If the weekend images of helicopters lifting Americans off yet another besieged embassy stirs memories and emotions you’ve worked for decades to suppress, you’re not alone. Those memories have nothing to do with the outdoors, but everything to do with how I see things today.
The images as the United States abandoned Saigon and Vietnam a half century ago are indelibly burned into my memory along the memories of friends who died there, and the disgusting treatment of the soldiers who survived the war, but were destroyed by the way they were treated at home.
Now, a new generation of American soldiers risks facing that same treatment.
The “leadership” of our country, including the armed forces, appear far more concerned with the “optics” of politics than honoring promises to another country that trusted us to bring them a better way of life- the opportunity to live free lives without oppression. The lives we’ve lived so long we’ve taken them for granted.
Our leaders have forgotten how to win anything but elections. And we’ve allowed them to exchange comfort for freedom.
Once upon a time, when the United States projected itself into the world, everyone knew we were there for two things: 1) unconditional victory, and, then, 2) the long haul. We removed despots, stopped aggression and rehabilitated infrastructure while freeing countries to choose their own futures.
If you doubt that, check out Europe and Asia following World War II. We didn’t just help our allies, we restored our former enemies. As I was told as a child: the United States doesn’t want to rule the world. If we did, we already would.
When our ancestors started jobs, they finished them. Not by sticking their collective finger in the wind to test public opinion, or their middle digit up to people who’d trusted them. They made the right choices -not the easy ones.
Today, we once again find ourselves head down and stammering our way through another half-baked explanation of why we’ve failed to complete another promised job.
We’re all tired of fighting, but my grandparents were tired of rationing, of gold stars in their windows and the dread that came whenever a telegram arrived.
But they finished what they started -every time, without fail.
And what of the thousands of soldiers who served in Afghanistan? How do we explain this to them?
What do I tell my friends who roll where they once walked, clamp what they once held, and use canes and dogs to navigate, all because of injuries they suffered?
They went because they believed. In this country. In our values. They believed it wrong to let evil win just because it was the easier, expedient choice.
So did their comrades who didn’t make it home. They left families to save strangers. What do we say to people who sent family members and got back a folded flag and shattered futures?
What do we say to them?
Don’t know about you, but hearing some political hack ask “why does that even matter anymore” won’t go down well.
We shouldn’t be ashamed, we should be embarrassed and angry.
Our government was designed to be of the people, not over them. That’s the government the despots once feared and others admired. That’s when the government kept its word because it knew we, the people, would hold them accountable.
We’ve fallen a long way off that lofty perch. And the rest of the world isn’t afraid to laugh at us as we circle our own drain. Because they know we’ll likely choose easy over right.
We’re headed toward another remedial history lesson, provided the social engineers can’t re-write it faster than we can repeat it.
We’re not perfect. We never were. We never will be. But we never shied away from making the right choice.
Now, we’re unable to make a choice based on anything other than expediency. Expedient choices are seldom the correct ones.
We all need to make good choices, not easy ones. They’re the only ones remembered long after a moment has passed.
In his Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln said the world would “little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”
He was mistaken in that modest assumption. But he was totally correct in the results he eloquently hoped for in so few words “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom- and that government of the people, by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Don’t know about you, but I’d like my country back. Not for me, my time’s nearly up. It’s for my grandchildren who are being told lies about our past in order to dictate a horrible future.
It’s not too late until we stop trying.
— Jim Shepherd