When I was a kid I put my hand on my heart and pledged allegiance to America. After making the gesture for years I studied the constitution and American history to find out why. Notions of freedom, of equality and the sense of feeling good about my country, not just for what that pledge stands for, but for what we do in the world, began to take shape.
I lived on a pink cloud for most of my life until two jets plowed into twin office towers which represent the backbone of capitalism. Instead of reacting with grace and dignity to an under-handed attack, America responded like a coiled rattle snake. Our government began to wantonly trample on everything that was good about the country, not only in the words they said, but in the things they do. We have become, in many respects, the very thing we despise. Human rights and civil rights count for little, sometimes nothing, as we desperately try to defend America.
I don’t feel proud of my country like I once did. You can’t put people in prison without the right to see an attorney, a judge or even let their family members know where they are and feel good about it, can you?
Cover of Papers, a story about undocumented immigrant youth seeking a chance at the American Dream
You can’t throw a generation of immigrants away, even though they were brought here through no fault of their own, and feel good about it, can you? We don’t force children to pay for the errors of their parents, nor would most of us ever get even with a parent by taking it out on their kids. How can I feel good about that? Let’s pass the Dream Act before more children are parted from their parents!
I don’t feel good about watching my elected representatives treat themselves to a massive unfunded tax cut knowing they will soon need to turn to the masses who have little or nothing and ask them to make sacrifices which will lead to a lower standard of living.
At least, if our leaders must be pigs about the way they consume tax breaks with a deficit out of control, couldn’t they take theirs last after seeing to it those who are suffering get something? The Republican “No Vote Pact” in Congress means the wealthiest people in the United States must feed their fat piggy banks before they will consider the masses struggling to feed their families and keep their homes out of foreclosure. It is an act of unbridaled selfishness far from the lofty principles of freedom and justice for all.
The hallmark of a leader is a person who is willing to sacrifice. Our greatest generals refused to sup on food more plentiful or better in quality than their troops were given. It is not that the food was unavailable, or that there was some urgency the general sacrifice so others could eat. Rather, the general knew he was setting the example. His troops would suffer more than he would during their hand to hand combat, of that he could be sure. But at the very least, he had made the gesture of suffering along with them.
There are many great leaders in our country, and we have a magnificent institution from which to lead from, the three branches of our government. The problem is, not many true leaders are matched to the great institution. What we have is a congress full of selfish, self seeking, spoiled brats who have no concept about what made America great. Our elected leaders can’t give to the masses because they don’t feel good about plundering the tax base.
I will always pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. But when I do, I want to feel that great sense of what it was to be an American, and what it could be again.
What counts is not what we say, but what we do. Our actions speak louder than words. My actions, as a writer, as an activist, as an advocate, will always be based in the notion of peaceful cajoling, and in some cases, peaceful resistance. Please join me as I learn about the power of the pen, as there is a great deal of work to do and not much time left if we hope to salvage the conscience of America.
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