“You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything,” so proclaimed the poet. Well, it was a 70-year-old, one-time bad boy Hoosier rocker named John Mellencamp who introduced it to many of us. The good reader can decide if it is poetry or not. As with so many artists, Mellencamp borrowed the truism from others who quoted it, or something very close, years before. Some cite early American patriot Alexander Hamilton for originating the thought. Like much about Hamilton these days, the attribution is contested. Later, a 1945 edition of the journal “Mental Hygiene” employed the expression in its concern for the “boys” understanding World War II in terms of what was being opposed by the war but also what was being sought.
Some things never really change. Today, we have opened what could become the costliest war ever. We watch, horrified, as missiles are fired into civilian targets. One might conclude that the ultimate objective is not a military victory but the submission of a people by terror. It leaves us wondering what is it that we can tolerate? The leader of the aggressor state has insinuated, if not outright claimed, his right and intention to rain down nuclear death if his desires are refuted by the victims now suffering in his smaller, largely unarmed European neighbor.
Should we stand for something? Are we prepared to pay the price? Nuclear winters? Conscription for young women, as it is for young men? The lives of so many sacrificed for national sovereignty and megalomania. Does it really matter if we speak English or Russian? But what of the caution after the comma that we’ll fall for anything? Can one trade 40 million or so far-off souls for our own peace? Should we? Or is it likely certain that ours would be next?