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Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2001 / 19 Mar-Cheshvan 5762

Dayle A. Shockley

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Consumer Reports

Do we all have enough
patience to win this war?

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- WHEN President Bush first spoke of America's commitment to the war on terrorism, he warned us it would be "a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have seen."

Since then, he repeatedly has asked for the patience of all Americans, reminding us that the task ahead isn't a simple one and that results may not be seen immediately. "Our campaign will be difficult, and it is going to take time," the president told the California Business Association Breakfast in Sacramento.

And when he visited the troops at Travis Air Force Base just before their deployment, he stared into the faces of courageous men and women and made a promise. "This great nation will do what it takes to win," he assured them. "We are determined. We are patient. We are steadfast. We are resolved."

Be patient. It sounds like such a simple request, but what does it actually mean to be patient? It means to be enduring, to be long suffering, not to complain, to be resigned to waiting, and to be untiring in one's commitments. Patience is the crowning of maturity. It builds character and brings with it many rewards.

Regrettably, patience is something many Americans don't possess. They don't have to. We live in an "instant" society. Drive by any fast-food eatery, and you will find people lined up at the drive-through window, expecting to have a hot "meal" in a matter of a few minutes. And if the wait goes a little beyond that, they squirm, tap the steering wheel, and say things like, "OK, people! Get a move on!"

We buy instant mashed potatoes, frozen pizza, and biscuits in a can. Automatic tellers dispense cash without us ever leaving our vehicles. We dash e-mail messages through cyberspace in seconds and read the world's news on our high-speed, laptop computers. We depend on sound bites to summarize speeches and expect our dry cleaning to be done overnight. Hollywood producers have given us 30-minute sitcoms and two-hour movies with happy endings. We are accustomed to quick resolutions. We want everything now.

Sometimes, there is nothing wrong with wanting - and getting - things quickly. I enjoy an occasional visit to the fast-food joints myself. And to consider giving up my laptop computer brings me an embarrassing amount of pain. But there are times when we expect too much, too soon.

America's war against terrorism is both unprecedented and convoluted, and it has just begun. Yet already, signs of impatience are popping up in certain groups of our society.

In a recent news briefing, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked how he planned to keep the American people from getting bored with this war. "Unless there is a bombing every month, how do we really keep the public engaged?" the reporter asked. Barely a month into a war, and already this guy was losing his patience and assumed the rest of the country was losing theirs. Mr. Rumsfeld responded by saying, "You know, some people think that everyone has a concentration span of 30 seconds. I don't think so."

I hope Mr. Rumsfeld is correct, because my gut feeling is that this line of questioning soon will become a common one in the media. But now isn't the time to fidget and whine. It isn't the time to lose sight of why this war began in the first place.

No doubt, there will be trying days ahead when it seems that our best efforts are in vain. But we must not be pulled back into our "instant gratification" way of thinking, no matter how tempted. Too much is on the line.

It is up to us. If freedom is to endure, we also must endure. I don't know about you, but count me in for the long haul.

JWR contributing columnist Dayle Allen Shockley is a Texas-based author. To comment on this column, please click here.


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08/10/01: My daughter was not aborted
07/30/01: The surrendered parent
07/06/01: Beauty can be a disguise

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© 2001, Dayle Allen Shockley