As a Middle East news correspondent in 1973, Peter Jennings was covering the war between Israel and Syria. One day an Israeli pilot was shot down and rushed to a Syrian hospital. Peter Jennings and his camera man boldly entered the hospital and without any resistance walked right into a room where a Syrian surgeon was operating on this Israeli pilot.
Mr. Jennings thrust a microphone at him and said, “How does it feel to be working on an Israeli pilot?” No comment from the surgeon. Again he asked “how does it feel to be working on an Israeli pilot? No comment. Frustrated at failing to capture a sound bite, he and his camera man exited to the hall. About ten minutes later the surgeon came out to the hall and took the two men to the window. He then said, “You see the home over there? It was bombed by an Israeli plane three days ago. My wife and children died. It could have been him. But I am a doctor.”
I believe there is a lesson for all of us in the civility and self-control exemplified by this Syrian surgeon. Very few of us are doctors who have taken the Hippocratic Oath. Nonetheless we are Americans and our heritage has left us several moments like the Syrian surgeon, of individuals who understood their sacred honor. Maybe it is time we “mutually pledge to each other” that sacred honor and eradicate the rampant dishonesty and dissensions in our country.
Contention and cruelty seem to be the makeup of every day. Talk shows and news channels from every realm of the media strata surely pique man’s weak emotions while failing miserably to inspire man’s capability to be civil, to be better. At one time objective reporting influenced conscious and kind communication.
Political division is a mere reflection of private division. Truth resounds in the thought, “no man can serve two masters.” And current events make us question which master we are serving.
America — moments of honesty, daily doses of hypocrisy; halls of faith, neighborhoods of filth; homes of simplicity, stores and homes shelved with junk; examples of moderation, the scourge of credit and consumption; communities of hard work, communities of indolence; chapels of faith, gathering halls of secularism and sensualism— a land of hope, yet hearts in despair.
Which America will prevail in the 21st century?
From its inception, America has battled this dualistic spirit. There have been throughout our history varying degrees of philosophy and conflict. To name a few: North and South; slavery and abolition; Republican and Democrat; statesman and politician; family and alternative lifestyles; abortion and life; educators and iconoclasts; healthy intimacy and pornography. In short, good and evil.
The dichotomy has become more contentious and dividing, based upon shallow and selfish rationale. We are losing the spirit of unity and fueling the spirit of disagreement and debate.
America may currently be impregnable from military invasion but vulnerable to collapse from immorality and ignorance. We must be cautious of what David McCullough calls “Enforced ignorance,” and avoid the danger of becoming “a nation of spectators … and amusement,” constantly looking for the next indulgence. And such indulgences often come at someone else’s expense.
America needs a wake-up call. America needs to be called to repentance. We need a course correction. The beginning of this course correction is America admitting its transgressions.
Author C.S. Lewis left us with this simple logic: “The right direction leads not only to peace but to knowledge. When a man (or a nation) is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man (or nation) thinks he is all right. Good people know about both good and evil,” Lewis continued, and “bad people do not know about either.”
Maybe it is high time we put great effort to address the enemies and wars domestically, individually and collectively. The corrective course must come from individuals changing their hearts. Religious denominations should be inspiring people to change their hearts and live with a sense of accountability. It is amazing how, for so many years, people keep law and order voluntarily. Unfortunately, we see more and more unlawfulness. I worry more and more are not willing to be law abiding citizens. Couple that with a large portion of people who are indifferent and chaos is around the corner.
Our Founding Fathers labeled their effort the “United States.” This remarkable effort that has lasted over 230 years with the majority understanding that we must comply with what Daniel taught Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, “the heavens do rule.” As we heed the standards of heaven, America will regain her spiritual grandeur. This recognition and re-awakening will help us set the nation on its original foundation. Though pluralistic, America gained distinction by being accountable to the Savior. With untold blessings Americans have been able to extend resources to the entire world. “If we cease to be strong—and if we cease to be the America we were at first—the whole world will suffer” Eric Metaxas argues. “So if for no other reason than that, we must care about America.” (I highly recommend his new book, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty.)
As McCullough often states: “History is human … behave in the roles you will be cast in.” McCullough often leaves his audiences with this resonating message. “History should touch the heart, move us,” he said, concluding that “great necessities call out great virtues.”
What virtues will today’s societal issues and “great necessities” call out of you?