We, as a society, have undergone massive changes in the past 20 years or so. The most noticeable to me, is not the economic changes, or political climate; it is instead, a lazy mind-set and the level of importance we have given our responsibility towards the United States. If we placed individual interests on one side of a scale and the good of the nation on the other, the scale is tipped largely to the side of the individual interests. Worse still, there are dangerous trends that are now common place in our society. These trends, only made worse generation to generation, are like cancer. They are slowly deteriorating the backbone of what used to make this country the greatest in the world. It is now in our blood, being passed down to the next generation. As most know, once cancer is in the blood, there is very little if anything that can be done to cure it. It flows freely through the proverbial vessels of the American body, eating it away to the core. It can’t be blamed on the politicians, because we put them there. We, as Americans, have a responsibility to our nation—a responsibility to take a good look at ourselves in the mirror and realize that the finger of blame needs to point squarely in the face of the citizens and residents of this country, who have failed miserably to take any preventative measures to slow the deadly spread of indifference plaguing our home.
Which Way Did He Go, George?
I am a Patriot, in the most traditional sense of the word. I love my country and wouldn’t want to pledge my allegiance to any other nation on this earth. I am a traditionalist and a constitutionalist. I love American values and I appreciate the idiosyncrasies of the Constitution. In 1955, I would have been Mr. John Q. Taxpayer—an everyman! Sadly, today I am the exception rather than the rule. Modern times have dictated that the population of our nation needs to be MORE in tuned with politics and MORE knowledgeable about our government. Unfortunately, the branches of our government have failed to put together an engaging enough Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook page to keep the masses of uneducated, ill-informed, 18-26 year old, infants up to speed. I think the Judicial Branch may stand the best chance at at a decent Twitter account. The problem is, there is no excuse for our younger generation to be ill-informed. The social media alone is enough to moderately educate people about the problems facing our nation. My only problem with this is, these walking, talking amoebas are registered voters with a constitutional avenue to convey their uneducated opinions in a manner that affects the rest of society. Rights; are they privileges, or entitlements? Why would we trust the future of our government to the portion of the population who really doesn’t care, but votes because a celebrity or TV channel told them, “it’s cool.” Americans are lost…and they like it that way.
During the 2008 election, I confronted a young gentleman, approximately 20 years old, who I worked with at the time. He was raving about who his vote was going to. He insisted change was going to come and that all of the problems our nation was facing at the time (which were plenty, if you recall) would soon be rectified by the candidate he supported. It struck me completely strange that he wasn’t expressing the “why,” nor did he have any real clue about how our government worked. So, me being the cynical ass I am, decided to ruffle his feathers. I asked him broad questions about his support of policies, posing them as if they were all a part of his chosen candidate’s campaign. He was on it! He smiled, gave me high fives, and kept on going about this “great moment in American history.” Unbeknownst to him, I was talking about the policies and proposals of the other candidate, which were adamantly opposed by the one supported by my 20 year-old co-worker. The decision for me to make this more than just a personal victory may not have been very “nice;” however, when I pointed out to him the small level of treachery in my plot to prove a point, he was less than amused. Is it better to sound informed, or be informed? If you blindly follow the leader without knowing what you are getting into, who is going to stop you from walking off of a cliff?
We Are, the Youth of a Nation; Ambassadors of Arrogance
There is no concept of patriotism left in our youth today. There is no civic responsibility, no pride in ownership. We are proud to be American because it entitles us to be belligerent to those who are not. I wish I could say that this was solely those youths I was talking about earlier, but this one covers a variety of age groups and it needs to stop. The older generations have an excuse; they lived when America was the greatest nation on earth, and many of them are still under the false impression that we still are. The younger age groups, are grandfathered in and feel they have no responsibility to make our country great or, more to the particular point of this topic, represent it with greatness.
I have spent considerable time living abroad; and in that time, I have enjoyed learning and embracing other cultures. In each of the cultures I have spent years in, I have noticed one “elephant in the room” style constant. Nobody likes us! “Americans think they are better than everyone” is a phrase that I grew tired of hearing. I certainly had friends in these places but, if they were to generalize Americans, we wouldn’t get a great review. We grew up thinking that we were the greatest nation in the world. Why? Because our parents said we were. Movies, music, and literature all paint this glorious picture of a utopian society where everyone drives a Corvette and has a Dalmatian. Why are we so great? It’s not like we are any more or less free than most civilized western nations; nor are we, in our infinite ignorance, world leaders in anything important like medical advancement, preservation of natural resources, job security, or economic stability. We have cheap gas. Get over it. Our country was great, in 1955. Now, we are in the running for sixth or seventh. We can fix this for our children, and their children, and we can be as we once were, but it takes effort. I’m afraid there might not be enough of that to go around, particularly within our youth these days. Are we doomed? Where did we go wrong?
Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you!
Wait, that’s not right! It is today. What about the poor? What about the (insert race here)? What about the women? What about the children? What about the United States of America! We have programs for one ethnic or social group, scholarships for another, months dedicated to every category to include, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Women, Children, cancer, mustaches, etc. What about a month dedicated to our country? Nope, instead, we get a day where we overeat, drink beer, and it’s all about the fireworks. I am not saying that any of the aforementioned demographics are bad or should not be memorialized by a month dedicated to their heritage; however, why can’t we put that sort of emphasis on the United States of America for more than just a bit of a day? Even Thanksgiving, which is, in my personal opinion, easily the most important holiday we have, is completely commercialized and is more about football and shopping the day after than it is about two cultures coming together for mutual benefit, peace, harmony, and thankfulness. Parents are lazy and do not emphasize the importance of patriotism. Instead, most just spend the day complaining and criticizing without the knowledge or willpower to do anything about it. Does the complaining help? It never has done me any favors. Wait, it’s okay! We have baseball and apple pie!
The other day, I had a lengthy conversation with a gentleman who had served in the Vietnam War as a tunnel rat. Basically, his job was to stick his head and arm inside a hole in the ground to check for the enemy. He might have found a landmine. He might have found an enemy VC with an AK-47 or a bayonet, ready to impale him. He did it anyway—afraid, but proud and unwaveringly. Now, our nation’s politically questionable reasons for going to, and staying in, Vietnam were not the best. However, this man, who is now in his late sixties, did it because, “Communism was bad, and America doesn’t stand for that.” His tone reeked of pride and patriotism. To be honest, it really got me. We still have thousands of service men and women who are in harm’s way, who do what they do for a very similar reason, albeit the benefits are a bit better these days. The United States military comprises 1% of the population of the United States. That includes, Active Duty, National Guard, and Reserves.
Please view the two links. I hope you understand the comparison.
Knowledge is Power
Perhaps my expectation of what Americans ought to know about their own history, government, and place in the world is a bit high; however, I think that American society’s expectation is far below the world standard. Is it necessary to know all of the states and their capitals? No. Is it a must that we know who all of the 43 presidents were (yes, 43 people were president, not 44)? No. Is it beneficial to know these things and to have a basic understanding of how our government works and the difference of the political parties? Of course! In fact, if you don’t have knowledge about these things, why should you be afforded the opportunity to cast a vote? Because the constitution says so? Maybe we should have to take a test before voting. Let’s put that to a vote…oh wait, never mind.
The United States is a very young country in the grand scheme of things so, theoretically speaking, we have less to learn than the rest of the world. None-the-less, if a Japanese, British, French, or German (the list is not all inclusive) college graduate was asked to regurgitate a couple hundred of years of national history, they would be able to give you a brief synopsis of how their culture came to be what it is relative to the last couple of centuries. They would likely be able to tell you the structure of their government and basic policies and laws put into place; and more importantly, why! Do the same to a recent college graduate in the US of A. Hit or miss at best! Sure, there will be a few who could provide a very informative, and likely intelligently conveyed opinion about how we came to be the “superpower” we are; however, the majority would not be able to answer some of the simplest historical questions. Better yet, could they tell us why we have fallen off of our pedestal? This may sound like “high-and-mighty” rhetoric but, it’s accurate. Take a look at Jay Leno’s “Jay Walking.” I have hyperlinked one below.
It’s a damn shame.
Avoid the Rabbit Hole, Maurice
I like to write. I like to talk. I like to voice my opinion. The first amendment gives me that right. It’s a wonderful thing to be in a country that allows me to do that without repercussion. There are many places in the world where I would not be able to convey my opinions to the masses without an inquisition-style interrogation afterwards in which my loyalties would be questioned, at a bare minimum. Having said that, our country is only as strong as the population makes it. If you don’t like our congress, learn why. If you have only questions and no answers, do the research. The only way things can change is if people change them. It’s not the president’s, or congress’, or any public official’s job to change things. It’s their job to be a voice for their respective constituency. We have turned into a really bad corporation with the limited middle management running out of options for managing the laborers. Maybe the laborers should do something about it. Maybe the people who are living off of the government and therefore choking it, should try to change it. Remember, we are a nation “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”