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The best of times

Published October 08. 2011 09:01AM

Most every English literature student has read (or been forced to read) the introduction to Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities."

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us."

How could human beings survive in such a paradox? Is it possible for life to be made of such violently opposed pieces?

Some people look at life and see all the positives. Others see the worst life offers. Neither view is accurate. I'd like to think of life as a see-saw - sometimes you're up, sometimes down.

Trying to keep your equilibrium on a fast-moving see-saw takes talent. Just when you think you're safe, the board plummets to earth and jars you. Or, when you're flying up toward the sky, hang on tightly, because the ride could flip you over the handlebars.

When Dickens wrote his world-famous novel, he wanted to set the correct atmosphere right at the beginning. He hoped that the reader would immediately understand that "A Tale of Two Cities" was going to be thought-provoking. Instead of just being a typical historical fiction novel, his masterwork was intended to be a statement about the beliefs of mankind.

If the reader takes one thing away from the reading of that introductory paragraph, it must be this - good and bad exist side by side.

Come on, Dr. Smith, get out of the English classroom and tell us what this column is really all about.

Recently, our President gave a speech in front of the Congressional Black Caucus. Part of it told the listeners to stop complainin', stop whinin' and take off their bedroom slippers and start marching. Apparently, President Obama believes that too many folks are immersed in a 'worst of times' attitude.

I'd have to agree with him. There are quite a few loud voices who are yelling about the disasters befalling us. Sure, gas prices are high, stocks are low, food prices are going up, employment is going down, utility and technology bills are skyrocketing, house prices are in the tank, education costs are out of hand, education results have the USA lagging behind many countries, and - worst of all - we're at the beginning of a much-too-long political season that is bringing out all the crazies.

It would be easy for me to remind you, dear reader, that the see-saw ride is perfectly normal. There will always be this two-edged sword. Life will always be a paradox.

We've survived worse problems. Americans made it through the Great Depression. We fought our way past World War II and more recent conflicts. We found our way past the previous administrations. And, guess what? We're going to survive this, too.

We need leaders to identify the problems and fix them. We don't need finger pointing and partisan politics. Get to the polls and demand positive results from our elected officials. Keep your own front stoop clean. Tell your kids to follow the rules and be good citizens. Keep a smile on your face.

So, take off your bedroom slippers, put on your combat boots and let's start using common sense. We have a generation or two of children who need our leadership. This can be the best of times, but only if we are willing to work hard for it.


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