What I’ve learned from my Big Pop


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The flag of the United States of America.

John Vassiliou, Online Managing Editor

My great grandfather was the classic embodiment of the American Dream. He was the first generation of his family to be born on American soil, and the first to dedicate part of his life to the preservation of the freedom that his parents sought for him. James by no means had it easy in his life; he was born at the tail end of the First World War and experienced the Great Depression firsthand. He didn’t have a lot of money, or any guarantees that life would be easy, but he kept his head up and took everything that came at him like a man should.

From where I stand, I have no excuse to be any less persistent, nor do I think anyone else in my generation does. The men and women of the Greatest Generation lived through economic collapse, the most devastating war in human history, and fifty years under the threat of total annihilation from the Soviet Union.

If they could do that, and then leave behind a nation that was far more powerful and prosperous than any nation before it, then the least that we can do is maintain it through these trying times.

People are so quick to look at the worst things in the world, and judge everything around them based on the unkindest interpretation. But showing this kind of pessimism is not something that Americans do. The United States didn’t become the world’s most powerful superpower because its people were sitting around whining about everything, and complaining about how those guys in Germany, Japan, and Italy were “mean.” No, we were unified by the fact that we didn’t stand by and let the world push us around.

Americans are optimists, Americans don’t back down from a struggle because it’s hard. Americans endure through the worst things together and come out more united afterwards. With the coronavirus outbreak running rampant throughout the world, now isn’t the time for us to be selfish, and divisive, but to answer a call to what it means to be a citizen of this great republic.

Right now the bar is set low for us: Wear a face mask when you’re out, keep some hand sanitizer on you, and try to avoid large crowds. The worst thing you have to worry about is getting a disease with a fraction of a percentage point in mortality, so don’t despair at that minute possibility.

Protect people in the vulnerable populations: Scratch that trip to Grandma’s house for a Facetime call, check in on your neighbors to make sure they’re all set, and be understanding of the fact that for some people a lot more is on the line than a bad cough.

And at the end of the day, just be grateful that instead of charging beachheads or sleeping in a foxhole, you at least get to wake up every morning on your own soil.

Much like for my Big Pop, the future is uncertain. The day when we’ll get a solution to this virus may be a long way off, and the world economy seems to be wandering through limbo. In many ways, we may be entering into our own Depression.

But when the world was literally trying to tear itself apart in the aftermath of the worst economic downturn the world had seen, my Pop didn’t sit back and worry about all the things that could go wrong. He charged in head first, and contributed to one of the greatest American victories in history. He kept getting back in those planes after every mission.  He stayed true to not only himself, but his fellow countrymen. And he didn’t cry over all of the spilled milk but went forward to fix whatever it was that knocked the glass over in the first place.

Today there seem to be so many things trying to tear us apart, but one thing must stay true. At the end of the day, we Americans will keep our heads held high and push forward into a brighter future.