After World War II, there have been several smaller wars our leaders wanted us to be committed to. True to our signature spirit, at first we weren't so sure. "Aw, leave us alone." But our leaders insisted. Some of us supported them and some didn't. On the whole, we just weren't as committed. Our leaders tried to cajole us, and to shame us, but they couldn't budge us. Leave us alone is a strong force. Leaders ignore it at their own peril.
Our best leaders understand this American spirit. They don't push us in a direction that doesn't leave us alone unless they've first convinced us to make an exception. Our poor leaders try to take us in directions we don't want to go, and then fail in their grand efforts because we are not following, or not whole-heartedly.
Other nations ignore it at their peril, too. Attack us and you awaken a slumbering giant with nasty weapons, and with a hateful vengeance for those who dared to not leave us alone.
A great part of our personal preferences can also be explained by this philosophy. We don't want to be bothered with high income taxes and property taxes. We don't want the government interfering in our personal lives, or looking over our shoulders. We value our privacy. "Leave us alone," we say.
Always there are those who feel strongly about one issue or another. They want everyone to feel their passion, and to adopt their way. But it must be a strong, universal issue to overcome the inertia of wanting to be left alone.
That's why I predict many of today's hottest issues will end up on history's junk pile. They can't overcome the peoples' collective desire to be left alone. Despite future battles, the abolition of abortion will ultimately fail the way abolition of alcoholic beverages did. Prayer in public schools ultimately won't be the way we go either. The vast majority of people don't want to be told what to think. They want to be left alone.
Our desire to be left alone is a great strength, not a weakness. Collectively, we aren't going to be jumping onto the latest fads like teenagers. To pass our barrier, an idea or action needs to be overwhelmingly important to almost all of us. Things like helping victims of natural disasters, helping those less fortunate than us, maintaining a sense of justice, fairness and compassion. We make exceptions for these and other things, and then it's back to "leave us alone."
It's a good spirit, our American spirit.