Gustavson Column: Where there’s a Will there (isn’t) a way


I recently had occasion to attend a lecture by noted conservative newspaper columnist/pundit/Sunday talk show panelist/baseball nut George Will. It was an entertaining 60 minutes but I came away from it seriously considering jumping from a bridge. And that was because Mr. Will left me and my fellow audience members feeling oh so pessimistic about the future of this land of ours. 

Let me count the ways, as detailed by Mr. Will: The United States of America soon will be bankrupt due to the impact of the baby boomer generation on Social Security, the Affordable Care Act and other high-minded but fiscally irresponsible social programs. Our two-party political system is destined to become even more partisan than it is today, with little or no hope of compromise or consensus. Only a major crisis (my read: another world war or terrorist act akin to 9/11) will unite the American people and restore a common sense of purpose.

Some of his assertions were irrefutable: Putin is a despot, Biden is goofy, Obama wasn’t born in Kenya, and there no longer is any such thing as a moderate Republican or a conservative Democrat.

But the overall tenor of his presentation seemed — to me, anyhow — at the very least debatable.

There is a widening gap in this country between the haves and the have-nots, and the Obama administration rightfully may have done more to address that disparity than any administration since FDR’s. The administration’s efforts to bring about a diplomatic, rather than a military, resolution to the situation in Ukraine is prudent and appropriate under the current circumstances. The United States’ role in the world order may be changing but that is not necessarily a bad thing. We may no longer be the world’s policeman, but to a vast majority we are still “the city upon a hill” that people around the world aspire to emulate or, in fact, emigrate to. (Which, of course, leads to another Will downer: current immigration policy.)

At the end of his formal presentation, Mr. Will was scheduled to answer written questions submitted in advance by audience members. But I didn’t wait around to see if he’d answer mine (Have you seen Errol Morris’ documentary about former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, “The Unknown Known?”) because I voted with my feet, exiting the lecture hall through the back door before the audience’s enthusiastic applause came to an end.

In fairness to Mr. Will, his various anecdotes about The National Pastime were engaging and anything but pessimistic. My personal favorite was this tale, which may or may not be taken from real life: A Major League manager walks out to the mound to take his pitcher out of the game. Pitcher: “Please don’t take me out, Skipper; I’m not tired.” Manager: “You may not be tired, but our outfielders certainly are.”

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