by CJ Clark, Featured Contributor
WALKING ALONG the seashore, watching the foam wash up with the tide, my mind kept singing “God Bless America.” From the mountains, to the prairies, to the ocean white with foam….I’m not sure I ever really thought about those words until I watched the foam linger on the sand while the water receded.
I thought about how much we really do have in America. We have our choice of cities or rolling farms, of tropical sun or of snowy mountains. We can move from place to place freely, and we can speak our mind. We can pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and make something of our lives.
When did we have to start apologizing for what we had?
There used to be a draw to people coming to America with the dream of having a good life. They came to work, to raise their family and to find a better life. They kept their own national identity, but they gladly, over time, became Americans.
Working and providing for a family was a responsibility. There were no options to feed a family without either farming or bringing home a paycheck. When someone had a stroke of hard luck, their friends and family picked them up until they could get back on their feet.
What we have in this country came from hard work, for the most part. Yes, we have our share of people who luck into the good life, but we also have a lot of people who work very hard.
Why must I apologize for what I have?
A few months ago, I wrote about the “divided states of America,” which generated quite a bit of dialogue here and on LinkedIn. One commenter in particular has stayed with me, and I think about his words often. He very passionately tried to tell me that the black man in America is not free and that he is targeted by law enforcement without provocation. This was shortly after Ferguson MO.
I really want to understand this. I do. I don’t like it that someone in our wonderful, free country does not feel free. So I think about it. A lot.
But what I keep coming back to is that we are free. We are all free to make choices to behave according to the laws of the land. We are free to challenge the laws through peaceful means. We are free to protest when something seems amiss.
We are not free to break the laws.
We are not free to hurt others.
And if history causes bias to develop, we have the choice to change that history by changing behavior.
We are carrying a lot of baggage.
We are carrying the baggage of a culture that has allowed itself to be associated with crime, rather than consciously disassociating itself and teaching its youth to work hard. The sad part is that it really is only a few who perpetuate this image.
We carry the burden of poverty, but we do exactly what every social science says we should not do – we enable. We allow people to live off the government and not work, because the government provides more than a salary might provide. The number of folks we are enabling is growing faster and faster.
We carry the burden of demanding more, without giving more. I take serious issue with someone flipping burgers at $15/hour making significantly more than a soldier who puts his life on the line for our freedom.
We carry the enormous burden of complacency. We have become so comfortable that we take what we have for granted, and expect that it will continue ad infinitum.
America is not perfect, nor have we ever claimed to be so. We are, however, blessed with freedom, and a government that has been established to protect that freedom.
Ironically, protecting our freedom means exhibiting our strength. It is only when confronted with strength that the bully backs down. But strength seems to be one of those things we have to apologize for. Why?
I am tired of apologizing. I am tired of keeping my mouth shut because what I say may offend someone else. I don’t see others worrying about offending me, as they belittle me, apologize for me and call me names.
If this country isn’t working for you, you have a choice. You can work within the law of the land to make change, or you can find somewhere that more closely fits your need.
Ah, but there’s the rub. There is no other place like this. We have something special and we need to sit up and take notice. Let’s stop apologizing for our strength, our bounty and our freedom. It’s why people come to this country, but it is up to us to stay strong and free.