Let’s try to learn from mistakes

Monday, June 21, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:37 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

No one could have been kinder to me when I was growing up than the couple who lived next door. She was my Sunday School teacher and taught me my Bible lessons. He was my adult playmate, who always saved a sandwich for me in his lunch pail and brought me a big basket of candy bunnies for Easter. I spent a portion of every day in their household, and I loved them dearly. Still, I knew they both had feet of clay. The lady of the house often gossiped about her neighbors, and the man of the house was the neighborhood drunk.

I’ve repeated this story several times over the past few weeks. I usually have told it to people who couldn’t stop singing the praises of the former president. As you might notice, I do not respond well to hero worship. I have chosen not to enter any discussions about Ronald Reagan during a period when the country was mourning his death. In spite of the occasion, I had to say that I’ve never had a problem staying clear of idolatry. In my lifetime, I have met many people I’ve admired, but never anyone I’ve idolized.

Furthermore, I refuse to get into spitting contests about which president was the greatest of the 20th century. Most Democrats would probably say Franklin Roosevelt, and most Republicans would probably say Ronald Reagan. Most independents would probably weigh each former president’s record and make their decision accordingly. Unfortunately, the national media would only be interested in the positions taken by the two parties, so the rest of the people will never be heard.

It will be interesting to read the books that I’m sure will be written on the Reagan presidency. These books will probably provide the best opportunity for serious scholars to evaluate his tenure. Not that these will in any way affect the partisan politicians, but they might help the general public avail themselves of the facts.

In the meantime, we have a lot of pending business that requires our attention. Soon, the transfer of power will take place in Iraq. For a long time, I lost sleep worrying about how this situation will work out. But I don’t do that anymore. As I’ve watched the news become more distressing and the American people remain silent for the most part, I’ve reached the conclusion that the country has turned a corner from which there is no retreat, and I’ve learned to accept that. The people seem to be content to let the political leadership do as they please.

Most of the people I talk to seem to think that after the turnover, things will go back to where they were pre-9/11. They are anxious to get back to what they remember as ordinary, everyday life. Personally, I hope for the best, as well. I can’t imagine, though, that we won’t always be scarred by events that have occurred in the past few years.

Hopefully, we will learn from the mistakes that have been made. Probably not. Those who have lost loved ones, those who have fought the war and those who have been injured will never forget. It’s too much to expect that “we the people” will make sure that the veterans of this conflict enjoy the best medical care possible and receive just compensation for their losses. We say we will, but once the shots cease being fired, we forget, and our political leaders proceed full speed ahead to punish those who have served by denying them the benefits we assured them they would receive. The truth most of the time is that old men will continue to dream dreams of conquering the world and young men will be denied their visions as they are charged with the responsibility of turning those dreams into reality.

I would also hope that young men and women who have been witnesses to this slice of history will see the futility of trying to force ideas down other people’s throats and embrace peaceful means to resolve disputes. The good news, we are told, is that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. The bad news we can decipher for ourselves. How many future demonic dictators we have created in the process, only time will tell.

When one sits down to count our wins and losses, it can be sad, indeed. The horrors that we have observed over the past months have clearly been a testament to man’s eternal inhumanity to other humans. Still, we have no choice except to pick up the pieces of our lives and move on. And because the Earth does not stand still for any cause, summer will surely fulfill spring’s promise, the birds will continue their songs, the ants will build endless hills and we will bend our ears to listen for the voice of the turtle.

In one form or another, life continually unfolds. Thank heaven for gardens.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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