By Charles Morgan III
“Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom.”
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Common sense is a rare commodity these days.
Our political leaders don’t seem to value anything that even seems normal.
It doesn’t make much sense to constantly boast about our military strength. It’s universally accepted that we have the largest and most powerful armies and arsenals in the world (even if we are a bit stretched right now). Our power is always more obvious when we lead by example. It was a republican president 100 years ago who advised to “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” That actually makes sense.
It was a republican president—the last general who served as president—who, in a warning about the military industrial complex, said in 1953: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” That actually makes sense.
Politicians talk about fiscal responsibility as though it’s some sort of policy issue. Fiscal responsibility is just a matter of common sense. Just like with personal finances—you should spend less money than you earn. You should keep a balanced checkbook. You should save money for a rainy day. Fiscal responsibility isn’t some sort of laudable conservative theory—it’s just common sense.
And the conservative politicians are no more fiscally conservative than anyone else. They just spend more time talking about it. We now have numerous wars going on around the world, we’re apparently girding for more, and we’re basically paying for them with credit cards. That actually doesn’t make sense.
Our religious leaders take stances on subjects that are difficult to reconcile with the teachings they espouse. The wars being fought around the world are almost all religious in nature. Christians, Animists, Hindus, Sikhs, Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Yazidi, Serbian Orthodox Christians, Levis, Yarsan, Macedonian Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Wahhabi and Sufi Muslims, and even Buddhists. I’m not a religious scholar—I’m not even religious—but I doubt that the core tenets of any of these religions involve war and terror.
Our country is currently retreating from the accords of the Geneva Climate Conference. The fact that climate change is a threat to our planet is established.
The scientific community is convinced. To those who think that the earth is not threatened by global warming, picture our country in 1900.
The urbanization of the U.S. over the past century—networks of highways, automobiles, planes, industrial plants, sprawling expanses of concrete and asphalt—all these changes and more have had an effect on our climate. This is no more of a theory than knowing that water boils at 212 degrees.
Even if climate change were a hoax, the steps that need to be taken to combat the warming of the earth—like solar and wind power, cleaner fuels, responsible farming and renewable sources of food—all these endeavors are good ideas anyway. That is common sense.
The political climate has made anyone who dares criticize our country subject to withering criticism. A third of our population chants “USA! USA! USA!” as though we’re living in some sort of international athletic contest.
We’re pretty good at athletics. Unfortunately, when it comes to other quantifiable contests, we’re not so good. “We’re number one! We’re number one!” rings hollow when you consider that among developed nations, the U.S. is ranked 54th in education expenditures, 44th in healthcare efficiency and 19th in national satisfaction. We are ranked highly in other areas—#1 in people imprisoned. #3 in automobile deaths. #5 in divorce rates. #6 in drug crimes. #5 in divorce rates. #5 in obesity. #2 in child poverty. #1 in anxiety disorders (go figure).
The sort of nationalistic isolationism that has captivated our country needs to be tempered with the understanding that it’s not enough to just proclaim our country to be “great.” We’ve got to make to make it great. A dose of common sense would help with that.
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