Jun. 25, 2001: Reflections on our Nation’s Birthday:

In case you haven’t noticed, this great nation of ours is having a birthday. She is 225 years old and doing just fine, thank you. She has survived foreign wars, civil wars and cold wars. Born in revolution and not given much of a chance to survive, the United States is today the freest, richest, most powerful and most compassionate country on earth. And the most envied.

You are no doubt aware that a lot of people overseas don’t seem to like us. It is hard to pick up the paper or watch the evening news without seeing some jerkwater country demonstrating against a perceived ill perpetrated on them by the bad ol’ United States. (Of course, they do still accept our money.) The media tend to view these demonstrations as momentous events, which they most certainly are not. For example, when a bunch of Swedes, who wouldn’t recognize a 40-hour workweek if it was tattooed on their eyelids, booed President Bush on his recent trip there, the media damn near hyperventilated. I say, “So what.” Having Sweden not love us is akin to being ostracized by Elmer Fudd.

But it isn’t the attitude of other countries that worries me. It’s you and me. We take our democracy as a given. Sadly, we are losing the very people who are the best reminders of the price of freedom — the men and women of World War II. Never have there been braver people. One only needs to look at the cliffs of Normandy or the sunken memorials at Pearl Harbor to know that. These volunteer soldiers crushed two evil empires simultaneously and then the survivors came home and got on with their lives. We will never see their equal again.

Hopefully, our generation and those that follow can live in more secure world, but don’t count on it. Between our enemies and our apathy, there are no guarantees. We are all in bad need of a civics lesson. Recently, my 13-year-old grandson, Brian, was required to interview a public official as a step toward attaining the rank of First Class in his local Boy Scout troop. My friend, Rich Golick, a member of the state legislature, kindly agreed to meet with Brian and talk to him about citizenship.

It was a conversation that should be required of every citizen in the United States (although I suspect Rep. Golick doesn’t have the time to meet with all 280 million of us.) He reminded Brian of the extraordinary freedoms that we have in the United States – freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of worship, due process – but he also emphasized the responsibilities that come with those freedoms – to pay our taxes, accept the call to jury service and, most important, to vote. We want our freedoms but aren’t quite as enthusiastic about accepting our responsibilities. We forget how good we have it. We forget how high the tax rate is in other countries. We forget that many countries don’t allow jury trials. We forget that in many countries, voting is a joke, if it occurs at all.

We have been blessed beyond anything our Founding Fathers could have imagined. Yet, if we aren’t careful, we will do what no foreign power has been able to accomplish in over two centuries – bring about our downfall. Somebody or something has got to reunite us. Make us appreciate what we have. Make us proud to be Americans. A good start would be to get rid of the hyphen. It seems that every group in the country wants to be hyphenated. We want to be known as African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Arab-Americans and so on. Poppycock! We are Americans, pure and simple. There is no reason not to be proud of our heritage but hyphens divide us, not unite us.

Being openly patriotic is politically incorrect these days. There are no shortage of critics both overseas and at home anxious to tell us what is wrong with us but too few of us are willing to wave the flag and celebrate all that is right about us.

Frankly, I don’t give a rat’s backside about what the rest of the world thinks of us. I subscribe to Stephen Decatur’s philosophy. It was this great naval war hero of 1812 who proclaimed, “To our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.”

I couldn’t have said it better. Happy Birthday, America.