View Mobile Site

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos


They say pride comes before the fall

Posted: July 3, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 3, 2013 2:00 a.m.

“We got a thousand points of light
For the homeless man
We got a kinder, gentler,
Machine gun hand
We got department stores
and toilet paper
Got styrofoam boxes
for the ozone layer
Got a man of the people,
says keep hope alive
Got fuel to burn,
got roads to drive.

Keep on rockin’ in the free world,
Keep on rockin’ in the free world”

— Neil Young

Well, that was a poignant piece of commentary back from the G.W. Bush era. Sadly, the only thing that’s changed much is America’s increasing unwillingness to face our problems in real and substantive ways.

I noticed an unusual bumper sticker the other morning. The bumper-wisdom announced, “The Power of Pride,” in dark text imposed over a waving American flag.

“What exactly is the power of pride?” I thought, and, “If pride has power, is that necessarily a good thing?”
Back when I was a kid, my mom frequently chided, “Pride comes before the fall.”

Not being too bright, I wondered why pride never came before Halloween and Thanksgiving. But eventually, I figured out Mom actually meant that prideful thinking leads to failure.

When we’re so full of ourselves that we can’t see our own faults, prideful self-delusion sets up a painful trip-up, slip-up or total downfall.

Mom’s message was reinforced by years of Lutheran lessons: “The meek shall inherit the earth.” The inquisitive 13-year-old in me wondered why the meek have to wait so frustratingly long to inherit stuff while the prideful ones seeming to have so much of the fun.

At 13, some things are hard to sort out.

Age has since taught that if there’s power in pride, it’s not fuel for the long run. Pride may provide a boost, but sooner or later, either God or man or the dim science of economics surely provides a come-uppance for prideful errors.

American “Power of Pride” most often equates to thinking “We’re Number One” — whatever that now means. Back when I was that 13-year-old kid, I had pride in knowing exactly what “We’re Number One” meant.

It meant that America was factually far and away the greatest nation on earth in matters of economic strength, middle class quality of life, military force, educational opportunity, manufacturing might and health care.

The world loved America and everyone wanted to be American. We were numero uno by nearly every measure and such was universally obvious — unless, perhaps you, happened to be an American of Color who generally got overlooked in those statistics back then.

Still, we were the awesome-est thing going, and we got prideful as that notion.

Things have changed since I was 13. Pride we still have in abundance, but during those four decades the U.S. middle class has slipped to fifth place among world economies. While in the category of “average incomes” we continue to lead, our American “average” is greatly skewed by the top 1 percent, who now gather 25 percent of our nation’s harvest.

Typical, or median family income has fallen, and the average American Joe can’t get up as he slides further down the world rankings in quality of life.

Not unrelated, the Organization of Economically Developed Countries ranks the United States 14th out of 34 member countries on reading skills, 17th for science and way down at 25th for mathematics.

“Socialized” and domestically focused Finland and Denmark win the highest marks. Unremarkably, their middle-class quality of life ranks over the U.S.

Transparency International publishes surveys on national corruption. I’m not in Scandinavia’s pocket, but Denmark, Finland and Sweden scored Nos. 1, 2 and 4 for highest business and government ethics. The U.S. scored 18, behind Barbados, Japan and Great Britain.

We already knew our Congress was in the pocket of lobbyists. It just hurts to see the pain on paper.

Bringing ink to such pride-killing factoids doesn’t mean we don’t love America. It means we care enough to look past bumper sticker cheerleading to face our problems.

While America preoccupied itself for the past half century cheerleading endless war, other nations spent their wealth on high-return quality-of-life investments like universal education, health care and public infrastructure.
Our Congressional-Military-Industrial-Complex corruption netting us un-won wars, wounded veterans, crumbling infrastructure and distorted spending that has us struggling to regain traction for our masses.

Today, America can either lay down our prideful pom-poms from the past and face today’s hard facts, or our floundering middle class will fall further behind international peers.

Addiction recovery groups teach that one must admit a problem before real recovery can begin. This is hard.

Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon once told me he didn’t think Americans had the fortitude to face our economic limitations and the required re-prioritizations they necessitate.

But however difficult, America must prove McKeon wrong on this if we’re to restore our standing as “number one” for the public.

Pride is fine, but blind pride invites our fall. A strong but humble America must acknowledge and solve our real problems at home for today’s descending middle classes.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.


Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...