When the national anthem is sung, I place my hand over my heart. I didn’t always. But I’m old enough now to appreciate, to be grateful for, what being an American citizen has afforded me.
If I wish, I can own a firearm. I can assemble peaceably with others. I can criticize the government. I can practice a religion — or not — without governmental dictation. The Constitution protects me from unreasonable search and seizure (Patriot Act not withstanding). When I was a journalist, the government could not abridge the freedom of my press. I can own property. I can depend on contracts being enforced. I have more constitutionally guaranteed rights as an American than any citizen of any other country.
Yes, I have duties as well. I must pay taxes for the general welfare and the common defense. I must be willing (and able) to stand in judgment of a citizen charged with a crime by the government. I ought to be sufficiently knowledgeable and intelligent to vote wisely.
I love my country. Most of us do. But I no longer have faith that my elected leaders love it as much as they love power and the ability to demean those they oppose. I don’t like, respect, or trust my elected leaders any more, and their public personae and political actions show they don’t give a damn about me in any way beyond my ability to cast a vote.
Our national political leaders now have little in common with me. On average, each is worth millions of dollars. Membership in Congress for many is a lifelong sinecure with a government compensation more than six times Americans’ per-capita income. I can only envy political leaders’ health care and retirement benefits.
When our elected political leaders return to their districts each weekend, they have little interest in listening to me; I cannot afford the level of campaign contributions that catches their attention. Their district “town meetings” are scripted affronts to the dignity of their office.
Their common cry — We’re here to do the business of the American people — is a platitude rather a meaningful practice. That’s because, it seems, they are at war with each other — but none will endure the cost of the conflict as much as those they nominally represent. Unlike political leaders of times past, they do not respect, trust, or even like each other. Commitment to eternal fundraising trumps constructing collegial, legislatively fruitful friendships.
This generation of national political leaders has not learned to deliberate wisely or thoughtfully. The Congress they inhabit is a model of rancor for selfish children to emulate.
Many of our national political leaders have placed a pledge to prevent tax increases above their oath of office — or their pledge of allegiance to the nation. How can one issue trump their obligations to so many others?
None should survive the next national election. Re-election should be stricken from their vocabulary. They should be cast out as they have tossed aside their concern for you and me.
But that won’t happen. Not in my lifetime. So much power enabled by so much money, much hidden from our view, will keep them right where they are.
I love my country. But I detest what these powerful men and women, liberal and conservative alike, have done to her — and us.