Life Is a Relay Race, and We’re Dropping the Baton

By | June 11, 2012 | 0 Comments

An old saying holds that life is a marathon, not a sprint. I disagree. Life is a relay race. If the baton is passed smoothly, the next runner gets a good start. But if the baton is bobbled – or even dropped on the ground – the next runner, and all those who follow, will be in a weaker position.
We owe our current position to all the runners of the past, who did their best to advance the baton and hand it on to us. But are we doing our best to advance it further, then hand it on to the next generation?

I think not. I think we are dropping the baton.

How old is civilization? I believe it is about 25 years old. At first glance, this statement seems ridiculous. Civilization is many thousands of years old, you say. It began in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Or it began earlier, when primitive people invented the wheel, or first used fire, or developed language. All these ideas are correct, but only in the sense of when civilization began.

My question is different. I am asking how old civilization is at any given moment. And my answer is about 25 years. If we do not teach the next generation what we learned from past generations, civilization – at least as we know it – will end.

In fact, I could make the case that civilization is only 18 years old. If young people are not firmly grounded in a value system by the time they finish high school, they are likely to be even more confused by attending a university. Still, to allow for those who reach maturity later, I use 25 years as an approximation.

Listen to probably the greatest scientist who ever lived, Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This genius was frank to admit that he began where those before him had left off. Can we, who are far from being geniuses, do less? Can we fail those who taught us by failing to teach those who will follow us? Can we discard the traditions and the wisdom that took millennia to develop, and were handed down to us at great cost?

We can. We are.


For a generation, our schools, universities, and government have operated under the assumption that we have a multicultural civilization and are a multicultural nation. But this assumption is false. A civilization is defined by its culture. Otherwise it isn’t a civilization – it’s merely a conglomeration of various peoples with various customs who happen to be associated for a time. It’s a crowd, or even a mob, but not a civilization.

In ancient times, neighboring peoples adopted Greek culture because they found it superior. But they didn’t make Greek culture multicultural – the very statement reveals its illogic. No, they made Greek culture multiethnic. Romans and peoples of the Middle East adopted the best of what Greece produced. True, they colored it to suit their own customs, but they didn’t alter its essence. When they tried to, they lost it entirely and reverted to whatever they were before.

Look at Egypt, Iran, and Afghanistan. The armies of Alexander the Great conquered these nations and imposed Greek civilization. But the empire broke up after Alexander’s death, and with time almost all traces of Greek civilization were lost. The only remaining signs are ruined temples and occasional place names – for example, Alexandria in Egypt. If you ask our troops in Afghanistan whether they see signs of Greek civilization, you will get a blank stare. Multicultural states break up.

The Romans did better. They imposed their rule over most of Europe and maintained it for centuries. But they also imposed their language, which remains as Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, and others. They imposed Roman law, which influenced the legal systems of much of Europe. Multiethnic states can hold together, and their influence can persist for millennia, provided they are not multicultural.

Coming closer to the present, Czechoslovakia broke up into Czech and Slovak republics, but their peoples and languages are quite similar, so the breakup was peaceful. In contrast, the breakup of Yugoslavia into Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Montenegro was very far from peaceful. The cultural and religious differences were too great.

Yugoslavia was too multicultural to hold together, or even to break up without violence. The lesson is that multiculturalism fails, sometimes peacefully, sometimes violently.

Some Latino groups want to “take back” the Southwest United States, though Mexico held Texas for only 15 years and California for 25. One group calls itself “La Raza,” which they claim means “the people” but actually means “the race.” Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor and Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa were members. Would we tolerate white judges and politicians who belonged to a group called “The Race”?

The idea seems to be that any area they held for whatever time belongs to them, regardless of who was there before or who is there now. How, exactly, does this differ from the extremist Muslim claim that Israel and even Spain belong to them? This is reminiscent of the Soviet Union: “What’s ours is ours; what’s yours is negotiable.”

If you doubt that multiculturalism is potentially dangerous, look at the problems Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Norway are having with Muslim immigrants who insist on retaining their own language and customs. Americans are more fortunate. We too have Muslim immigrants, but our major source of immigration is Mexico and Central America. Religion is not a problem here, but language is, and to a lesser degree so is culture.

In effect, “multiculturalism” teaches young people to respect all cultures except their own. If there is a more destructive lesson, I have yet to hear of it.

Faded colors.

Often I see American flags so faded that the colors are barely visible. This is not only disrespectful to our flag and what it represents; it is also symbolic of other fading colors.

When I went to school a generation ago, we saluted the flag every morning. We had programs on national holidays. We heard patriotic music on the radio and from the school band. We proudly wore our ROTC uniforms to high school once a week. We saw movies in which American and British troops fought German Nazis and Japanese fascists. We had to memorize the first and fourth verses of the National Anthem. The first verse comes in handy at sports events, while the fourth mentions (gasp!) God. And we had to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address.

Things have changed. Memorization is “old fashioned,” patriotic music isn’t “cool,” patriotic programs might make some students “uncomfortable,” and Christmas trees might make some students feel “excluded.” At the same time, schools teach about the “Prophet” Muhammad and the “holy” Quran. Might this make some students feel “uncomfortable” or “excluded”? Who cares?

Leftist teachers and professors teach that America is imperialist, militarist, and generally shameful. The late Howard Zinn, a professor of history and author of the most widely used textbook of American history, spread leftist ideas. He went so far as to claim that America has done more bad than good in the world. (I heard him say it.) Europe under the Nazis? Asia under the Japanese militarists? To him, anything would be better than a strong America. But do many professors assign William Bennett’s “America, the Last Best Hope” or Schweikart and Allen’s “A Patriot’s History of the United States”? Are you joking? They are superb histories, but they’re not biased toward the left.

Rather than transmitting our ideals to their students, universities often do precisely the opposite. If you doubt this, consider the student who was penalized for his Army Reserve participation. Consider the professor who faced termination for e-mailing copies of George Washington’s Thanksgiving message. Consider the unfavorable attitude of many professors toward Evangelicals and Mormons.

Even the most vivid reds, whites, and blues will fade if repeatedly exposed to hot water and strong bleach. Likewise, even the strongest nation will fade if its young people are subjected to 12 to 16 years of anti-American, anti-Judeo-Christian indoctrination in schools and universities.
Recently, kids were forbidden to sing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” at their graduation. The principal explained, “We don’t want to offend other cultures.” If a few malcontents take offense at kids singing a happy song, why should we care? Why should we honor their narcissistic hypersensitivity? They are offended by the words, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.” Why should we pay any attention to such people, much less comply with their demands?

But what did the principal think was appropriate for kindergarten kids? Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” with lyrics like “Are we an item? Girl, quit playin’ we’re just friends.” Sexualize five-year-olds? No problem. But Americanize them? No way! How revealing.

To paraphrase novelist Stephen Hunter, it’s pointless to argue national security with people who don’t understand the concept of nation, much less security. And it’s equally pointless to complain about our failure to Americanize the children of immigrants when we are failing to Americanize our own children.

In order to have homeland security, first we need a homeland.

We can’t overcome a strong Islamist religion and culture, or any strong immigrant culture, by being “multicultural” – that is, with no culture at all. We can’t hold a nation together against external enemies and internal pressures if our educational system is doing its best to undermine the very idea of America.

In poker, you may win an occasional pot with poor cards if you bluff well. But in real life, you can’t beat something with nothing. The first rule of gun fighting is bring a gun. The first rule of culture wars is bring a culture – and then pass it on.

Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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