I'll be 45 years old in a few days. With my wife asleep on the couch and the kids scattered around town and home doing their own things, I wandered out onto the deck an hour ago to take a quick inventory of my life.
It's easy, as one gets older, to feel sorry for himself. Well, maybe it's not feeling sorry for oneself as much as regretting some of the decisions we've made. That lasted about five seconds.
I looked up through a couple of holes in the clouds that have covered St. Louis since yesterday and saw the brightest damn stars set against blue-black midnight sky. That self-pity and self-recrimination faded in a second a second. Instead of missed opportunities and bad decisions, in that star I saw eternal hope; in the heavens behind it, boundless opportunity.
The greatest discoveries and finest inventions of my lifetime are not behind me--they're somewhere before me. The greatest moments in American history didn't happen in a history book I read in grade school, but are gestating inside the minds and hearts of my sons and daughter. That star is our future, and the field on which it shines a stage.
Now, a lot of wondrous things have happened in my life. We "broke the surly bonds of earth" to explore space, the moon, and Mars. We put computers in every home connected by a global internetwork. We have cell phones that put us in communication with anyone, anywhere, anytime. And that's just a few technological achievements.
In my lifetime, we've wiped out diseases and gained the upper hand on many others. We've knocked back evil communism to a containable few square miles here and there. We've deposed despots, as Americans have for centuries, and we've managed to do it without become despots ourselves.
Still, we've only scratched the surface of our potential.
For most of my life, these accomplishments and the ones that came before them and made them possible, relied on only about 30 percent of the American population. Women and blacks comprised 61percent of the US population most of life, and most of my life we ignored their potential contributions. Add in Hispanics and immigrants from other countries, and the population allowed to contribute to our greatness was even smaller.
Some look at the fact of our past stupidity and say it proves us weak. I look at our accomplishments despite such shortcomings and say it proves us great. In this century, we can accomplish 60 percent more than we did in the last without working any harder. If we can put a man on the moon and cure polio with white men, imagine what we can do with the whole population.
But we might not accomplish much more.
There are some in our society who think America is a drain on the world, an insult to God and nature, a blight on world history. These people look into the midnight sky and see the stars as weapons aimed on our heads for our misdeeds. Where I see hope, they see guilt. Where I see opportunity, they see curses. Where I see joy, they see avarice.
These people support Barack Obama.
The hope Obama speaks of isn't hope at all. It's bondage. It's bondage to the failed ideologies that we put down in the Cold War. It's the failed and feeble idea that most people are incapable of making good decisions and doing the right thing. It's a corollary belief that the few with intelligence and good judgment are corrupt and use their smarts to take advantage of the rest.
I utterly refute this notion.
If the world is divided into feeble-minded saints and intelligent crooks, then who among us is fit to protect the one from the other? If cognitive agility must manifest itself as cheating and stealing, then the do-gooders are either too stupid to achieve their noble ends or phonies feigning virtue to fool the masses.
In other words, if Barack Obama is right, then Barack Obama must be wrong or stupid.
I've had this problem with liberalism since I was about 10 years old. They always want to protect us from some possible danger, and they always want us to cede a bit of our freedom to them. They want us to believe that only they can protect us from the nameless forces that wish us harm. And if we'll give them our power, they'll use it for good.
So we gave them the New Deal and the Great Society and Medicare, Medicaid, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the minimum wage, food stamps, and countless other financial freedoms, yet they tell us that poverty and disease are worse now than ever before. How could that be?
We gave them Détente and surrendered Vietnam, but the Soviet Union just marched on to Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. How could that be? The liberals promised that if we stopped shooting the commies, they'd retreat.
The liberals were wrong.
But we had a president who said, "enough!" He stood at the Brandenburg Gate and demanded that it be opened. And it was. He stood before Congress and demanded it give back to the people some of the power the people had ceded in good faith. And Congress obeyed. He stood before the American people and said, "I believe in you," and his faith was vindicated a thousand times over in the next 15 years.
We seem to have lost some of the magic that president gave us. We seem, once again, to be questioning the virtue and wonder of this shining city on a hill. Many of us seem very willing--almost eager--to surrender ourselves to some despot who promises to use OUR power, OUR rights, OUR strengths on our behalf.
Don't be that lazy or cowardly. Only a coward would cede his God-given rights to some scrawny wimp egghead to use, supposedly, on our behalf. We are Americans. We take care of ourselves and of the world around us. We don't need government to protect us from the unnamed, unseen enemies who might harm us. We need government only to protect us from the enemies WITH names and faces. We'll take care of the rest ourselves.
P.S. If I plagiarized Ronald Reagan in this post, I apologize. I think Ronnie would forgive me.