lost its luster. A body once made up of men and women that would seemingly give it all away rather than violate what they believe in is now occupied by career politicians more concerned with winning the people's vote than earning the public’s trust. Our founding fathers put their very lives on the line by signing the Declaration of Independence, yet our current representatives rarely wander off the pre-approved talking points in fear of making what might be a career-ending slip of the tongue.

Holder himself recently went to great lengths before a congressional panel to dance around a question regarding security threats to this nation rather than utter the words “radical Islam”.  Nancy Pelosi tries to tell us she’s scared of the Tea Party demonstrators, but if you really want to watch her squirm, go back and watch her try to answer questions about her stance on abortion. And both Republican and Democrat alike run for cover when questioned about immigration because they fear looking bad in front of even the smallest portion of the voting demographic.

There was hardly a Democrat out there who wasn’t calling for impeachment hearings for George W. Bush when they knew they didn’t have the votes to get it done. But once they did, I only remember one person putting his neck (and reputation) on the line by continuing that call.  Likewise, for years the Republicans had every opportunity to attempt ground-breaking legislation to tackle the very same problems which they seem all too content to criticize the Democrats for now.

Unfortunately, this country is in a real crisis. And even the best solutions require severe risk and considerable sacrifice. If you truly believe that BP acted criminally in the events that led up to the spill of oil in the gulf, then let’s have the trial. And if anyone did break the law, then throw their butts in jail. But then, be prepared for a rapid spike in the price of gasoline. It’s a simple equation; safe isn’t cheap. If you want change and you believe in keeping the environment safe, then we should be paying not just what it costs to get the oil quickly, but what it costs to make sure that things like this don’t happen again. And don’t try to subsidize the additional costs once they start going up. Nothing will spur innovation for cleaner energy faster than $10 a gallon gas, and a 5% increase in the cost of everything shipped in by the trucks that use it.

But, my guess is that none of this will happen. Congress is too scared of their opinion polls to push the issue far enough to enable real change. And the citizens of this nation are too scared of an unknown future to risk the relative comfort of the status quo by demanding action.

It’s the same story on Wall Street. The beltway blames the banks, the banks blame the brokers, and the brokers blame the beltway. But in the end, they’ll appease each other with bailouts and backroom bargains rather than force a trail that might just implicate them all. No one will stand up to defend his own actions and take whatever consequences may come, so the cowardice continues.

The truth is that not everyone should buy a house, not everyone can afford a new car, and not everyone should be investing in the stock market. There is no shortcut to prosperity. Like wisdom, it must be earned. But no one likes to say no. No one wants to be the bad guy. And no one seems brave enough to tell the American public that equal opportunity doesn’t guarantee equal results.

It seems like, as a nation, we’ve become afraid of putting in the effort needed to continue to make this country great. We’d rather cede power and control to the government than take on the risk that comes from fighting for our own success. We all want the safety net, so we’ll try anything and everything in an effort to get the greatest rewards without even the slightest of risks. But the Wright brothers had to leave the ground to be able to fly, and man couldn’t walk on the moon if he didn’t first crawl into the capsule.

Bravery isn’t defined by a lack of fear, it’s personified by those who put their fears aside in the name of duty, honor and personal responsibility; it’s standing on principle in the face of unpopularity. It’s the last word to our national anthem, but the first word in restoring our national pride.

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Volume 6, Issue 11, Posted 8:56 AM, 06.02.2010