A self-described patriotic friend recently sent me a letter entitled, “The Gray Haired Brigade". He apparently believed I would be receptive to its suggestions that, “You have tasted socialism and seen evil face to face, and have found you don’t like it after all”, and “We didn’t fight for the Socialist States of America, we fought for the ‘Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’”.
I told my friend I am not threatened by the U.S. Postal Service, Social Security, the National Guard, U.S. Marshals, our National Parks Service, the FBI or public schools. That’s the socialism I have tasted.
I explained that my wife and I are both military veterans, and our son is currently serving in Naval Special Forces. We place our hands over our hearts when saying the words, “With liberty and justice for all”. To us, “all” refers to Americans regardless of religion, race, color, income, sexual orientation, or health conditions.
My own gray-haired friends remember days when everyone thought it was wrong to freely dump sewage into our water ways and oceans. Americans united did something about it, and built sanitary sewage systems. Republicans now complain that our water and air pollution problems are dreamed up by “radical environmentalists”. That stopping pollution means re-tooling machinery and is just too costly. They claim that the Environmental Protection Agency is just out to get them. We wonder what happened to the days when pollution was everyone’s concern and preserving the environment was valued.
We too believe in the right to bear arms. Yes, I have weapons in our house but don’t believe that AK 47s or 20 round gun clips should be available for purchase as easily as were the old Daisy BB guns when we were kids. We don’t understand why AK 47s or 20 round gun clips are recommended for home defense or hunting. We do not own hand grenades or rocket launchers either.
In contrast to the Tea Party folks, I am a proud Democrat following my awakening ten years ago after being a proud Republican for over 35 years. I was taught that the president should be respected. My own gray-haired friends don’t believe in drawing disrespectful pictures of President Barack Obama with a bone in his nose or labeling the president with the N word. In the good old days it was fun to draw pictures of President Abraham Lincoln with his tall top hat. We wonder why such racial hatred still exists but then quickly realize that greed, bigotry, and selfishness are core values to others.
We remember when folks believed in the value of immigrants building railroads, harvesting our produce and laboring in the service industry. We believe that the same minorities are now some of our finest professionals. It’s odd nowdays how the same Republicans who insisted on opening the doors for cheap labor now claim it’s the fault of “socialist liberals” in government that our borders are out of control.
We still believe in the value of hard work, labor unions, a fair wage and collective bargaining. We believe in a college education, and support the notion that education should not be merely a gift for the wealthy but the right of all citizens. “One nation under God with liberty and justice for all” still rings true to me. Especially the all part.
We remember when product icons like Levi’s and Coca Cola were proudly made by American workers in the USA. Now, the self-described “job creators” have relocated divisions of these and other corporations all over the world in pursuit of shockingly low labor costs and minimal pollution restrictions.
There is still comfort in Old Glory. But patriotism is more than just the bravery of a soldier, singing the national anthem or belief in the United States Constitution. It’s a commitment to resist and defend this nation from within and abroad against the greed, hatred, bigotry and indifference that now threatens all Americans. My friend was right, I have seen evil face to face.