Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lost America

We are a people who have lost our way, in the rush to buy the latest television, or fight the latest war, or win the latest election. We are so far removed from the nation in its youth, the struggle for freedom and independence, the surge of new land and new opportunities, the unrest that almost split the country in two, that we wax nostalgic about things and times that were important in their day, but have no place in modern America. We act as there is some fundamental flaw in our country, some movement bent on keeping us from our full potential, some dark, creeping cancer eating away at us.

There is -- we are that cancer.

We don't see it as such, but it is clear from self-analysis that we have lost our collective minds. Some portion of us thinks the country needs to be "taken back," when no one has taken it over. Some part of us thinks we are "post-racial," even though blacks are disproportionately represented in our jails, slurs still fill the air, and efforts continue to play on white fear. Some part of us thinks that all the money in the world will fix our ills, when it is how we use our money that matters. Some of us feel we have the greatest health care in the world, even though thousands die for lack of insurance and millions more are pushed to bankruptcy by spiraling health care costs. Some of us think the "free market" will solve all our problems, even though it is often the genesis of all our financial woes, from economic collapse, to soaring debt, to unemployment as jobs are shipped to nations with no qualms about underpaying workers for their labor. Some part of us feels that "we've earned ours," even though earning theirs came at the expense of the labor and sweat and health of others. Some of us believe us to be a "Christian nation," even as we do completely un-Christian things.

We have lost our way.

We are told that the latest gadget will make us happy, and then are told the latest gadget has been surpassed, and we cannot be happy until we have the latest latest gadget. We are told we must "keep up with the Joneses," even as we cannot keep up with our bills. We were sold on the American dream of owning a home, little realizing that dream screened us from a nightmare of soaring costs and foreclosure. We are told we are the greatest nation on Earth, a bastion of liberty and freedom, while we are busy fighting unpopular and unproductive wars, terrorizing our own citizens when they fly, and watching our standing in math and science slip among the nations of the world. We are told we have the brightest minds, even as the reports show high school graduates have an incomplete knowledge of history, math, science, and English. We spend more money on professional sports than some states spend in a year.

We have lost our way.

Some in government tell us they will get it off our backs, even as they seek to insert it into a woman's uterus. Some in government tell us they will bring fiscal restraint, even as they vote in tax cuts for billionaires. Some in government tell us they will end our dependence on foreign oil, even as they weaken laws to govern environmental protection and fail to promote alternative energy sources. Some would have you believe bailing out Wall Street was wrong, even though the incipient collapse would have brought about a deep depression that would have made the recession seem pleasant. They tell us they know better, when they commit the same foibles as we do, only shielded by their importance as legislators.

We have lost our way.

What do we do? How do we stop the decline? How do we build jobs, put food in bellies, and light the fires in young minds? How do we stop others from attacking us without overwhelming military force? How do we control our budget, smooth out and streamline our government, and restore order to our country?

Simple... we roll up our sleeves and get to work. For too long, Americans have, by-and-large, left the driving to others, secure that everything was OK and that those who knew how to drive before were the best people to keep driving, even though they were perilously close to the edge of the cliff. We need to stop thinking that America can be run on autopilot, that we only have time to struggle through each day and support and raise our families. We have to stop believing automatically, everything politicians say to us, and start thinking for ourselves. We have to demand more accountability from those who run our governments, and our schools, and our military. We have to ensure that every America does have equal freedom and liberty under the law, and that these are not just flowery words written in fine script on parchment.

We have lost our way, but we can find the way out, if we all work together. For that is the essence of our nation -- a nation of individuals, each with their own freedom, working together for the common good. We rise as one, or fall as many -- the choice is ours.

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