Is Our Nation Dying?

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by Ben Kinchlow

Just recently I had the privilege of visiting Springfield, Illinois. This trip to Illinois came right on the heels of a visit to Memphis, Tennessee. Now, if I were to do a national poll as to which was the most famous of the two I would hazard a guess that Memphis, Tennessee would be much more recognizable to the general public than would Springfield, Illinois.

Memphis is known for barbecue, Basin Street, and the blues, but it's probably best known as the site of Graceland, home of "The King." I could almost conclude this article without once mentioning the given name of "The King" and almost everyone would know that I meant Elvis Presley. As I walked along the streets of Memphis, went in and out of several shops through the airport, I was absolutely inundated with information regarding Elvis. His picture, T-shirts, coffee mugs, calendars, ball-point pens, and even a Barbie who has ditched poor old Ken for "The King." It would be safe to say that you would have to be a combination of deaf, dumb, blind, crazy, but most probably an alien, not to have heard of Elvis Presley. Let me hasten to say that I have nothing against Elvis, and have no personal animosity against his music. Even a lady from Russia who came to America only after she was full grown was well aware that Elvis was from Memphis and was absolutely determined to buy at least a postcard if a visit to Graceland could not be arranged. There is even a catalog of dozens of Elvis products available. All in all, I would say Elvis has made more money since his death than he ever made during his lifetime.

From there, I flew to the capital of Illinois. Hometown of a man that could arguably be listed as one of the greatest human beings who ever lived. And while his home has been made into a shrine, and his office building preserved, and even his banking ledger put on display, the measure of his familiarity to most American's does not begin to approach that of "The King." I am not saying none existed, but I saw no catalogs, no coffee cups, no ball-point pens, one T-shirt, and certainly no Barbie who had fallen for a mere President. It was interesting to note that while many people can instantly identify Memphis as the home of Elvis, not many recognize Springfield, Illinois as the place where this man worked, lived, and practiced law. Is there something significant in this historical perspective? Any attempt to compare the lifestyles of the two men would invariably draw howls of protest from the legion of Presley fans who would doubtless accuse me of "trashing Elvis"  I certainly have no desire or inclination to trash anyone, least of all a man who was perhaps as much a victim of his success as any.

However, I cannot help but ask if the relative obscurity of a great humanitarian, statesman, orator, and President does not somehow speak volumes about the future of our nation. Could we be raising a generation of people who want to "be like Mike," "shake like Elvis,"and "grow up to be" like our current President, as opposed to emulating the true greatness of a man who epitomized the values of mid-western small-town, heartland America ? Abraham Lincoln?

There used to be a phrase to the effect that something really good was "sound as a dollar.' Young boys and girls aspired to be police officers and firemen, and the greatest dream was that you might grow up to be President. Modern historians have trashed all of our great Presidents, made policemen objects of ridicule, and no-one aspires any longer to public service for the sake of serving the public.

Could it be that the death of all our heroes could be sounding the death knoll of our nation?