Nobility is found in the smallest and most simple kinds of gestures. A no questions asked smile and nod to another saying “hello,” a selfless act of concern for the good of another. Opening a door and allowing someone in the door first, giving your seat up for another, wearing a mask. Although our opportunities to do the former have been limited, the latter one is an easy ask.
My parents were part of what’s called “The Greatest Generation.” During WWII people rallied to fight a common enemy who was wreaking havoc on the world and attempting world domination. The likes of Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo that formed the Axis powers were unlike any the world had encountered and their military conquests tripped the wires of fear and instilled fascist ideology and autocratic thinking in the minds and hearts of those they served.
The United States was different, though. My mom regaled me with stories of contributing to the war effort. Campaigns to donate: “Help the effort,” “Buy Bonds,” “Do Your Part: Uncle Sam Needs You.” Everyday accessible items were rationed — plastics, rubber, nylon stockings… People used resources to fight the criminal element that was abiding by the artful designs of world domination with blueprints of destruction. Those resources were part of the war effort for the greater good of society. Democracy was the key to quelling violence and disabling evil.
People saw this sacrifice as their primary duty for love of country. Sacrifice in the name of battling the forces of evil hell bent on a new world order where a few controlled the many. Noble small sacrifices for the greater good of others.
As we face a war of our own against this virus, it seems as though the meaning of self- sacrifice has been lost. I grew up in the 80s that proudly asserted Ayn Rand’s objectivist principles and “Greed is good” mantra in the corporate highways and municipal halls of Wall Street. Yuppies and entrepreneurs were rising royalty in business and self-serving practices were the order of the day. Those same people have assumed positions of power. Their good fortune as a result of rugged individualism and such policies is being exploited in the halls of Congress and the White House.
As Christianity struggled to get its footing in Palestine, it was the likes of Nero that called into question the role of religion. His autocracy hammered home Rome’s edict of supremacy and he rolled over any group that stood in his way. By 70 A.D. the Jewish Temple had been destroyed and Jews were exiles once again. Peter rallied Christians under the banner of self-sacrifice. “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Acts 2: 44-45.
In dire times, the greatest leaders have inspired people to commit and sacrifice for the greater good. It was the power of the Christian community and sticking together that helped Christianity survive. It was FDR’s call to arms overcoming the Depression and battling evil in WWII. Now, we are facing a unique battle that requires a small sacrifice of wearing masks in public, and our leadership has problems wearing masks and jeopardizes getting others sick.
I watched as Senator Sherrod Brown asked his colleague to put a mask on for the benefit of the workers sitting around him. The senator refused. President Trump held super spreader rallies where people were asked to wear masks. Few did. The White House continued to hold mask-less events even though the president himself contracted Covid-19 and a number of his subordinates contracted the virus as a result.
These are the earmarks of personal liberty and an inability to sacrifice for the common good.
Many resolutions will be made as we approach the New Year. Let’s put the concern for others and being kind in doing so at the top of the list.