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In eighth-grade English we read a poem that held me prisoner ever since. No Google needed; nor any ancient notes. Remembering, now, straight from 1944: “This I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream, A craven hung along the battle’s edge, and thought, ‘Had I a sword of keener steel – that blue blade the king’s son bears – but this blunt thing!’, he snapped and flung it from his hand.”

The king’s son then got his “blue blade” knocked out of his hand. He noticed the inferior sword the craven had thrown away. He picked it up and won the battle!

OK. So what?

Four men having a beer were discussing who makes the decisions at home. One of them said, “Well, I make all the big decisions and my wife makes the little ones.” When pressed to clarify, he explained, “Well, I decide, for example, whether the Supreme Court should revisit Obamacare. how they should rule, who’s going to be our next senator and whether or not Israel should invade Syria to secure the poison gas; and my wife decides things like where we go on vacation, what schools the kids will attend and when it’s time to get a new car.”

Good idea. I’ll leave the big decisions – national debt and deficit reduction, government expense cuts, raising the debt ceiling etc. – to my economic betters. I’ll confine my concerns to a few smaller piranhas in this treacherous pond we’re in.

Egypt’s leading industry until very recently was tourism. Public disorder drove Egyptian tourism from huge to near-zero. How come? The civil war is over in Syria, and the murderous jihadi-takeover is in Libya. Never mind. Tourists don’t like any place where violence recently was, or close to where violence currently is. What happens when a country’s thriving tourist industry vanishes? Maybe it’s hard to cry for the huge hotels and airlines and owners of the tourist navy on the Nile. What about the never-prosperous Egyptians who carried luggage, sold shish-kabob in the Camel Market and poured coffee in the hotel lobby? I’m not sure there’s a way to say “unemployment insurance” in Arabic!

America has a tourist industry, too. We don’t need a Syrian-style civil war or an eastern Libyan extremist takeover. What if there’s an incident of public disorder, just one? Suppose some pension promises have to be broken because there’s no money? And suppose the aggrieved victims – aided by agitators ever-ready to bring America down – march, causing clashes, fire-bombings, overturned vehicles, tear gas? You don’t even need fatalities; worldwide headlines will do.

If that kind of thing were to happen in a Paraguay or a Bulgaria, patriotism would impel the local media to “cool it”; don’t play it any bigger than necessary. The American media, however, knows no such decorum. While we argue whether the media is pro-left or pro-far-left or what, the fact remains that the media is pro-media. Disruption of public order in America! Fire-bombings! Great story! Let ‘er rip; rip the American image to shreds. See you later, tourists!

This won’t show up in any congressional budget forecast, but the world – not just Russia, China and most of the Mideast – I mean the whole world, will turn against the United States. It’s human nature. A nation as great for as long as the United States has been great is a reflection on all other nations. Somebody else’s success for too long can get tiresome. Whenever I stumble upon an unexpected football game, I instinctively root for the underdog. There will be smug satisfaction as America emphatically “gets theirs” in a financial flogging. Global celebration of America’s “decline” is a little thing compared to a 16-trillion-dollar debt. But it hurts.

Staying small, now: Have you even been part of a losing team, a losing business, a losing campaign? Blame-fixing, back-biting; even fisticuffs replace teamwork and happiness. A poor ambience for recovery!

Numbers like “million-billion-and-trillion” are served up to the American people like Donald Duck’s nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie; all joined together without much difference. We need more reminders like this one.

If we had thousand-dollar bills and you were handed a million dollars in those bills, the stack would be four-and-a-half inches high. Raise it to a billion and the stack would be almost as high as a football field is long. A trillion? Sixty-three miles up into space!

Back to my eighth-grade poem (“Opportunity,” by Edward Rowland Sill): Universal failure offers a universal excuse to quit trying. Incentive, hustle, overcoming, building wealth; great sermons, but hard to gin up in a shattered hothouse of national failure. Ask any football player whose team trailed by 40 points at half-time which he preferred: a few completed passes or a warm shower and a cold drink?

America is the only country built on an idea and an ideal: of-by-and-for the people. It is the nation that defeated fascism, defanged communism and dares jihadists to stand up. Is that nation that gave the world a middle class and a high standard of living under freedom, is that nation now going to ape the French poet whose will said simply, “I have nothing. I owe much. The rest I leave to the poor!”?

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