Me vs. We

Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.

When did we invert the W in We to an M as in Me? Think about it. I did as I was sitting at coffee listening to people discuss times gone by.

Looking back to the 1940s, in particular, 1941, it was the darkest time in the history of our country, excluding the Civil War. It, the Civil War, was a defining moment in our history as a nation. World War II was the defining moment in the history of the world.

We can remember those who lived through this nightmare, the sacrifices and the solidarity demonstrated by our fellow citizens. For example, I remember saving the fat drippings from chicken and bringing it to the butcher shop for redemption. The fat was used in the production of ammunition needed for the war effort.

I remember the dimes collected each week in school until enough was accumulated to purchase a War Bond. The cost was $18.75 with redemption at $25 in seven years. We did not think about the value but rather the purpose.

I remember the rallies to encourage our men and emphasize how proud we were that the finest among us would ensure the finest lives for all of us. The Hollywood stars of the day opened their hearts and purses to symbolize the unity of purpose. The Hollywood Canteen and the USO allowed our soldiers, sailors and airmen the opportunity to take a bit of home with them wherever they were sent.

The newsreels gave us an inside look into the horror of war. The newspapers listed the dead. Windows in our homes were draped with banners decorated with stars, one for those serving, and another for those who lost their lives.

Patriotism is a word relegated to history, as is our fervor for justice and mercy. The WE demonstrated by a generation who understood the value of collective responsibility and pride has now become ME. What is in it for me is now the rallying cry of the so-called millennia. From the walkways of Wall Street to the fortresses of opulence, we see extremes to which we have become accustomed.

The obscene paychecks of athletes, to the corporate greed of accumulation, there is no longer the need of helping those less fortunate. I have mine, go get yours, is the new slogan of today’s generation. Sports are not played for the sport. Investments are not made for security. Education is not encouraged to enhance character. Law enforcement is now synonymous with distrust. Politics is not to govern, nor leadership to emulate.

Can we again learn the value of pride? Is it possible to witness a return to civility? The inheritance given us by the past generations will be the model upon which we should make this country great again. Not rhetoric, but by example. Strength should be tempered with understanding. Justice should be administered by mercy.

Try thinking of WE as we do when we pray. Because it is through prayer and the understanding of gratitude, that ME will be turned back into WE. Perhaps then we will see an even greater America.