What kind of picture do we want?

One of my fondest yet most frustrating memories of Christmas is the annual Christmas Eve-through-Christmas morning ritual of assembling doll houses, tricycles, bicycles and swing sets. There always seemed to be more parts than I could find use for, and less time than I needed.

What dad in my age group cannot relate to the panic of facing a clock that reads 5:30 a.m., knowing that happy, excited and curious children will come bounding down the stairs by 6:30 or 7, and having nuts, bolts and pieces of various lengths strewn across the living room floor? Surely, Santa has a better system than this!

It’s at this point you look at the directions in one hand, and the screwdriver in the other, and wonder which is more valuable. In fact, neither is. In fact, the most valuable item available at this point is the box with the picture on it. For we know what this mess is supposed to look like at the end.

Same thing for our country today. We know what this mess is supposed to look like, but what we see is a far cry from what we want or desire.

In professional sports, we see athletes who think it’s all about “me, me, me.” They’ve lost the picture of what a team is supposed to look like.

We’ve long lost the picture of athletes being role models. Of Roger Staubach fulfilling his obligation to his country before “cashing in” with a professional football career; of Ted Williams leaving the Boston Red Sox at the peak of his career to fly missions in World War II and Korea. Recall the late Lyman Bostock offering to return his month’s salary to the California Angels because he did not feel his play was worthy of the rich contract he had signed.

No, the picture we see today is of athletes being murdered outside of nightclubs, or of other athletes shooting themselves with their own firearm because they are going to seedy locations where they feel they need to bear arms. The fact they feel the need to carry a gun should be the first clue to them that they don’t belong there.

Forty years ago, professional athletes needed off-season jobs to make ends meet. Today, they make multiple millions a year, yet one prima donna couldn’t find the time for one hour of practice on Thanksgiving when his coach called for it.

Americans are looking for political leaders to show us what we’re supposed to look like, not politicians auctioning off Senate seats. Not congressional staff and members of Congress who scheme with lobbyists to enrich themselves. This isn’t what I picture when I think of the land of the free and the home of the brave.

We don’t like the picture of a Wall Street financial whiz with a golden reputation shaking down his rich friends under the guise of charitable giving while bilking billions of their dollars, or to see corporations being fined for paying bribes to government officials worldwide.

We don’t like the picture of a leading evangelical pastor sneaking around in a nearby city, paying for male sex and methamphetamine; or of clergy in the largest denomination in the world molesting kids under their ministry.

The picture we want to see of our country does not include big companies being nationalized and bailed out with billions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars. Paid for by the same taxpayers and small businesses who made these companies great to begin with.

Today, we have a generation that has never experienced a recession. They’ve never had to put down 10 percent or 20 percent on a home. Never have lived without a wireless phone. Never have lived without a computer. Never seen unemployment higher than 6 percent. They’ve never really tasted sacrifice or hardship.

All in all, the picture I see today of the country I love is not a pretty one. Hardly one that Norman Rockwell would commit to canvas.

I fear we are moving so perilously close to socialism that we won’t recognize the picture of America the World War II generation painted for us more than 60 years ago.

I still believe Americans at their soul are good, honest, honorable and hard-working people. But I fear that we’ve gotten soft, and at least a plurality of us have cast their precious votes for those who promise the most and expect the least from us.

Indeed, it is always dangerous when corporations and citizens will cast a vote for those who will do the most for them from the government trough.

Usually during the Christmas season, we take time to reflect on our many blessings. And indeed, we are a blessed nation, notwithstanding our imperfections. I’m grateful for this opportunity to visit with you. Merry Christmas and a blessed holiday season to you.

J.C. Watts (JCWatts01@jcwatts.com) is chairman of J.C. Watts Companies, a business consulting group. He is former chairman of the Republican Conference of the U.S. House, where he served as an Oklahoma representative from 1995 to 2002. He writes twice monthly for the Review-Journal.

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