“A man with a full stomach and the respect of his fellow had no business to scold about anything that he might think wrong on the ways of the universe, or even the ways of society. Let the unfortunate rail; the others may play marbles” (Stephen Crane, Red Badge of Courage)
This quote, taken from Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage says a lot about our society today. But what does it really mean. While I cannot speak for Mr. Crane, what it means to me is that one who has it all (or full of stomach) has no right to complain about the plight of the nation (or the universe and society). It is the less fortunate that should be the ones complaining.
While Crane’s novel was written in the early 1900’s, it can be considered a reflection of our society today. For those of you that have forgotten (or never read it) let we summarize. The Red Badge of Courage chronicles the life of a young Union Solider as he, together with his unit, prepare for their first battle. The “youth” (Henry Fleming) frets about his courage and worries he will break at the face of the “red dragons”. In fact, shortly into his first engagement, Henry does flee for his life. Later after self-reconciliation and earning his “Red Badge of Courage”, the youth becomes a hero.
We all relate to the underdog story and become inspired by Henry’s redemption. As Henry did, we all face our fears at some point. Often times, we fail. How we recover from our failures is what forms our legacy. Henry became a hero.
Throughout the story, we discover anecdotes that we can further relate to our modern world. Such is the quote mentioned above Crane was simply implying that the well-off should be happy with what they have and that it should be the under privileged that do the complaining. And I agree with this statement whole heartedly. However our nation has gotten away from this belief. It seems we have settled into a comfort with which we are much like to caste system popular in the Middle Ages. Born into wealth or poverty, for the most part, we accept our social standing.
The fight and patriotism shown by our fore fathers has expired. The grit and determination shown by those that fought in the civil war has given way to disinterest and vacillation. The national pride exhibited during World War II has morphed into humility. We are a nation that runs off its people and right now that engine is running on fumes.