The Thought for the Day – Joseph Heller

The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them. – Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Catch-22 is one of the funniest books we’ve read and still ranks as one of the most significant American novels of the 20th century. It’s one of the few books we’ve read more than once, although we don’t re-read it regularly like some other books.

Like all good humor, it has a point to make.

The country was in peril;

Though Catch-22 was set in Italy in World War II, today’s Thought is relevant today. Our country is in peril and while it is popular to blame the media, lobbyists and incumbents, the truth is it’s all our fault. We’ve become complacent in this country. We are entertained and well-fed and we aren’t really paying attention to what our government has done to our once-proud country. We are tolerating a government that is an international embarrassment: a fractured, partisan and bickering mess. Personally, I’m on record as saying our country will collapse before this half-century is out if we don’t do something. Some think we have less time with the biggest pessimists not really believing America will survive the decade.

Our government, which is to say us, has done a lot of damage. We have been at war every day since 1989 – over a quarter of a century – and we are in debt to the mind-numbing tune of $19 trillion dollars, an almost unfathomable sum that went up by a hundred thousand dollars in the few seconds it took to type this line.

…he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.

This is a funny, thoughtful line.

We might think we are jeopardizing our rights by overhauling our government at the ballot box…It’s easy to think that, frankly, because what he have now is familiar and to change that goes against human nature.

But we have no choice because by not exercising them we are forfeiting them. We must dare to exercise our freedom and independence if we are going to save our country from peril. Only you and I – we the people – can do that and the best place to do it is the ballot box. We must have the courage to overcome ourselves and become demanding and participating citizens. No one is going to do it for us.

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