I think there's a topic we all think about every now and then but rarely discuss with each other, and I believe this topic needs some attention. Where are we going as a country today?
The answer isn't simple and it varies from person to person, but I'll offer what I believe is going on with America. I was prompted to write this blog from a conversation my history professor and I had. He said "some people study the past so much they get stuck there, and then they begin to believe that the only good things are things that have passed."
His statement got me thinking about a lot of things. The first main theme I began to think about was the good things I wish we still had in this country.
SCRAP METAL AND GREASE
During World War II kids would walk around the streets and neighborhoods with their red ryder wagons, they were not playing, they were collecting scrap metal. Families were growing "Victory Gardens" in hopes of limiting the amount of goods bought to conserve on foodstuffs and supplies. Women put down the dishes, took off the aprons, and put on leather gloves, overalls, and welders masks and began making munitions and weaponry for their men abroad. When they cooked they would save their fats because the fats in left over kitchen grease can be used to make glycerin, a key component in bombs and explosives. Junkyards were overhalled and piles of metal were taken against the will of the owners to make equipment. People made do with old, bald, and worn tires to save on rubber production. The list goes on but the point I'm making is that during the war Americans did everything they could to conserve on everything possible. They did it not to save money (although it was a nice by-product), but they did these things as their patriotic duty. They saw it as their patriotic duty to pay taxes, buy war bonds, conserve, and go without.
WORKING AT TARGET
I used to be a cashier at Target and I began to get disgusted with people as I worked this job. I would scan items so people could buy them, and these were cartloads of items these people didn't need. Who needs a fashionable-looking toothbrush holder when a basic one could do? What about making one yourself, what happened to that? What happened to just sucking it up and putting your toothbrush in a holder or in a drawer? I got fed up with people who didn't seem to care that there was a war on and wives going on a spending binge always telling me very often "my husband is going to kill me." The women aren't just to blame, what about the guys buying all the electronics and clothes they know they'll never wear?
The point I'm trying to make is that I would behind my counter and scan items for people who bought things in this little world we all existed in, for just a moment, in which it seemed there was no such thing as world hunger or a war where people were dying every day. They'd buy their expensive crap they didn't need, pack it in their lexus or BMW vehicles (I lived in Southern California for a time), then drive off to their expensive town house or home and decorate it with their junk. So what am I getting at? Would I like us to be more conscience about the money we spend and the decisions we make? Yes, absolutely. Do I wish we had more concern about what was going on in the world? Yes of course.
I think we are so caught in our free-entreprise system that we forget that we are all in it together as one nation. There are still many patriotic Americans in this country, but I just wish there were many more. Maybe I'm a rare case, but I love my country more than I've ever loved anything in my life, including family, friends, and girlfriends. I love America to death, and I would face death to save her. I would face death if she asked it of me, and I would do so with others behind, next to, and in front of me. We have never been perfect, America does have many issues, but I believe in what we are doing as a country. I believe that we are, as President Reagan said, 'the last bastion of freedom' in this world. I believe in the American dream, I believe in it and think of it everyday. Start with nothing and through hard work, dedication, and raw assertion you can "be whatever you resolve to be by the grace of God." My grandmother came through Elis Island with her mother from England, then got dumped off in Brooklyn with $54 to their name with no connections whatsoever. They started with nothing and ended up with everything, and by everything I mean financial stability, something to be proud of, and family. Work hard, pay your dues, keep your eye on the prize, and keep your self and you will make it. That's what I believe in, and I just wish more Americans did too.
I think through the decades leading into the 21st Century we have lost some of our age-old American spirit of the "self-made man/woman." People are easily able to blame their own problems on other sources, sue people at the drop of a hat, and complain if things aren't exactly right to their liking. I'm not a fan of people believing that every little accomidation should be given to them in this world. I believe you must react to the world, not it to you. As I write this I know that there are many Americans that still believe that nothing is handed to them and that they don't deserve to think for even a second that the world revolves around them. They work hard, most especially when no one is watching, and they fight for every last penny to pay for the food or books or whatever they or their family needs to survive. Part of the American experience, in my opinion, should be hard. I believe we all need to have a point in our lives when we think it could not possibly get worse. I believe we all need to experience absolute Hell. I believe we need this because it will make us stronger and show us that the world is not sugar coated and happy all the time. As Winston Churchill said, 'when you're in hell, keep going.' It teaches us to push through. When you reach an obstacle, beat the hell out of it, shove it out of the way, kick it in the ass, or destroy it, but NEVER let it get in your way of achieving your dreams, whatever they may be. We have the right to pursue our happiness but we must supply our own ammunition in securing that right.
SO WHAT ABOUT IT?
I believe this country is still full of a lot of great Americans that are willing to put a lot on the line for the better of the country. I believe there are still millions of Americans with the "get it done" mindset, that don't have time for bickering or complaining and just get it done. I believe Americans are competitive people, in the words of General Patton we "don't tolerate a loser." If we want something we make it happen and don't care what people think, we just get it done. We have a natural distrust for anything acting in the "interest for our safety and happiness." As Americans we believe we have unalienable rights that nobody can take away. We believe we are doing good for the world and we believe we have the capacity and ability to WIN and do what's right. I believe these things, without a doubt. It's how I live. It's who I am.
I am suspicious of dramatic, quick change, yes I'll admit it. I do believe some things that are gone were good and should still be in place. I am also glad some themes from our past are dead and gone. I am glad a black man can sit at the same table I can at a bar or use the same drinking fountain I can. I am glad a woman can vote. Although I did not vote for our current President and I do not favor most of his decisions, I am enthralled and elated that we have reached the point where a black man can not only get the nomination for the US Presidency, but he can WIN. I am glad that we have more equality in this country than we have ever had at any point in our history. I am glad that not only do we talk the talk of "all men created equal," but we are more and more closer to walking the walk every day.
IN THE END
In the end, I am proud to be an American. I love my country and I may not agree with all the things happening within it but I realize that we have something unique here people. In this country we have what no other country has. We have such a diverse population with diverse culutral aspects, and I believe this diversity and equal appreciation is what makes us strong. It's why we do so well in the Olympics, it's why we are responsible for many uncountable influencial inventions, and it's why we don't give up. "Give me your poor, you're tired, and your weak" and we will provide the conditions for them to become anything. Yes, that is my country, and in the words of Daniel Webster "I was born and American, I shall live as an American, and I will die as an American!" I love this country so much and I ask that you do what you can to better it. No contribution is too small, no effort is pointless. I believe before we make our millions and start our American dream, we should give back to the country and its people that make it possible.
I urge you all to keep the fire burning. What was it you wanted to be when you were a kid? What did you want to do with your life? What do you want to do with your life? Who or what do you wish you could be? A job is not what we do, it's who we are. BE who you want to be. Don't put up with the norm, don't let life fly by with nothing to say for yourself. Don't be content with the usual, the mundane, and the simple. Be who you want to be and strive to better your situation. Live each day like you've got none left. I ask myself every night that if I passed away in the night, would I be content with my life so far? I have never answered "yes." Keep dreaming, keep living, but most importantly KEEP FIGHTING. God Bless America.