Hearts at Half Mast
22 September, 2005
Just this week, I was driving down the road looking around me like I normally do whenever I'm out and about. I always glance over at our country's flag when I pass by the post office, the car dealership, or my child's school. The flag catches my eye more often than it ever used to because as I get older, I do a lot of regular thinking about our country and what it means to be an American.
Just the other day I surprisingly noticed one flag quietly hovering at the top of the flag pole but today they are all at half-mast again. It seems like in recent years, our flags have flown at half-mast more than I ever remember. I am now so used to seeing our flags flying at half-mast daily that it seems commonplace. It's such a contrast from my youth when that display was a rare sight.
It started me thinking about Kris Eggle, that brave young American soul who too soon left everyone and everything he loved. He loved our country so much that on a daily basis, he gave his labor and life preserving our soil. Eventually he was murdered for it. His life ended forever - frozen at half-mast in 2002. He was not a child and yet his manhood still lay before him, unfinished, unfolded, and unfulfilled... almost just like an unfurled flag. I know that for Kris's family, they will never be utterly whole again either. Their lives also are forever caught at half-mast -- no matter what day it is on the calendar.
Then my mind wandered on down its mental road like it often does, one thought following another like footsteps down a hallway. Due to its recent anniversary, I thought about the September 11th victims and their surviving loved ones. What condition did our country degenerate to that such an act even became possible? I am not shocked by an arrogant act of terrorism against the United States; we've been a target before and will continue to be again. Like Pearl Harbor in 1941, the 9/11 attack was so devastating because of its enormous surprise. But unlike in 1941, the 9/11 attack was from within instead of without.
Should we have been so surprised? Only over the fact that it hadn't happened sooner.
While the mostly preventable 9/11 tragedy left a permanent hole in our skyline, it also left searing holes in the hearts and lives of Americans everywhere, especially loved ones who spent precious last minutes on cell phones holding out agonizing hope. Bumper stickers on cars still read, "NEVER FORGET" but four years later, it looks to me like most everyone's moving on. Everyone except perhaps those survivors whose hearts will be at half-mast forever.
Maybe moving on is what Americans do best.
The biggest hole 9/11 left was a glaring one magnified in American society. Our country's borders, immigration policies, law enforcement and collective backbone have deteriorated to a point where no one blinks an eye at the overwhelming foreign influx upon our soil.
Thinking back, the country of my youth had a mandatory pledge of allegiance to our flag every single day in the classroom -- not divided loyalties, not multiple languages, not english-as-a-second-language and certainly not every nation's flag hanging in the lunchroom. The country of my youth had pride in its history and strength and nearly every able-bodied, willing American didn't hesistate to exercise it either through an honest day's work or military service.
Today our government turns a blind eye while millions of illegal aliens relentlessly violate our borders. Today our government allows religious groups to greedily snap up charity monies from hauling in massive amounts of foreign refugees who then dump them on unsuspecting cities around the United States. Then Uncle Sam generously rewards new residents with handouts of: "state assistance," social security, medical aid and other taxpayer monies to boost their "dignity" rather than expecting them to earn it legitimately.
Nowadays membership at a country club costs more than United States citizenship. You probably have to jump through more hoops to join the country club too.
All of this occurs daily on a frightening scale without even so much as a "yay" or "nay" from taxpayers who are forced to underwrite every penny of it.
Still driving down the road, I continued reflecting on America and its losses over the years, about our U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. No matter how passionate Americans are about the politics of war, everyone mourns the tragic and ongoing loss of young Americans overseas. Some, like myself, question the expenditure of American lives abroad while it's painfully obvious that the government who sends them favors securing foreign borders before fortifying American borders first. The senselessness of it all adds up to more solemn flags at half-mast, more broken hearts, and more neatly folded flags presented to families in Arlington cemetery saying goodbye.
Over time, there have been other passings lowering our flags like never before, but such losses while lamentable, were not necessarily a barometer of the quality of American life and future. Some losses, such as the space shuttle tragedies, were incidental results of noble, calculated and educated science risks. Such grief inspired our country onward in development and dedication to investigation and space research in memory of those lost to us. American flags flew at half-mast to honor our space pioneers.
In the America of my youth, a sorrowful tragedy fueled a fire that forged an even stronger, more determined commitment to our nation's future. But no longer.
Today our government hacks the knees out from under our country by allowing middle-class outsourcing of jobs that represent the very backbone of American society. It allows the importation of poverty without addressing existing poverty and climbing deficits in our own backyard. The current philososphy seems to be "Never mind the "half-starved" American survivors in the U.S. lifeboat, we need MORE starving foreigners to capsize the lifeboat altogether."
To say I'm disappointed in our country's path and future is an understatement. It's a feeling closer to grief, I'm grieved over the decline and decay of my country. Of OUR country.
Maybe it was just childish naivete but I once thought I would grow up and raise my children in the same country of my youth. Yes I understand the "You-can-never-go-home-again" platitude but the problem with that proverb is that I never left. It feels more like my country left me.
We live in a country where corporate greed is more important than "truth, justice and the American way." Heck, now greed IS "the American way," and truth and justice are left in the dust to hitch a ride if they can find one.
Garnering votes for election (or re-election) is more of a priority than fulfilling the sworn oath to "protect and to serve" the United States of America. Passing toothless laws without intention of enforcement is just another day in the American arena. After all, we worry that someone might object. Someone's feelings might be hurt because it could be misconstrued as "intolerant" to actually enforce our laws.
Lastly, my thoughts traveled to the fallout from the devastation of hurricane Katrina. American flags fly at half-mast for those missing and not yet recovered, for those homeless and not yet rebounded, and for those dead and never rescued. It's not shocking that a single hurricane can wreak such devastation and carnage. But it is more than disheartening to realize that little by little, our government and its representatives are abandoning us "the people," leaving Americans unprotected to fend for ourselves while it primarily busies itself with unAmerican priorities.
The country of my youth would be sorely disappointed in my present country right now. It probably wouldn't recognize itself.
After all, what kind of country places the freedoms and rights of foreigners above those of its own citizens? What kind of country enslaves its own until "share the wealth" becomes "share the poverty?" A country bent on suicide if you ask me. It's difficult to watch the once-greatest nation in the world buckle to its own insecurities when it used to rise and shine above them.
My present country kicks aside the bedrock of its own citizenry in its rush to ingratiate itself upon the doorstep of foreign interests. It all leaves me to wonder about a government established "by the people, for the people" -- exactly what "people" would that be anyhow? The American people living here legally, paying taxes, and obeying the laws, or the incoming noncitizens showered with special allotments and exceptions to get ahead? And anyway, why are they allowed to get ahead of the rest of us who have faithfully been here all along working hard and subsidizing their existence?
America - my present country - needs more than intentions, more than promises, and more than good will toward men. Until then, my personal hopes for my present country fly at half mast, along with my heart.
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