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ďRemember, a heart is not judged by how much you are loved, but how much you are loved by othersĒ the Wizard of Oz told the Tin Woodsman.
Is that what this country has become by allowing democracy to be determined by the polls? Is that what has happened to this country when we are so consumed by what people think, that we donít even look at whoís saying what to whom?
I canít believe how little some of our young people know about whatís happening in the world. I talk to my sons about the moral decay in our country and how when I was in college we, and most of you know who we are, took a stand in college. There was a lot going on in the sixties. There were peaceful demonstrations concerning civil rights. Sit-ins did not involve going to the local ĎBarnes and Noblesí and having a cafe latte. Sit-ins involved making statements. We made statements about decisions that affected our lives that no one had consulted us about. When many of us were demonstrating about the atrocities occurring thousands of miles away from home, we were old enough to die for our country, but not old enough to vote. Back then we had the draft, our country made sure we realized freedom was not free.
Sometimes itís a blinding case of the obvious that makes us realize why whatís going on across the Atlantic, in places like the Sudan which had ethnic cleansing just like Kosovo. But these atrocities are not as important on colleges today as it was to our families over 30 years ago. College kids today donít have a draft, so why would the kids in schools be even concerned? And because they are not it tells me that we as their parents have not taken the time to relate how important it was for us to take a stand, and what that means. And it matures one. For most of us, our parents were a part of the greatest generation. Our parent did not question loyalty to country. Burning draft cards, and in some cases flags, did not endear many of us college kids in the eyes of our parents. That was something our parents would never have done. The double standard that resulted in some sons dying while others were deferred brought the war in our home as some found loopholes to get out of serving their country. To a degree, that began to destroy what our parents believed. We began to cheat. And some of us passed that on.
I was fortunate. Initially deferred because of college, my high lottery number excluded me from Vietnam. But even after college, I bore the burden of freedom as I volunteered and served my country for 20 proud years. Vietnam was over, but I didnít avoid Vietnam, as I am still swept up by the emotional trauma our country went through each time I visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington or talk to some of my friends who were there. It was more than a movie like ĎPlatoon,í ĎComing Home,í or ĎApocalypse Now.í Much of that emotion and passion came from the young people who died needlessly.
I canít say I fully understand the nature of whatís going on in Afghanistan; I understand the value of life. But more than my lack of understanding about what maybe happening half a world away, Iím concerned about whatís happening in our country, in our schools, on our streets, in the hallowed halls of Congress. Iím concerned about the lack of leadership I see in neighborhoods, communities and schools. I donít understand how we allow polls to rule us; allow our consciousness to be hidden by a concern about what our neighbors think of us or what our kids will think of us. Itís wrong and itís morally bankrupting our country.
When we let polls decide whatís right or wrong, invariably it is the easier conflict thatís resolved rather than the truth we all agree with. We know whatís right. We know we want our kids to be good kids. But when we refuse to tell them no; refuse to admonish them for the clothes they wear, the way they might disrespect older people by calling them by their first namesÖwhen we start accepting things we know are wrong simply because we want to be liked, we are just as aberrant as the polls we know are lying. Where are our leaders? Our icons? Who will guide us, the flower children, hippies and spoiled boomers who are still working because we didnít plan for our parents to not be there when we reached retirement age?
Iím just a dad struggling. I try to pick my sonsí friends, but Iím reminded of some of the friends I ran with. I try to tell my sons what movies they should watch, or books they should read, then I remember what movies Iíve watched, what books Iíve read, and I hesitate at forecasting their futures based on a past I wouldnít want plastered as a major headline. But do I stop?!! Do I give in?!!!.
No, I love my sons, so I stand firm. When they get to be my age, then they too can reminisce about the mistakes they made, but not about their dad failing to enforce a passionate belief that prayer in schools is not the answers. More teachers are not the answers. A better president is not the answer. The answer is t-i-m-e with our kids and our families. We may not be loved for the decisions we have to make, but will we be proud of a government ruled by men or by laws? A country bogged down with litigation or polls? I think we dads are the rule experts and know the answer there. God chose you to be the parent of your children because no one else could do that job.
So if you have a son or daughter in college, and they seem unconcerned about whatís happening in the world, ask them, what would they do if they were drafted tomorrow?
Challenge them to speak now, before itís too late. And for those who have died fighting someone elseís war, unfortunately itís already too late for them, but itís not too late for the war we must win at home. And we do it by acknowledging it, mounting an offensive that will leave the country half as good as our parents did as they parented us to the people we are todayÖI hope proud Americans.