My Cleanest Dirty Shirt – A Memorial Day Thought
There is a line from an old country music song that goes something like this "I went to the bottom of my closet to find my cleanest dirty shirt." That line creates a pathetic image of a man who has somehow lost his way, and today he was going to make an effort to get his act together. Today is the day he will address his drinking problem, mend fences with a friend or his wife, or get a job, whatever.
Unfortunately he has neglected the basics of living, and now he can’t even find a clean shirt to put on. He hasn’t done something as ordinary as his laundry. The problem of living in a funk is that it causes you to fall apart in myriad ways. When the day of reckoning comes, you may be ill prepared. And the journey back to functionality is ever more difficult.
That story while being an interesting observation of a personal existence, it is also a metaphor of where I think we are as a nation. America hasn’t been doing its "laundry."
Some of the basics of leading in the world are the education of our children, the exploration of pure science, the training of a skilled work force, and the building of modern infrastructure. These basic functions are needed to guarantee future success. We haven’t been doing this to the extent that it is needed.
What have we been doing? For a long time we have become enamored with money. There is nothing wrong with having money. We all need it if we want to enhance our lives. In fact that is what the middle class was all about. The middle class ranges in my mind from skilled mechanics on one end, to doctors, lawyers, small business owners, and professionals of every discipline on the other end. Today every one of those classifications are either hurting badly, or not doing as well as they could be if the economy was not being gamed by people and institutions that add nothing to the economy. When I say nothing, I mean nothing.
All those fancy, impossible to understand, financial instruments, supported by the hollowing out of regulations that were set up after the Great Depression are gone. Anti-trust measures that were begun under the administration of Theodore Roosevelt are gone. What we have left is a free-for-all battle among the Titans that leave the working people who physically built this country with little voice and no protections.
Arguments about such things as gay marriage, abortion, and medical marijuana are important issues and they must be thoughtfully addressed, but these are arguments that need to take place among the interested parties, including parents, doctors, clergyman, and principals. When these issues become part of a national policy debate, they become government interference in our private lives.
I’d hate to think that the young people who are fighting our wars are fighting for a country that has lost its nobility of purpose. This Memorial Day message honors and thanks those who chose to serve. And the best way to honor them is for the rest us to work doubly hard, and give them a country to be proud of.