COMMENTARY: Recognizing and fortifying the best about us

By DR. REY GONZALEZ, Special to the Star

I read recently a short piece about fighter planes during World War II that would return to their base riddled with bullet holes. Examining the airplanes, the mechanics quickly noticed a pattern: battered but still airworthy, the planes all sustained damage in the same general areas – the wings, the horizontal stabilizers, etc. They suggested that extra protective metal-sheeting be added to all airplanes in these damage-prone regions; at least that was until someone spoke up who saw beyond the bullet holes.

The Hungarian-born Jewish mathematician Abraham Wald realized that these damaged planes were only available for inspection because these were the ones that, despite the damage, actually made it back to base. He recommended fortifying the regions of the planes where there were no bullet holes because it was those regions that, when hit, caused those planes that never returned to be lost.

I don’t know about you, but there’s a pretty deep message in this story.

We should always prioritize protecting those areas that sustain us. Since our nation’s founding in 1776, our country has survived a Civil War, the scourge of slavery, and a contentious fight for equal rights – each of which threatened to destroy us.

Yet, here she is – still airworthy.

If you and I, acting as the mechanics, suggested ways to fortify this battle-tested still surviving republic, what aspects would we fortify? This requires identifying not our problems but our national virtues, those characteristics that endow America with her enduring hardiness, and then strengthen those virtues.

I believe we should strengthen our collective grit. One thing eroding that grit is political correctness. Let us dispense with walking on egg-shells to declare life granting, bondage-breaking truth just because someone might be offended by it.I once told my Sunday School class, “God would rather offend you into Heaven than to politely escort you into Hell.” Let us return to calling things as they are. Truth, by definition, is absolute.

I believe we should reinforce our culture’s inclination toward individuality. We should enforce federalism and call out Washington for its overreaches, demanding that each state be left to self govern as contemplated in Article I, Section 8 of the U. S. Constitution. I believe, as Alexis De Tocqueville wrote about in 1831, in America’s goodness.”If America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great,” he wrote. We must pass to the next generation: our goodness, our charity, our faith.

By bolstering what already sustains us, I believe America, like those World War II airplanes, can survive many more deployments in our ever-changing world.

Dr. Rey Gonzalez is a resident of San Benito.