Monday, April 7, 2008

To answer that question...

If you could go back in time and talk to any one person, who would it be?

I've been asked this question dozens of times over the course of my...short? long? midrange? (at 21 where am I on that scale now? I like to think I am still plenty young, so i'll go with that) life. Normally I answer with a joke or something like "Aristotle as long as he spoke english!! lolz." But often times I say, "I don't know, I'll have to think about it." Well, to all of you who have asked me this question over the years, I finally have my final answer.

The answer finally came to me after finishing Jeff Shaara's latest book, The Rising Tide, a great book about World War II. For those of you that have not read the Shaara books, I highly recommend them, they offer an interesting look into the reality of the greats Wars that our country has fought in and defined itself with. They start with Michael Shaara's masterpiece, The Killer Angels, and span every war America has fought in (save the war of 1812). I guarantee they will spark your interest in history. (Mr. Shaara I know you are reading this and I expect some sort of repayment for the surge of sales you are likely to get from my reader base of three people)

Back to the point, Shaara does a good job of portraying the hardships these great historical figures had to undergo, both mentally and physically, to make the world a better place. So when reviewing the question at hand, I realized something. Who am I to travel back in time and demand a meeting with these people? Who am I to stand in front of Washington, or Aristotle and demand he speak to me so that I may be more enlightened? Frankly, as of now, I am a nobody. I would merely be an oddly dressed fellow claiming to be from the future.

I'll stop dancing around the answer. If I were allowed to talk to one person in history, I would go back and talk to Abraham Lincoln just minutes before he is killed. No, I would not warn him that he is going to be shot. Thats dumb. I am not out to set history a new way or change the world. I would go back and try to assuage one great man's soul.

The conversation would go something like this

"Mr. Lincoln."
"Someone get this lunatic away from me."
"Mr. Lincoln please listen. I am from the future, and only need a minute of your time."
"The future. I am tired, someone help this man...where did you get those clothes?"
"Mr. Lincoln, you may have your enemies now, you may be sick, and tired but hopeful. I just want you to know. Your efforts were not in vain. You were successful, America is not perfect in my time, but we try. And you my friend, go down as the greatest president in history, with only Washington rivaling you. Your courage, bravery, and determination even at your weakest moments are remembered forever."
*Lincoln gives me a strange but contemplative look*
"Good bye Mr. Lincoln"

Now of course, this all sounds a little too perfect. But of course, were I to go back in history I woudl most defiantly have a speech like this planned. I mean it has to sound good right? Don't want to sound like a stuttering fool in front of Lincoln.

So there you have it. All of the other presidents (most of em) who went through adversity, were rewarded. They lived long enough to see their exploits go down as heroics. Jefferson, Washington, Roosevelt (although he knew he ruled due to his constant reelections), and many others. However, Lincoln, possibly the best of them, knew nothing but tribulation. He had his followers, but he was crucified by the majority of his peers for his entire term, and his life was cut tragically short before he could see his place in history solidified. It is this tragic martyrdom that completes his now legendary life in the only way that it could have ended. For me to be able to go back and maybe, even for a brief instant, validate the mans beliefs my one trip to the past would be totally worth it. Even if he had me dragged off, you know he would not forget the words...

Talk of Lincoln brings me to an interesting conclusion. Our country has been blessed. Every time we enter a period of great unrest, or extreme hardship, many may fail, but one or a group of figures rise to the challenge. America seems to be an improbability. From shambles the country is resurrected on the shoulders of seemingly mythological figures. More interestingly, is that our country is so young the lives of these figures are all chronicled in detail. Unlike King Arthur, or Romulus and Remus the glorious moments in our country are hard fact.

Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Washington, Franklin, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Truman, Grant, Pershing, MLK, and countless others, they all stepped up to the challenge and succeeded better than any could have hoped.

So, I ask. Who will rise to the challenge now? America has lost its glorious reputation. Its economy lies a shell of what it once was, we are entrenched in an unwinnable war and it seems we reside in the hands of idiots.

Will this good luck streak continue? Will a figure suddenly reveal himself (or herself) and pull America from the ghost it has become? I like to think so. The great thing about America, is that its essence is such that it nurtures, encourages, and empowers these people, these modern Knights. Will the one be Mr. Obama? Mrs. Clinton? Mr. McCain? An unknown activist like this man, fed up with what has happened and in one instant can inspire millions? Keanu Reeves?...You?

Perhaps none of these people will prove the one, and we will be without a savior for many more years. But I think that person is out there. I think we can still be a generation to inspire and enlighten and teach, no matter how far we have strayed from the course.