A True American Hero

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Some days we wake up with so many plans and then something unexpected happens and our minds go into a tailspin. Nothing that we had thought to do seems as important as it did when we first awoke. We get a new perspective about everything. Such it was on the morning that I wrote this blog. I had many ideas for my topic for the day when I suddenly learned that Colin Powell had died. The news was so shocking that I literally was unable to remember my previous thoughts. I only knew that I was overwhelmed with a great sadness and sense of the highest respect for this great man. 

It seems that General Powell died from complications of COVID-19, which somehow seems so incredibly ironic given his amazing and often dangerous military career and the fact that much of the country is acting as though the pandemic is over. The realization that he was fully vaccinated makes it even more difficult to accept. He was such a strong and powerful man of impeccable character that he seemed almost invincible, and yet a tiny virus was his ultimate undoing. 

Colin Powell was one of my heroes. He personified the qualities that I most value like integrity, honor, loyalty, courage, intelligence, kindness. I had once hoped that he would one day be President of the United States because I believe that he was a very good man of the kind that we truly need in order to bring our country out of the divisiveness and anger that seems to only grow worse as forces deny truth, foster lies, support our worst human traits. Colin Powell not only loved this country, but he was also willing to understand, note and attempt to correct its flaws. 

The death of Colin Powell feels like a kick in the gut. It’s one of those moments when I falter just a bit and ask questions that might better be left unspoken. Why is someone so good, so principled taken from us while we are plagued by others who do nothing but attempt to rile us up and turn us against one another? Why can’t we all see that Colin Powell’s is the example that we should follow, not the rowdy, self-centered power hungry individuals who dominate so much time in the media these days. Colin Powell’s death is a reminder to us all that even the powerful are not immune to the most mundane aspects of humanity. In remembering his remarkable life we should all pause to take stock of how we have been acting of late. We must ask ourselves if we are truly working as he always did for the good of all of the people in our country, not just those who appear to share our views. 

The time has truly come for all of the posturing and political power playing to cease. The truth is that each and every one of us might lose our lives or the lives of loved ones in this battle with COVID-19 and its effects. This is not a time for selfishness, but rather a moment when we have the opportunity to make sacrifices for the good of humankind. COVID-19 does not care what country we inhabit, what color our skin may be or what language we speak. It does not respect borders or religions or any of the categories that we humans have invented for dividing ourselves into tribes. It is simply waiting to attack and in our fury with one another we are allowing it to continue to win. 

From the beginning this has been a world war against a tiny virus that we should have been able to control but for our hubris and self-righteous indignation. We have worried more about whether or not we will be able to get the exact cuts of meat that we want at the grocery store than how to share our knowledge and tools for fighting the disease. We are more focused on an election that is still a year away than on human suffering that is happening today. Many of our leaders care more about power than bringing us back together. We are pandering to the lowest common denominator of our human traits rather than having the courage to admit that we will continue to lose great men like Colin Powell every single day until we are able to join hands and work together to fight for what we know deep down in our hearts is right. How many more must go before we cease and desist with our carping?

I realize that Colin Powell was eighty four and therefore more vulnerable to COVID-19. I know that he had multiple myeloma which no doubt made him less likely to maintain the antibodies that he needed to fight the virus. Some might say that it was simply his time to go and the fact that COVID-19 accelerated his demise is neither here nor there. Nonetheless, to me his death should be a reminder to us all of how far we have deviated from the very best characteristics of our American democracy. Our fall from grace has created a fertile breeding ground for hate and chaos and the virus. None of this needed to happen, nor should it have happened, and yet here we are. 

I would like to think that we might come together in mourning for Colin Powell. There would be no more fitting tribute for him than to be inspired by his character and willingness to give so much of his life to protect us all. He was a true American hero. Let us honor him by returning dignity and respect to our nation. We might start by naming one of those military bases with Confederate names after General Powell. He most certainly earned that small tribute. Let’s go even farther by ceasing our internal civil war and reuniting in a spirit of doing whatever it takes, not matter how long it takes to help pull our country and our world from the brink of destruction. We can do it. We have done so before. The time for coming together is now.

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