Friday, November 21, 2008

The Freedom to Fail

As a first generation immigrant, refugee at that, I was taught that the greatest thing about America was that we had the freedom to try and if we failed, we could try again. I know that some of my parent's friends who came at the same era couldn't make it. Most did, but a few went back to Europe where the country would subsidize their housing and intervene in their daily lives. Most were older, widowed and we understood if the concept of "America" was too hard.

Maybe America is only for the young and the brave who value freedom more than security. For the old men who remember a simpler time. Maybe America is only for those who value life and liberty and have enough rational selfishness to understand how to pursue happiness, and are willing to die to protect it. America wasn't just a place, a country, a land that stretches beyond what you can see or traverse in a lifetime. America was a hope, an ideal, a city on a hill.

My father spent his youth as a Dutch POW in Japan. From the age of 19 to 24 he survived the trials of war in a prison camp. There was a democracy in the camp among prisoners and a pecking order. There was hard work, hunger, sickness and death at the hands of a people he barely knew. He became enamored with the American soldiers there. Some were his age, away from home and knew even less about the enemy than he did. He often feared for them more than for himself, for he thought they were naive, arrogant and brazen sometimes. They had a courage and a hope and a sense of freedom that walls of prison couldn't take away from them.

I'm convinced that what my father witnessed in those young American POW's might have been a naivete of men who only knew freedom, who didn't cower to authority, who knew the strength and resolve of their military. Maybe that naivete is why we don't really see how much is being chipped away and eroding from the hillside. Americans have moved from the country and the cities to suburbia. I can still see the patchwork quilt when I visit small towns, and I believe it's still the majority of America, but somewhere in the malls and metropolis, in television and movies, music and culture there is a grayness that's unbecoming. It's the pallor of death I think. The way death slowly creeps from the extremities to the soul. A coldness that's removed from the real heart and soul of America.

I don't know when it started. Maybe it was the war and how little America gave back to their soldiers. I've only known Vietnam, really and I think the crime of the war was television, and what the protesters did to our veterans. When protesters like William Ayers, Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden and their like are raised above soldiers who gave them those freedoms, then where is the solidarity and pride in freedom and justice. When public opinion matters more than doing what's right, when we allow domestic terrorists in the name of protest, ignorance or cowardice to have a voice in politics, education and our culture, then what is America become?

I know that we have over 300 million people in the US and over 200 million are over the age of 18 and could be eligible to vote. Only 61% did. I want to appeal to the 40% who didn't vote. The rational, the reasonable, the citizens both natural and naturalized who didn't vote. I believe they are part of the backbone of America. They are the independent souls who never asked the government for anything, who expect only freedom and don't complain about their situation. They are working hard and raising their families, happy to be free and never look to the government for anything. They may not have joined protests or movements, they just want to be left alone. The folks in rural towns and communities who don't need the media or polls to tell them how to vote or think or justify new rights from wrongs. I'm sure if you are reading this, you know many of those people.

They won't join a movement, they won't attend a rally. They might be like Joe Wurzelbacher, who was minding his own business when a candidate came to his neighborhood. I see Joe as the John Doe of Meet John Doe from the 1941 Gary Cooper film. He does speak for every man and I do know so many who like Joe, have a little of that naivete that my father saw in Americans. Joe too is a veteran. Joe assumed that he was free, that his country was worth fighting for, and that no one could take that freedom from him, not really. He knew by instinct that Americans don't spread their wealth. Any American can be wealthy if you work hard and work smart. It's in every American's grasp, isn't it?

Well, Joe, Dad, look what they're trying to do to our song. A group of radical and liberal professors, activists, community organizers, civil rights peddlers have started to eat away at the fabric of this great land. They teach entitlement instead of self reliance; they create mandates instead of charity and teaching common sense; they kill their unborn and toss away their young. They believe that a good job, health care and a living wage is a right, not a responsibility. These are men, not without reason, but without merit. It's a plague that will spread if it's not contained. America won't fail by force or by reason, but by a failure to act. We have a right to fail in America, but we have no right to let America fail. I owe it to my dad, we owe it to our fathers, we owe it to the soldiers and their sons and widows.

No comments: