This past weekend I took a short vacation to Boston with my best friend. We are big history nerds, favoring the days of the American Revolution, and try to make it out to notable sites of early American history every couple of years.
Needless to say while some people find our forays exciting, we get just as many, if not more, people disdaining our interest, and the age discrepancy between the two categories concerns me. More and more people my age despise history and shun the lessons they could learn, and even more concerning than the dismissiveness of our history is the dismissiveness of responsibility. I attempted to discuss the need for vigilance in our own affairs and government with a friend, who promptly told me, “No one is going to put that much effort into this; let the government handle it.” I just stared, flabbergasted, at the ignorance he inadvertently revealed. My generation and the one before it have forgotten where we came from, and my peers refuse to even try to see why their “new” ideas are inherently flawed has-been’s, and destructive ones at that.
All this weighed heavily on my heart as I walked the Freedom Trail in Boston this weekend, and thought about what I wanted to say about Eric Metaxas’s new book, "If You Can Keep It," which touches on this very subject and comes at just the right moment, if anyone is willing to listen anymore, instead of shouting down anyone who has a different idea than them.
The most essential reminder in "If You Can Keep It" is that we need to look back to see forward. Metaxas, in very short form to keep the attention of the widest audience possible, reminds us not only how the ideas behind the concept of America came to exist, but why they worked for so long, and also, since we have forgotten, how they worked, what the original concepts were. It’s faded from our memory and our culture, and it’s no wonder we are in chaos.
I’ve struggled for a long time, as part of the generation raised to resent those who founded my nation for their shortcomings, and to avoid “nationalistic pride,” to reconcile my love of my country and the people who founded it, to the very real issues of today that were not resolved at the ratification of the Constitution. Metaxas addresses this willingly, and gives me hope that the American dream I began to stop believing in years ago is not an illusion. It’s a promise we all have to strive to keep and build upon, for those who came before, for those here now, and for those to come, because no generation can complete every task that arises, but any one generation can destroy everything its predecessors worked to create.
I confess that the writing in this book felt far less polished than Metaxas’ previous works, but I attribute that to the fact he now hosts a radio show 5 days a week on top of his public speaking engagements, and likely had far less time to write than he did before. The book is nevertheless a worthwhile read, in its entirety. It’s a very quick read, only seven chapters, and the information it provides and the message it sends must be taken into account and acted upon if we want to be able to honestly say to our kids we did all we could to fix the mess we found ourselves in, during our generations’ days at the nation’s helm.