“In life, your attitude determines your ‘altitude,’” a wise person once said.
I agree. I’ve observed many people with bad attitudes over the years. Without exception, they didn’t amount to much until they fixed their attitude problem.
A bad attitude manifests in multiple forms: Arrogance. Dishonesty. A sense of entitlement. A thirst for power. Laziness. Pessimism and negativity. Cheerlessness. Jealousy. Defeatism. Disrespect for other people’s rights, choices and property.
As Americans emerge from a Spring of lockdowns and social distancing, some will find it challenging to get their engines going again. That’s perfectly understandable, given what many have endured — from illness and death among friends and family to serious financial losses. Let’s not trivialize any of that, but at the same time, let’s note that a bad attitude is only a hindrance to recovery. This short 1905 poem titled Thinking by Walter Wintle offers a few keen observations:
If you think you are beaten, you are; If you think you dare not, you don’t. If you’d like to win, but think you can’t, It’s almost a cinch you won’t. If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost, For out in the world we find It begins with a fellow’s will; It’s all in the state of mind. If you think you’re outclassed, you are; You’ve got to think high to rise. You’ve got to be sure of yourself before You can ever win a prize. Life’s battles don’t always go To the stronger or faster man; But sooner or later the man who wins Is the one who thinks he can.
Americans have been body-slammed before but we’ve always bounced back. The agony of the coronavirus pandemic is Sunday school compared to the hardships of Valley Forge, the crucible of the Civil War, the injustices of slavery and Jim Crow, the heartbreak of the Great Depression, or the existential threat of World War II.
Even some past health crises were proportionally worse than this one. The 1793 yellow fever epidemic claimed about 10 percent of the citizens of Philadelphia and forced President Washington and his Cabinet to move to nearby Germantown. The Spanish Flu of 1918-19 killed half a million Americans when the country’s population was less than a third of today’s.
A serious discussion must go on now for weeks, months and even years: Were government measures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic the right ones? Many were clearly counterproductive and even deadly. “Progressive” governors in New York, Michigan, Illinois and New Jersey forcing nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients is Exhibit A.
What we traditionally refer to as a “can-do” spirit, so vital to the country’s past success, must be front-and-center again. Its magic is evidence of personal character as well as the political and economic liberty in which we can put that character to work. Nations that suppress the can-do spirit are plagued with endless, intractable problems, from poverty to poor health to lousy government.
Sure, it’s a tall order, but so what? When have Americans ever walked away from a tall order that was truly worthwhile? To do so now would be an unthinkable forsaking of our ancestors who bequeathed us so much.
Lawrence W. Reed, a resident of Newnan, is president emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education. He writes about exceptional people, including many from his book, “Real Heroes: Inspiring True Stories of Courage, Character and Conviction.” He can be reached at email@example.com.