Since 9/11, which now seems light years away, the American body politic has taken hooks to the ribs and uppercuts to the chin that would have knocked any champion pugilist down for the count.
The last three years in particular have delivered these blows at warp speed. The strange election of 2020, the precipitous decline of our economy, blunders abroad that have made our nation a laughingstock around the globe, the rancor and divisions here at home, the cries to “follow the science” that resulted in masks that didn’t work and lockdowns that destroyed lives: these and a hundred other punches have left their mark.
Commentators point to many possible causes for such turmoil, but after some thought and observation, I believe they have overlooked one. We are suffering, I’m sorry to say, from a horrible epidemic of MADS (Mature Adult Deficiency Syndrome).
Not so long ago, most Americans recognized that being an adult had little to do with having attained the right to vote or to buy a six pack of beer. No—for them authentic adults were those who accepted responsibility for their actions and who knew they must earn their living “by the sweat of your brow.” Adults honored and practiced such traits as honesty, bravery, common sense, and self-reliance. They helped their neighbors, treated those on the opposite side of the political aisle with respect, and understood the value of the Ten Commandments whether or not they attended church.
We meet an exemplar of such an adult in Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s autobiography My Grandfather’s Son. Myers Anderson, the grandfather who raised Thomas and his brother, was semi-literate. Yet he was also a proud, industrious, and righteous black man who, in the Jim Crow South, worked himself to the bone to earn a living. He was a harsh but loving mentor and guardian, and his guidance and wisdom carried Thomas all the way to the Court.
Like Myers Anderson, millions of men and women in those days took care of themselves and those they loved. They tried to lead worthy lives, earn their keep, behave themselves in public, and practice that line from the old Ignatian prayer, “to give and not to count the cost.” There were exceptions—MADS has always existed—but the disease was nowhere near the pandemic it has become today.
The unfortunate reality is that MADS is now endemic in our society. Adults everywhere are missing in action. Millions of Americans over the age of 21 look to the government to solve their problems or meet their needs, as children turn to a mother. Claims of victimhood that would have shamed our grandparents are now status symbols, and decorum in behavior, dress, and language are frequently altogether absent. The recent demonstrations and vandalism by pro-abortion protesters neatly illustrate this point. Their shrieks, infantile rage, and absence of reason more closely resemble toddlers throwing a tantrum in the grocery store than they do mature adult behavior.
Worst of all are some of our politicos and those who consider themselves “the elite.” Harry Truman was famous for the sign on his desk, “The Buck Stops Here.” For President Joe Biden, that sign might as well read, “The buck stops anywhere but here.” And he’s not alone. Many in our government mess up things every day, to the detriment of the rest of us, but none accept responsibility for their errors, much less offer an apology. Look at the “masters of the universe” who control large corporations and Big Tech companies, listen to what they say, and then ask yourself if they seem like serious grownups or more like kids manipulating human beings as if they were Playmobil toys.
A CNN post on June 16, 2021 is headlined: “Joe Biden’s message to Vladimir Putin? The adults are back in charge.” That tag is just over a year old. Reading that line, and given events since then, one doesn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or groan. Your choice, I guess.
Of course, plenty of adults are still walking among us, but MADS has greatly reduced their numbers, and we are now suffering the consequences of this deficit.
Real adults were once the fiber, the beating heart and backbone, of our society. And until we start producing more of them, our country will continue to flounder and fail in all its endeavors.
Image Credit: Pxhere6 comments