As a retiree who is enjoying his twilight years — if that downhill side of life can be deemed idyllic — I have a lot of time on my hands. Having little interest in creative hobbies, i.e. watercolors, stamp or coin collecting, scrapbooking or taking naps, I find myself instead watching, listening to and reading the opinions of others provided by the normal media outlets.
Were I member of “the glass is half empty” genre into which an overwhelming majority who contact talk radio, television or the print media appear to fall, it just might cause me to wonder if America is actually the land of opportunity and freedom I have always believed it to be. The bulk of the opinions, whether voiced or written, feature a definite commonality — they tend to be negative, nonobjective and uncivil to the point that courtesy and tolerance no longer seem relevant.
Irrespective of political persuasion, these topics span a wide range of issues featuring negative opinions on virtually every subject imaginable. From among these, I have selected the three themes which best illustrate that, while assuming the worst case scenario is unarguably easier and more satisfying to the habitually disenchanted, it is hardly reflective of the truth.
The themes I see voiced most often and with the least means of supporting evidence are:
n The declaration that our rights and freedoms to speech and privacy have been systematically taken.
n The middle class is all but gone because the economy is tilted so in favor of the rich and the powerful.
n The United States has so fallen in prestige and honor in the world we should be ashamed of being Americans.
The first allegation is by far the simplest to debunk. With the possible exception of convicted felons, I have yet to find anyone whose freedoms have been curtailed in any way. In fact, the opposite is true as evidenced by the unending and shrill outpouring of criticisms aimed at both state and federal governments. To those who feel uncomfortable with the electronic surveillance of overseas communication, I offer two solutions — refrain from phoning terrorists or don an aluminum foil helmet as protection from the black helicopter conspirators.
To those who have declared the middle class an endangered species, apparently thou hast eyes but seest not. If that is an established fact as many seem to believe, then just who are the owners of all the late model automobiles, trucks and SUVs that fill not only the streets but also the parking lots of supermarkets, malls, entertainment mediums and restaurants, bar and grills here and across the nation? It should be obvious, even to the most pessimistic among us, that it is not just millionaires who are able to afford the necessities and luxuries of life.
Finally, I refuse categorically to apologize or express any shame for being an American. The anti-United States rhetoric emanating from foreign shores is neither new nor substantive, rather it is a product of both envy and an increasingly hostile and overly dramatic overseas press. Public opinion everywhere is both influenced and molded by the press, abroad as well as at home, and the negative sells far more papers than does the positive. Factor in the daily negativity of, say the New York Times, and one will approximate the tenor of the foreign press.
America is certainly not perfect nor can it be expected to achieve that perfection; nevertheless, we must be doing something right — else, why are peoples from all over the globe lining up as legitimate emigrants or crossing the borders illegally for freedom of opportunity? One doesn’t see that happening in the lands of our most vociferous critics.
All in all, I believe most of us are proud to identify as Americans. For the few who are not, they are to be pitied.
Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.