Volume 47, Issue 2 - February 2012


You the Man, Abe
by Lyle R. Hill

At any given time, there are at least five or so half finished magazine articles in a folder in my right-hand desk drawer. Some are waiting for an ending while others are in need of a beginning. Along with these unfinished articles are another dozen or so pieces of paper with a sentence or two scribbled on them that represents an idea or concept for an article. Sometimes there are even complete sentences or partially developed paragraphs that hopefully will become part of an actual article one day. As an amateur, part-time writer who has to earn a living by doing things other than pumping out articles and columns, I don’t often get the chance to simply sit and think too much about the development of any given piece I write. I’m sure this admission comes as no surprise whatsoever to anyone who has read more than a few of my offerings. I readily admit that I find the monthly articles quite challenging to produce. For the most part, my marching orders are to provide something that is relevant, interesting, readable, printable and hopefully humorous, and to do so using 850 to 950 words. I am rarely given any particular subject or situation about which to try to develop an article. Kinda scary sometimes and, believe it or not, a great deal of self-inflicted pressure is generated in an effort to produce something that will not prove to be an embarrassment.

The good side of my situation is the occasional “hit.” It feels really good when you get one. I used to play a lot of baseball in my younger years and the best of the guys I played with would get somewhere between 3 to 4 hits for every 10 at-bats. So in theory, you fail at least 65 percent of the time, but the feeling of success from the other 35 percent more than makes up for the failures. For me, writing is something along those lines although the percentages are a bit different to be sure. The very best part about the monthly column is when you get some positive reader feedback. Really makes your day, believe me.

Lately, I have been getting numerous calls and emails about the troubled economic times with which we have been struggling these past few years. Invariably, the conversations turn political. After all, we have to have someone to blame and who better than our elected officials … the same ones we voted for (and in some cases maybe sent our hard earned money to) in an effort to better our plight. This is an election year and the politicians are out in force everywhere you turn. And with elections comes a great deal of politically themed media advertising, and phone calls, and speeches, and all kinds of stuff. After awhile it almost makes our whole political process sickening. There are weighty and serious matters that need to be debated and decided and, quite truthfully, I don’t always deal well with weighty and serious matters. I do much better with silly and unimportant matters. But there is pressure on me from multiple sources, not the least of which is my publisher, to come up with something that is relevant, timely, and most of all … and herein is the really hard part for me … serious!

So with all of this in mind, I set out to write a column that would deal with some of the issues currently plaguing us and to offer up perhaps my opinion on the situation and, more importantly, perhaps even suggest actions that could be taken to correct them. So I started reading every newspaper I could get my hands on and became an ardent viewer of all of the trendy news journalists that pontificate on nightly television. I even sought out and carefully reviewed the commentaries and plans being bantered about by the various political candidates of the moment. I hoped for a clue, a path or a direction to pursue in my quest to come up with a simple yet meaningful suggested solution to some of our current problems.

In these times, it seems to me that everyone feels that they are entitled to anything and everything that anyone else has; not because they’ve earned it, but simply because they want it. I have noticed in particular that media advertising … perhaps the truest indicator of where society is headed … has particularly capitalized on the concept of entitlement. Specifically, I hear the term “you deserve it” used in all kinds of advertising these days. Listen for yourself and see how many times this term is used, whether it’s for a new car, a vacation, a bigger home or a legal claim for compensation due to a rare disease you didn’t even know you had until some law firm told you that they would get you the money you deserve for all of your heartache and suffering. Whether you actually have experienced any heartache and suffering is irrelevant of course because you could have suffered and, by golly, you deserve whatever anyone else is getting anyway!

It’s all gotten a little crazy. A couple of weeks ago in downstate Illinois a woman claiming to represent an animal rights group petitioned the state of Illinois to place a highway memorial sign marker at the location where a small group of chickens that had escaped from a farm had been run over and killed by a delivery truck. Her claim was that the chickens were killed in a cruel and inhumane fashion and they deserved a memorial in their honor. Now stop and think for a moment about how the world works today and don’t be surprised if the truck driver sues the farmer for letting the chickens mess up his truck and causing many traumatized and sleepless nights due to the event, and also don’t be surprised if the farmer sues the truck driver for not stopping to allow safe passage for his escaped chickens. After all, didn’t they all deserve something better than what they got?

Almost every time I pick up a paper there is yet another program being announced that is being put in place to right the ills of society and make our country a better place. Think about it … fast starts, tarps, bailouts, handouts, government backed this and government paid for that … it goes on and on yet we seem to never see any meaningful improvement. I am convinced that common sense, pragmatism and rational thinking have abandoned us and our leaders are clueless. Hey, we deserve better, don’t we?

So it was that after much reading, listening, watching, and thinking that I reached the sad conclusion that there is nothing I can say that would have any significance whatsoever relative to the dilemma that we find ourselves in at the present time. You see, I really am better at silly than at serious and some days I am really not all that good at either. Alas, I became quite discouraged and decided that no one had the answer and that, even if they did, they would most likely want a lot of money for it. So there would be no insight, no answers, no words of advice, nothing of any consequence whatsoever from me.

But then something unforeseen happened. While tearing through some old files in search of records that the IRS felt were more important than I did, I found an old clipping that I had filed away many, many years ago and, to my total delight, it said most of the things I wanted to say but was not eloquent enough to do. It is noted as being part of a speech given by Abraham Lincoln and the thoughts expressed are as timely and meaningful today as they ever were:

• “You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

• You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

• You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.

• You cannot help the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred.

• You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

• You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.

• You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s independence.

• You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

Timeless … priceless. Thank you Mr. Abraham Lincoln!

Lyle R. Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America, a company providing research and technical services for the glass and metal industry. Hill has more than 40 years experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at lhill@glass.com. You can read his blog on Wednesdays at llhill@glass.com.

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