Rich started writing for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as music critic for the symphony and opera seasons. Originally from Granite City, IL, he graduated from Simpson College with a degree in music education. In 1984 he received his MA in Music ...
Rich started writing for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin as music critic for the symphony and opera seasons. Originally from Granite City, IL, he graduated from Simpson College with a degree in music education. In 1984 he received his MA in Music Education from Truman State. Now retired, Rich enjoyed reading, writing music and short essays. He is the director of Kirksville Community Chorus.
MCKNOTES ON AMERICA
Recently, one of the people with whom I communicate on a daily basis asked if I think that America is in a time of decline. I don't think so. I know that life can be discouraging, and there are certainly myriad difficulties to overcome, but it's important to remember that America feeds and provides for much of the world. We don't just manage our own "welcome mat." Sure there are troubling problems that we hear about over and over. I don't know why the people from the Middle East seem to hate us so, other than that our way of life is so far removed from theirs. Given the choice, I would choose our way of life, and frankly, I believe most of them would as well. It is extremists who resent our success. In my view, they create such problems.
Is it jealousy? I'm not sure, but America is still the greatest country the world has ever known. One needs to visualize Washington D.C., the mall which holds our nation’s iconic homes for legislation, our memorials, our museums and so on. One needs to fly over the western half of the country and see the vast amount of land that looks as if it's never been touched or even seen up close by humankind. Yes, some of our roads are in bad shape, bridges crumbling, trains failing and a lot of basic infrastructure that has been largely ignored. Can you even imagine what it took to wire this entire country for our complex telephone system? Can you visualize the path from the first electric light bulb to the billions of lights that now seem to match the stars. Now, of course, we no longer need the same web of wires and structures to manage worldwide communication. Are we at the cutting edge of just about every aspect of technology? Maybe not, but we're not far behind.
Our education is not what we want or expect, and that's something I believe is key to holding or advancing our status in the world. To my mind, nothing is more important than education. Maybe we’re just going through some changes. Perhaps our future will depend more on home schooling, charter schools and private schools. It’s important that we don’t forget that we need to provide an education for all Americans. Education has clearly evolved from the one room school houses that dotted the country not so many years ago. We have to look at progress.
Is there progress in our education? I doubt that you could walk into any school in the country that has no computers. I got my first computer when I was fifty years old. Now, most people have phones that could perform far more efficiently than my first computer.
One thing I have learned in my life is that, when I discover that I'm satisfied with the way everything is, that's when I really need to be concerned. We must always strive to improve; be better, stronger, more enduring and more philanthropic.
It's a mistake to think that there aren't going to be problems. There always will be, and they will become more complex as the world around us gets more and more developed. Another thing I have learned in life is that we only learn from the things that are difficult.
It's the mistakes and difficulties we face from which we learn. There's a great deal to be said for a simple life, and it's important that we remember where we came from. We have learned a lot lately about the food we eat, coming up with really good solutions for tastier and healthier foods. Sometimes the most difficult problems can be solved by simple solutions, but there will always be new problems that are more difficult than the previous ones we had to deal with. Optimism is fine, but only in its place. We have to be level-headed about the way we do things. That doesn't mean we need to be pessimistic, just sensible.
Sometimes things are just plain hard. If we think back to the classes we had that were difficult, in most cases those are the classes that really teach us how to advance. I don't think we need to advance just for the sake of change, but neither do we want to be stagnant. If you'll think back to singing, if we're holding a long note, we can't just hold it where it is, or the pitch will begin to sag. We have to keep infusing that note with energy, air and life.
If our country continues to acknowledge the greatness that is within our reach and we fight to maintain integrity, I believe we will succeed. None of this indicates a country in decline.
We receive a lot of bad news and sometimes just watching the evening news can be depressing. Once, I was told that when the news only featured good news, it would be because it was so rare that good news could be found. Take a look around. We have much for which we can be grateful. We need to remember to count our blessings. There’s a hymn with the following lyric: “Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessing, see what God hath done.”
Lately the weather has played a part in our ability to deal with adversity, and we haven’t the ability to overcome alter that. Still, we have to focus on the good about our country. Are we satisfied with everything? Thank heavens we are not. I mean that. We are always striving to be better, not only on a personal level, but on a community level, a state level, a regional or national level. That's what makes America great and not at all in decline. That's my view.