The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It


Baseball may be the “National Pass Time” but the minds and hearts of most Americans turns to football when that sport enjoys its season in the sun.

I don’t know if whoever scheduled the final debate, realizing that the subject matter of foreign policy was ho-hum to most Americans, didn’t feel there was a problem pitting it against the more important event of Monday Night Football (Bears vs. Lions).  But kudos to them.  The debate was rather hum drum and neither candidate did much to inform those of us who watched.

In the end, I think that I would give a small edge in delivery, if not substance, to President Obama.  But that might be “damning with faint praise.”  I say that because, by virtue of his office, the President ought to be far better versed on foreign policy than his opponent.  He has had four years to learn about the subject.

Governor Romney had obviously studied up on the subject and was fluent in mentioning hotspots around the world and opportunities which the Obama administration might have muffed.  He also had either learned or just enjoyed using the word “tumult” – at least three times that I counted – but I might have missed one or more.  Hey, I like tumult as well as the next person – the word that is – but enough is enough.

Foreign affairs is certainly an important subject – particularly if you’re having one with a visitor from overseas – but it is not going to be the reason anyone decides to vote for either of these men.  What it is all going to boil down to is the poor economy, the record high numbers of the unemployed and who has a better vision for how to get us off the side track on which we find ourselves with Railroad Obama.

There was one point that was made or implied by both candidates that I thought was totally overlooked by the political commentators who parsed the debate after its conclusion.  “That America is the moral leader of the world and that we have not only the right but the responsibility to share our vision of social and economic prosperity with those who are less fortunate.”

When I was a child of about eight it suddenly dawned on me that I was so incredibly lucky to have been born in the greatest country in the world.  You may be amused to learn the cause for this insight.  It was stamp collecting.

My parents had bought me a moderate-sized world stamp album and a number of packets of cancelled stamps containing issues from the U. S. and foreign countries.  They had also bought me a “U. S. Scott’s Postage Stamp Catalogue”, listing all the stamps which had been issued to date by the Postal Service.

I thumbed through the Scott’s catalog which provided my first introduction to the Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1892-1893; the Presidential Stamps of 1938 which featured the busts of 31 of our former Presidents; the National Parks issues which extolled Teddy Roosevelt’s vision in establishing the National Park system and setting aside land to conserve the pristine beauty of America for the protection of wildlife and so future generations would be able to enjoy them.

The United States had issued stamps commemorating the plight of the “Overrun Nations”, eleven of which were brought under the Nazi yoke during the Second World War and the final one commemorating Korea.

And there were stamps which commemorated the American experience in honoring the Louisiana Purchase and a series that celebrated the achievements of American authors, poets, educators, scientists, composers, artists and inventors; and so many more which told the story of the country of which I was so proud to be a young citizen.

I did not have a world stamp catalog but I did have my album.  There was something startling that I noticed, even at my young age, as I looked at the images over which I would place the  appropriate stamp if I should ever be lucky enough to acquire it.

The stamps which the United States had issued contained so many different subjects.  Those which other nations issued typically featured only one image – that being the face of the political leader who headed up the government

That was true for World War II Germany, with images of Adolph Hitler; for Iran (then called Persia) whose stamps bore a portrait of the Shah; for our ally the United Kingdom (and its Commonwealth States) with images of the King or Queen who was then reigning; Chinese stamps bore the portrait of Sun-yat-sen and Siamese stamps bore images of the King.

It was then that I realized why I was lucky to be an American.

While I could never be the ruling monarch of any country in the world where that institution still existed, I could, if I worked hard and had the talent, be one of those authors or poets or educators or scientists or composers or artists or inventors whom we had honored on our postage stamps.

It was that promise of opportunity that prompted hundreds of thousands to immigrate to America and sail into New York harbor under the beckoning torch of Lady Liberty, her lamp, a symbolic beacon of the brightest light that has shone throughout human history.

I had been born in a nation founded on principle and the rule of equal law for all its citizens, a country which came to the defense of our friends in both the First and Second World Wars.  Our generous people provided the lives of so many of our sons and when the conflicts were over we provided help in rebuilding the countries of both our friends and those who had been our enemies.  And by virtue of our acts of generosity, we earned the right to be the moral leader of the world – and the nations of the world respected us less because of what we said than because of what we did.

And we did a lot.

We enjoyed living in the most prosperous nation on earth.  We enjoyed having the best educational system in the world.  We enjoyed a healthcare system that was second to none.  We enjoyed the freedom to be whatever we desired to be – a freedom that is denied to the female population of many countries today.  We enjoyed material comforts that were the envy of others in less developed countries and were never imagined by the poor in yet more backward ones.

I am sad to say that the spirit and the hope which built America has been replaced by the dark shroud of selfishness and envy.  So many of us have given up the dream that each of us can be anything we choose with the belief that some who have been successful have no right to their achievements.  Rather than seeing them as inspirations for the rest of us, we view them as fiends and covet what they have attained, believing we have a right to share in the fruits of their labors although we have invested none of our own effort in what they built.

In essence, we have found excuses for our own failings and are content to wallow in a whining self-pity.  This plays well to our fellow under-achievers – and it is a drama which the rest of the world is viewing – with passionate interest.

People in foreign countries who have benefited from our generosity and friendship in the past must be shaking their heads in disappointment and disbelief.  And those who would do us harm are licking their chops in anticipation, realizing the truth of President Lincoln’s statement that, “A house divided will not stand.”

This is not the America in which I grew up and of which I was so proud.

If we are to resume our unquestioned role as the world’s leader, we must first set our own affairs in order.  We must put aside the rhetoric which has unfortunately dominated this campaign.  We must stop speaking of “Me” and “Them” and start using that unifying word, “US”.

I believe that those who are more fortunate have a responsibility to assist those who have less than they.  But those whom they help have the responsibility to accept that assistance, using it to improve their own situations through work and effort.  It’s an old concept called “work ethic” and it was that concept that built this country.  If we do not return to it, we will pass, as have so many nations, into the annals of history as yet another country that had its moment in time but lost its way and faded into obscurity.

I believe that Mr. Romney attempted to make that point during the debate.  Had he done so more clearly I would have given him a decisive win in the engagement.

Lacking that, I’d basically call the debate a non-event.  But for those of you who had the foresight to expect that and turned your attention to football instead, I can say with certainty that Da Bears beat Detroit by a score of 13-7.

But then you already knew that.


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