Saturday, April 20

The Crestone Eagle is a nonprofit monthly newspaper serving Crestone and the San Luis Valley

Commentary: The Last President’s Day 

An op-ed by Carew Papritz, the award-winning author of The Legacy Letters.

I wasn’t around to see the end of the passenger pigeon. One day there were three billion. Over one third of the bird population of the planet. And within a lifespan, they were no more. The last passenger pigeon, Martha, died on September 14, 1914 in the Cincinnati Zoo.

No one could ever imagine that you could wipe out three billion birds in the blink of a geological eye. But we did. The buffalo story was almost the same.  From 1874 to 1884 we slaughtered 30 million. In less than 10 years, there were only 325 left. One day we woke up and realized we were on the precipice of losing something forever. And we had to do something.

Now we are on the precipice of our last President’s Day.    

Oh, how dramatic, you say. How could you even think this? It’s as if you’re talking about some alien invasion and the end of the world. 

We’ve always elected a president every four years. Since the beginning of our country. Even during the Civil War, we elected a president. We may have destroyed three billion carrier pigeons to extinction and brought 30 million buffalo to nearly the same fate, but we will always elect a president.

Until we don’t.  

Because, for the first time in the history of our country, we may elect a president who does not want to be president. He wants to be a king, a dictator (for only a day), an authoritarian, or whatever else, but not a president.  

Because of all the prerequisites to be president in our country, of which there are only a few, the most important one of all is believing in and affecting the peaceful transfer of power. It is what makes us unique in the history of the world. It is why people and other countries want to be like us — and to adopt our constitution. It is the heart and soul of what makes us free.  

As a nation, we grant the power of the presidency to one person, and when the job is over, he gives the power back to us. 

That simple. That powerful.  And that is the essence of the vow this man (or woman) takes. If the vow were ever to be broken — that a peaceful transition was not peaceful — then the last president will have been elected.  

We have never not had a president. Since the birth of our country that is all we have ever known. How can we even conceive of not having a thing that’s never not been? It’s like saying there’s no more water for us to drink or air for us to breathe. It’s just not possible. Until you’re in the desert dying of thirst. Or gasping for air while you’re drowning. 

People did not think WWII could happen. Or the Holocaust. Or the Great Depression. Or the extinction of the carrier pigeon or the buffalo. It is the curse of our humanness that we believe a thing can’t happen to us, until it does. That we didn’t pay attention to the warning signs or the possibilities that something could go wrong. And that’s how we truly learn our lesson by being too late.

We are witnessing the possible extinction of our presidency, and with it our Constitution. Just because we think it will always be there, doesn’t mean it will.

It is our choice to heed our own warnings. To understand the consequences of a thing that has not yet happened. But we know from the totality of our lives, and our hard-earned wisdom, that we do not want to learn what it means to celebrate our last President’s Day.

Because if it is our last, then we have learned our lesson way too late.

Carew Papritz is the award-winning author of the bestselling inspirational book, The Legacy Letters. For more information, visit https://thelegacyletters.com/ or follow Carew on social media. He’s @CarewPapritzOfficialPage (on Facebook); @CarewPapritz (on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest); and @Thelegacyletters (on YouTube).

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