In 1967, my Infantry Officer Candidate School company underwent a weeklong field exercise at Fort Stewart, Georgia. We ate C-rations. They taught me a valuable lesson about pragmatism.

C-rations, heated over a can of Sterno, offered a variety of main courses. The guys ate their favorites first. Beef stew was pretty much everyone’s preference. 

Eventually, supplies dwindled. All we had left was ham and lima beans, to most of us a last resort. Active and hungry, we scarfed it down. After resupply, you couldn’t give ham and lima beans away. 

The Biden administration might achieve more if the majority of Progressives in the House of Representatives shared my experience at Fort Stewart and embraced achieving less. Not nothing. Less.

Granted, we Americans are not known for patience. “I want it all, and I want it all now” is a familiar mantra. So is, “Go big or go home.” Cling to these, and we not only delude ourselves, we suffer self-inflicted wounds.

While Americans salute boldness, we often pay it lip service. Relatively few people expose themselves to major risks. I can’t fault them. Lose a softball game, and you might buy beer for the winners. Drive 100 miles an hour on city streets, and you can pay with your life—and cost others theirs. 

I agree with many of the policies Progressives have proposed. The United States, to its shame, lags way behind other developed nations in providing universal, accessible healthcare. Many people must choose between filling prescriptions and eating.

Our lack of affordable childcare puts many parents in untenable positions. Often, one partner works just to pay a pre-school or babysitter—or faced with those costs, drops out of the workforce. Our tax system? I’m baffled at the support so many Americans give to tax breaks for billionaires while paying their own taxes and getting less than they should for their contributions.

Democrats are notorious for infighting. Differences of opinion can be healthy. But while the Biden administration secured passage of the American Rescue Plan to extend Covid-19 assistance and a major infrastructure bill, it hasn’t gotten all it wanted. The John Lewis voting rights act has fallen prey to Senate Republicans and two Democratic holdouts. Joe Manchin (W. Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) oppose ending the filibuster.

I get Progressives complaints. But the efficacy of ham and lima beans requires attention. As the political sociologist Larry Diamond wrote in Tuesday’s New York Times (“Democrats Want to Defend Democracy? Embrace the Art of the Possible”): “ . . . democratic responsibility demands that we not sacrifice what is valuable and possible on the altar of the unattainable.”

“Smaller” bills can advance democracy, including voting rights. As midterm elections near, they also can contribute political wins to the present administration. 

Life isn’t all black and white. Like it or not, we must often inhabit challenging gray zones. I’ll take ham (which I haven’t eaten post-Army) and lima beans when I must rather than die of hunger. 

It’s time to drop “It’s my way or the highway.” Insisting on getting everything only transforms righteousness into self-righteousness. As Friar Laurence says in Shakespeare’s Rome and Juliet (Act II, Scene 1), “Virtue itself turns vice being misapplied.”

With patience, ham and lima beans can give way to beef stew.

Enjoy a great and timely read with my novel 2084. Order in softcover or e-book from Amazonbarnesandnoble.com or your favorite bookstore.

Found this post interesting? Please pass it on. 

Leave a Comment