Greeks, Fables and a Nation Divided?

From Our Spring 2017 Edition
by Wayne Armacost

It has been 151 years since the darkest and bloodiest chapter of American history was closed, the American Civil War. A century and a half later one can’t help but ask the question: Are we still a nation divided?

“United we stand, divided we fall” has long been used in songs, mottos and motivational speeches since before the days leading up to the American Revolution. However, it was the 6th century Greek slave, Aesop, who is credited with the foundation of the quote through the moral of one of his famous fables. The fable, The Four Oxen and the Lion reads as follows:

A lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in the separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attached them one by one and soon made an end of all four.

Have we as a nation fallen to ‘a-quarrelling’ among ourselves only to find ourselves standing in the separate corners of the pasture? United we stand, Divide we fall?

The squeaky wheel of many special interest groups is often so loud that sound judgment and common sense reasoning are abandoned in the name of appeasement. Our once strong foundation of a two party political system is cracked and greatly stressed as both parties identities have become so muddled in the waters of compromise their bases no longer recognize them for who they were. We are a nation consumed with smart phones, celebrity gossip and Monday Night Football. Late night talk show hosts routinely make fun of people who, when randomly on the street, cannot identify Supreme Court Justices, Senators, the Speaker of the House or domestic and foreign issues that threaten our way of life and our freedoms.

The lion (terrorism, unsecure borders, disease, radical special interest groups, political corruption and out of control spending making up the short list) has not given up its attacks, however, that group of Americans willing to stand, tails to one another so that the lion is met by horns grows smaller and smaller.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 we were truly a nation united. A time of cooperation and a spirit of unity unseen since World War II. Former Vice President, Al Gore even famously is quoted saying, “George Bush is my President!” Yet, fourteen years removed from September 11th, as a collective nation, we have lost that spirit of unity and cooperation. The rifts that divide us seems to have opened up larger than ever before, it is as though the bright colors of American pride, comradery and love of our fellow man have dulled having lost their luster to selfishness, social media and the greatness of ‘me’.

And it is not just the voting populace that seems to have fractured. This decay has trickled down to our institutions of education. The great Greek philosopher Plato is quoted to have said, “Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught falsehoods in school. And the person that dares to tell the truth is called at once a lunatic and fool.” How remarkable that over 2,400 years later these words still ring frighteningly true!

Schools, once considered a sanctuary from the insanity of the “real world”, fill our children with incredulous, nonsensical drivel. From nutrition to sex-ed to American history to politics to current world the truth is often colored with the crayons of strong right and left leaning opinions and corporate advertising. The truth is further muddied by the unprecedented access to information thanks to the World Wide Web. Never before has so much incorrect, half true and plain wrong information been so readily available to confuse and jumble the minds of our students. It won’t get better.

It is time for us as parents, tax payers, and flag waving American citizens to once again unite. To stand, tails together and greet the lion with horns sharpened by common sense, sound judgment, prudent research and the responsible use or our sharpest horn: our vote.

Sir Winston Churchill, prime minister of the United Kingdom during World War II said, “History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days.” Men like, Winston Churchill, are few and far between. But they exist, they stand among our ranks, toil in our factories, sweat on our farms and ranches and even, now, sit in our classrooms. We must be so bold, to dare to be called a lunatic and fool, that we would become the standard bearer for Truth. We must encourage these sons and daughters of America to rise up, to grab the flag of Truth, of Justice, of the (lost?) American way and reclaim the glory which is…which was America.

We are a great nation, filled with a diverse and wonderful population. We can once again unite to stand against the lion who even now licks its lips in anticipation of our demise. 150 years ago we found ourselves divided, on the brink of self-destruction. But our demise was not meant to be. We overcame our differences and reunited a nation bitterly divided. Over these many years we have stood tall against many a lion: Fascism, Communism, radical Islam, corrupt and power hungry government officials and radical special interest groups. We never allowed ourselves to go off, alone, to separate corners of the pasture.

A century and half later, are we still a nation divided? The answer lies in the pasture.

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