16 January 2007

America The Beautiful

It's so easy to get swallowed up with the doom and negativity, but once in a while I believe it's necessary to step back and take a good long look at this thing we call America, at what we believe in, and in what makes this country great. I'd like to take the opportunity to do so now.

I have traveled the world in the employ of Uncle Sam, and I have seen many places and things. I have seen the great Pyramids at Giza, and have gazed upon the Garden of Gesthemane. I have spied the wonders of ancient Rome and beheld the temples of ancient Greece. I have toured castles in France and towers in London. And after all my travels, my thoughts were always on this shining place, this place I call home, America.

America was born in bloodshed and rebellion, led by traitors to the English crown, and largely unsupported by the general populace who mostly wanted to be left alone to live their lives the way they saw fit. Thanks to those revolutionaries we have that chance, something that I'm sure their contemporaries failed to see at the time.

America's bid for independence came at a fortuitous time in world history. The British were mostly occupied by their ongoing struggle with France, and France was all too happy to lend a hand to the nascent American state, if for no other reason than to poke Britain in the eye. Otherwise engaged, Britain's attempt to hold it's American colonies was half-hearted at best, and when the struggle with the French was temporarily over and they could turn their full attention on the American problem the political situation in Britain was not supportive of the effort. So, the Americans were allowed to have their independence, and Britain was saved the time and treasure that would have been required to hold them while at the same time maintaining favorable trade relations with the new nation.

The war of 1812 was the Revolutionary War all over again as America protested the British impressment of American seamen during their build-up for yet another war with the French. Once more, preoccupied with the French, they had neither the time nor the inclination to deal with the Americans other than disabusing them of their intent to incorporate Canada into the new American union. American seamanship was proven to be effective on the high seas in single combat (the British Admiralty was forced to issue orders to British warships to avoid contact with American warships unless they had a numerically superior advantage in guns or ships), but they were less effective on the Great Lakes, and the Army was not yet the professional fighting force that the British were. That would soon change under the leadership of "Fuss and Feathers" Winfred Scott, and the American Navy would also grow into a premier seagoing power in the post war years under the professional guidance of Benjamin Stoddart.

As American military power matured and strengthened, so too did the desire of every American to live peaceably with his fellow man. There was more money to be made in trade than in warfare after all, and we had an entire continent to explore. And explore we did, until the American nation stretched from sea to shining sea. We did not seek greatness, but we did not turn away from the challenge when it was thrust upon us in the years following WW2 either. We strove in all things to show ourselves to be the best friend and the worst enemy that another nation could have. We have made our mistakes to be sure, but through it all we have maintained that which made us ourselves.

We have always given a nod to the European system, but maintained our own way of doing things. This is, I believe, our strength; that we would chart new territory and avoid the pitfalls of the past. It hasn't always worked out as we planned, but by and large I think it's the best possible thing we could have done. In my opinion we would be best served to continue along this path, eschewing the temptation to succumb to socialistic solutions to domestic ills. All over Europe at this time socialist systems are collapsing under their own great weight, and in this country the struggle is on between those who would try these same failed systems in this country and those who would oppose them, instead relying on American solutions to American problems.

Our rebellious Founding Fathers believed that we could forge a new nation out of the fire and smoke of bloodshed and rebellion, and they were right. They believed that the essential desire of every man was to know the sweet taste of freedom, and they were right. They believed that to make a man truly free, it was necessary to make him responsible for his own future and his own well being, and they were right. Fortune favors the bold, the saying goes, and in America we have been blessed to have the very boldest. We have had those bold men because we have had the system that allows boldness, where success is rewarded handsomely and the prize is available to all who believe in themselves.

Not for the weak or indecisive is America, opportunity knocks but it won't break the door in. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, we say, and here the words are not just empty platitudes but plain fact. Winners never quit, and quitters never win, if you don't play you can't win, the only way to fail is to not try. Slogans of a huckster, but also the instincts of a free soul.

America has touched the world, not so much with it's military might (although that has been international as well) as with it's economic engine, and for almost a century now the world's economy has hinged upon our own. Harley Davidson and Coca Cola are international symbols, uniquely American but recognized worldwide. One day we may very well look back and say, ah those were the good old days, but for now American knowledge and American ingenuity leads the way. We may not come up with all the ideas, but we are very good at turning ideas into glass and steel. We excel at taking ideas and making them work.

We did not invent the idea of an airplane, we made it work. We did not invent the idea of a motorcar, we made it work, and at a price affordable to the common man. We did not invent railroads or steam locomotives, we made them work to pull the train of innovation. Many of our best ideas and inventors have come from overseas, seeking the clean air of a free market, and they found it here. Names like Tesla and Sikorsky have found (and sometimes lost) fame and fortune here, men who came from other countries but made America their own.

I believe that the America of that glorious past still lives today. Scratch her tarnished surface and you still find the gleam of pure gold. Here, in this place, you can do and be anything that you have the courage and conviction to be. Here, in this place, a poor boy from a broken home can rise to be President and leader of the free world. Here, in this place, a man can work from poverty to riches on the fruit of his labor, on the strength of his ideals, and on the merit of his abilities. It doesn't matter, here, in this place, who you were born or where you started, you are the master of your own destiny and the captain of your own ship of fate. Here, in this place, anything is possible.

That is what America means to me.

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