Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN


October 25, 2012

Earning our days of leisure

Greensburg — An older gentleman with his shirt off, showing a torso that is tanned to a crisp, had positioned himself at the beach to watch a cluster of nubile undergrads nearby. On the boardwalk, facing the York River and its sailboats, a father and son sat next to each other separately engrossed in their cell phones.

A quarter mile ahead, at the wine festival, women in sun dresses dangling wine glasses like cigarettes leaned over merchandise and were doing calculations in their head whether or not to buy. Two retired school teachers on an outing passed time by chatting merrily with the merchants. One of them wore a shirt that said, “I am a professional wine drinker. Do not try this at home.”

The generations and the races and the social classes all mixed along the shore on the last hot weekend in Hampton Roads. The wine vendors had lines a dozen deep. And I had nowhere to go, so I hiked uphill toward the battlements and the victory plinth.

At one point, a gray-haired gang on Harley-Davidsons rumbled toward lunch by the pier, while plenty of pierced and tattooed young adults pushed baby strollers.

So many voices from the right and the left cry alarm that our days of plenty and privilege are ending. We’ve had a nice run, they say, but calamity of some sort awaits the United States.

Most of us do not believe it. We go about our business and occasionally note the evidence that maybe something is wrong. But then, something always is. We have survived civil war, depression, nuclear standoffs, pandemics, terror, four dollar gasoline, and cancer. So forgive us if we have heard the scaremongering before.

If the threat is real, we like to think of ourselves as a nation that is irrepressibly resilient. I mean, if Chicago can thrive despite its snow and political dysfunctions, we can probably withstand anything. Is that more or less how we think?

Even so, nowhere is it written that this nation will persist. Our security and ease must be earned by somebody, just as our leisure today was earned by our parents. Yorktown is a fitting reminder of the sacrifices many years ago that made a wine festival possible today.

On the site of a siege where deprivation and artillery strained soldiers and civilians to surrender, I can now sit against a tree in the park with my back to the water and hear the local band in the distance while I pen these remarks to share with the world – a privilege for which I am grateful.


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