Lora J. Mackel
These days it's not at all unusual to hear students talk about the money-earning potential of their future careers. Both men and women are anxious to get into the work force and make money. Too often, there is little talk about enjoyment of careers, service to the community or joining a cause greater than their own. We should not however, be surprised. America has lost her soul, and is now in pursuit of her new religion: money.
In our culture, money-making ability is directly linked to success. People like Donald Trump and Bill Gates are seen as the ultimate heroes. There is no denying that these men are good at what they do, but the manner in which they conduct their business is ignored. America has come to the point at which it no longer looks at character when canonizing, the point at which the acquisition of large amounts of money excuses anything anyone does.
Just think about the way the game show "Who Wants to be A Millionaire," has the public fancy. The show's popularity is due to the fact that anyone - with or without an IQ larger than his shoe size- can instantly attain the prestige that goes along with a million dollars. In much the same way, the million promised at the end of the creepy "Survivor," series made all the aberrant behavior occurring on the island somehow okay.
This spiritual bankruptcy can also been seen in the sports arena. Men who used to extol the "love of the game," now refuse to play without million dollar signing bonuses and product endorsement. But this is all seen as acceptable to the public, for, as the sports desk wants to say, talent deserves money. This attitude is repugnant. Sports used to be a place where the public carried out its joint beliefs about honor, team spirit, and the virtues of hard work. Many athletes have now forgotten their responsibility to the public. Instead athletes are brought to us by Visa, Gatorade and Nike, and these men and women will not roll out of bed for less than 5,000 dollars a day. The thrill is gone.
In fact, you will find very few areas of American life that are untouched by this love of money. Even politicians who are normally harbingers of civic virtues, sincere or not, have joined into the money-above-all game.
The Democrats' message this election is that the economy is so good they should automatically be let back into the executive office. In these money-driven times, this is a powerful argument, but it does not offer anything to the electorate. Nor does the equally money-crazed promise of drastic tax cuts (mostly to the rich anyway) offer anything substantive to change the really pressing problems in America. Across the board, voter participation in politics is down. In a place where people have fought and died for the right to vote and speak freely, when people stop investing in democracy, it is a definite sign of a loss of civic soul.
Last weekend, Westpoint, the army's academy in upstate New York, held one of its annual banquets. Not having been raised in a military family, it was amazing how moving the dedication of the cadets was. Looking at the faces of the men and women there, it was stirring to realize that all of them were willing to give their lives for our country. When you consider how many people at our school are not even willing to get out of bed before eleven, the cadets' commitment was even more awesome. This ritual was so moving because these people where willing to work for something bigger and greater than their own self interest, something incredibly rare these days.
Of course, suggesting that every one join the military is ridiculous. Rather people need to vote and become involved in their communities. People once again need to be passionate about what they do and what they believe in, and be willing to pass those ideas along to their children.
Good times, especially economic good times, do not last forever. Money is a shaky thing to build a nation's foundation on, and if Americans do not commit to being involved in their communities, when the bad times come there will be nothing to sustain America.