|Coach Jerry Sloan|
When asked once what he needed to do to beat a certain team after losing badly to them that night, he answered wryly, "Score more points than they do."
Recently, former Florida Governor, and probable presidential contender, Jeb Bush, younger brother of George W., was asked a dumb question. "Knowing what you know now, would you have gone to war in Iraq?"
Politics aside, and the media's tendency to ask "gotcha" questions in general, I'll bet everyone out there would be a lot smarter then if they knew what they know today.
I'm now 50 years removed from my high school graduation. A lot of water has passed under the bridge to my future I built back in 1965. Were there some bricks in that bridge that I would love to go back and reconstruct today, knowing what I know now? Of course.
Bush was criticized for his bungled answer to that hypothetical. I'm not here to defend Jeb Bush, only to point out what a stupid question it really is.
Knowing what we know now, is there anyone who would have allowed Muhammed Atta and his band of "freedom fighters" (or is it "terrorists"?) to fly hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001?
Knowing what we know now, would George Washington have ever taken on the might of the British Army and Navy?
Knowing what we know now, would anyone have allowed the door to the presidential box at Ford's Theatre to have gone unguarded that night on April 14, 1865, when Lincoln attended?
These are a few examples of decision making. When Presidents and their advisers make decisions, they have enormous consequences that are felt for generations yet to come. They cannot be reversed. We may boldly fly "Mission Accomplished" banners, only to learn our euphoria was premature and ill-advised.
America continues its interminable war against terror. The body count continues to rise. Leaders of the new ISIS (rhymes with "crisis") phenomenon in the Middle East are routinely hunted down and surgically removed in the name of homeland security lest their poisonous tentacles infiltrate America's borders. However, on a larger scale, the fall of Ramadi to ISIS begs the question, "Is there really an American strategy at this juncture?" Nothing changes in the trajectory of nations, it seems, except heightened threats of instability and the potential for nuclear proliferation. Robert Gates, former Defense Secretary under Obama, flatly stated, "There is no strategy in Iraq."
And, oh by the way, those were all existential threats 50 years ago in the "idyllic" times of my youth. We practiced hiding under our desks, and neighbors were building bomb shelters. The protests of the Sixties had all the familiar earmarks of those we witness today. The Vietnam War was the social springboard for anti-war protests, flower children, free love, and psychedelic drugs like LSD and marijuana.
All that seems tame indeed when today we are dealing with Islamic extremists among whom murder is common practice, legalization of marijuana, the infiltration of illegal aliens pouring through our porous borders and flaunting our laws, and those who have advocated "gay marriage" (in quotes because there really is no other way to express that oxymoron in my lexicon) seemingly on the brink of victory in all 50 states pending a POTUS decision that is weeks away. Even conservative Utah Governor Gary Herbert said this week he's keeping "an open mind" about legalizing medical marijuana in Utah.
Some call it "progress" under a "progressive" political agenda. Neanderthal Man that I am, I just call it sin. I know we live in a secular world, surrounded by human secularists on all fronts, but I'm still clinging to my guns and my Bible. I am such a cultural dullard, I guess.
I wonder if some dull-witted reporter in some future day will ask a presidential candidate, "Knowing what you know today, would you vote in favor of gay marriage?" When we put in place a broad and sweeping declaration for marriage equality, when there is nothing "equal" about it, we must imagine there will be consequences.
There are very real issues that face our country today. The media does not serve the electorate well when they engage in such stupid parlor games with questions like "If you knew today what you didn't know then, would you have decided differently?"
I was thinking back on what my mindset was seven years ago in 2008, then 2010, then 2012, then 2014, when the political pot was boiling with what I thought were massive issues requiring immediate attention. Now, seven years removed from the heat of the battle for the White House in 2008, little has changed on immigration, the massive federal debt, the lack of a balanced budget, not to mention an executive branch usurping constitutional authority reserved to the legislative and the judiciary branches. In fact, much of that troubling agenda I thought about then has only gotten worse.
I was tempted to believe that when the House returned to GOP control there was hope for a brighter future. Then in 2014, the Senate was returned to Republicans as well. Even more cause for hope! But what has happened instead is I have grown older and more weary of the familiar rhetoric. I am heartened with the announcement that we will at least have a federal budget prepared and submitted to the Senate for consideration this year. But the rhetoric is all too familiar, and the results all too predictable.
It seems there are many who are willing to engage in one of life’s favorite fantasies, daydreaming about living one’s life over knowing what one knows now. If it's an idle speculation indulged in on occasions like your 50-year high school graduation, it's harmless enough I suppose. But I would advise against spending too much time on it. You can't have your yesterdays today and make them into something you wish they had been. But you can repent and move forward.
My takeaway from Jerry Sloan is the bit of advice I pass along today - don't live your life in reverse, going backward to revisit what happened yesterday. If you learned from your past, and hopefully we have all done that, take the lessons learned and move forward. Life must always be lived into the future.
That's where true hope and happiness reside, as we look forward to our next great adventure, not backward on past events.