A man pulled up to his driveway after working a long day and sighed as he removed the keys from the ignition. Exhausted by the day to day routine, he reminisced, acknowledged his two jobs, fifty hour work week and wondered about what his efforts were leading towards. After some contemplation he stepped out of his truck and remarked “it’s the American way I guess.”
The American way is a phrase that has become cliche. Most everybody has used it at one point or another, but does anybody really know what it means? What is the American way? Is it working overtime in order to pay for the mortgage? Is it driving an SUV around town to soccer practice or the grocery store? Does it entail selling someone on a ponzi scheme to get rich or is it doing whatever it takes to scrape by and put food on the table?
The American way while ambiguous, seems less about taking care of each other and more so about taking care of ourselves. Citizens in every neighborhood across this country have lost sight of civic responsibility and President Kennedy’s plea to “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
During the Vietnam War, there was a generation filled with those who fought and those who protested. There was an equal place for both hawk and dove as both represented a country that while divided, stood to support varying belief systems. Today, there are no such protesters who care enough to picket or oppose war. There are instead millions of Americans more concerned with shopping lists and stocking stuffers. The few chances these people have to make a difference, they overwhelmingly blow it off. How many times this Holiday season have you walked past the man standing out in the freezing cold ringing the salvation Army bell? What did he ask for, just some spare change right?
This year there was little discussion about how to defeat the Taliban and bring the US Soldier home. Any conversation that existed, didn’t leave the dinner tables or political debate podiums. No action was taken on the streets, few letters were mailed to our elected representatives and those that were mailed were most likely from family members who lost a loves one. Yet with little fanfare, the shift in direction from Iraq to Afghanistan happened before our very eyes and who knew it happened? Who knew that the President increased troop strength to 30,000 or that by August 31, 2010 he will have pulled out all combat troops from Iraq Completely? Who cares right? Christmas is just around the corner...not for our Soldiers.
For the American Soldier miles away from his or her hometown, December 25th will be another patrol through Helmand or Khandahar preventing the Taliban from gaining ground. It might be a holiday greeting card from a world away and a care package later. For the rest of us we’ll drink egg nog and see friends and family. We’ll go to church and sing Christmas Carol’s with verses like “peace on earth.”
Looking back at 2009, Americans weren’t interested that the wars overseas had gone seven years. For the 4th of July, we were enamored by the death of Michael Jackson. During thanksgiving we all talked about Tiger Woods. For Christmas why should we expect anyone to care about anything other than Bowl games and what’s under the Christmas tree? Why would anyone care about the troops overseas spending their holiday away from family? It wouldn’t be the “American way” that we have come to embrace and embody.
If I haven’t said it before, the war in Afghanistan is very, very personal to me. I hope one day that I can look back and say that I made some small sacrifice or contribution in making the world a better and safer place. I hope to one day look in the mirror and be proud that I stood for something. For now, I’ll have to settle for writing this blog with the hope that someone out there will hear this call to action. To those who read this, I urge you to take a stand for something that you believe in. I know 307 US service members in Afghanistan who did just that this year.