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I'm An Optimist - The Ornery American


I'm An Optimist
By Paul Fordiani August 13, 2004

Do you folks get sick out there listening to some rich trial lawyer tells us how America is no longer the land of opportunity? Do you folks get sick out there listening to some billionaire's consort tell us that America is divided by those who work and those who don't? That the people who in fact pay almost all taxes - the top 50% of wage earners pay over 90% of taxes - are really getting undeserved tax breaks while being supported by the taxation of the poor, who in fact pay nothing?

Are you just tired of this "America Sucks and I'll Make it Better" campaign rhetoric? Are you tired of that obviously elitist, condescending, self-centered Boston Brahmin and that self-serving plaintiffs' attorney hectoring you about everything while standing for nothing?

Are you just tired of these princes of privilege telling you - demanding - that we have no right to defend ourselves from murderers without permission? Then, when we get permission, tell us it wasn't permission enough?

Let me tell you something:

Americans love leaders. They love men who stand up for themselves. They love men who take matters into their own hands. They love men who do not deflect blame over every little thing. Americans love individualists. The prototypical American is John Wayne (Cowboy), or John Wayne (Marine), or Lou Gehrig. Americans also love Molly Pitcher, Mother Theresa, Thomas Edison, and Elvis Presley. Americans adore George Washington (who never told a lie) and Honest Abe Lincoln. Americans love that they are self-reliant, and Americans love that they can help their fellows.

Americans do not love whiners or complainers. Americans do not like perpetuating blame, but finding solutions and moving onward. America is the most forward-looking country in history, with boundless optimism. Americans hate being coerced into anything. Americans loath those who refuse to do for themselves.

Americans have been through a lot these past several years. We have built a political system that has become more and more polarized, and the days we are in seem to be the harbingers of true cultural shift: we will embrace traditional values or shatter them forever. We've endured scummy politicians and sleazy politics. Both parties claim that they are pure as the driven snow and the other party is filled with spawns of Satan.

We've endured a recession that came on the heels of a period of wildly optimistic growth, and for many, the recession and the loss of jobs has seemed as profound as the Depression, although the reality of it is quite different.

Vicious murderers who are beyond reason have attacked us: how can we negotiate with a culture that encourages its young men and women to strap bombs to themselves and blow up innocents? We've been abandoned by allies for whom we have spent countless billions in blood and treasure protecting from vast evil in the past century, with, as Secretary Powell has said, only the price of a burial ground for our war dead as compensation.

The losses of September 11 have been terrible, and every time I think about them I get emotional. I was in the Pentagon when it was struck and I had a very powerful reaction to the attack. When I think of the firemen who climbed up the WTC towers, knowing the collapse was imminent, I burst with pride in my fellow Americans, and say a prayer in hopes that I may someday live to that example, if called.

The nastiness of the combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the shadows in the Philippines, in Indonesia, in Georgia, Kazakhstan, and elsewhere seems primordial in nature. Crawling into caves to get at murderers, one foot at a time, or going door by door in the Iraqi night, not knowing if some animal has booby-trapped the hatch: the thought of it gives me the willies, and I served as an infantry officer and tactics instructor at The National Training Center. I have close personal friends who were in combat daily for months and carried themselves with honor. That our young men and women - and some not so young men and women - have performed so ably and have kept their chins up is also a hopeful circumstance.

Conflate these, then: the surprise of the recession, the terrible shock of Sept 11, the fears of war, and the ongoing, very real terrorist threat. We have had a terrible road for several years.

Yet, through the acts of resolute men and women, we have begun to rebuild, and to rebuild in bigger and better ways than the original. The Pentagon was rebuilt at light speed. The new WTC will be bigger and better; the economy is growing at the fastest pace in 20 years; home ownership is at a record high; the jobs are coming back, and good jobs, too; airline travel - of all things - has rebounded, and major aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus are in competition to deliver trillions with a tee of dollars of aircraft in the next ten years. We are safer at home, but not yet safe, and have through luck and pluck, not been hit again in the US. If we are not hit, then the US is truly a providential nation.

Overseas, Afghanistan has a representative government after a decade of the Taliban and another decade of Soviet repression. Women can show their faces and run for office. School attendance for girls is at an all-time high. Pakistan has given up its rogue nuke program, and is helping us root out the terrorists which had previously been given safe harbor in that country. The nuclear showdown between India and Pakistan has cooled off, as both countries have realized that they have more things in common than those in which they are in conflict.

North Korea, who will either starve to death or be bombed into submission, unrepentant as they are, has entered into six-party talks regarding their nuke program. We have a dire situation in Korea - I served on the DMZ there in the 1980s and follow the situation still - but I believe the region would rather see North Korea disarmed than Japan and Taiwan armed, so I am hopeful.

Libya has come out of the cold - kicking and screaming, to be sure - and has given up its Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear programs. Iran - a festering sinkhole of trouble - at least has let IAEA inspectors in to look at its nuke programs. And look at the democratic demonstrations! As many as 80% (according to some reports) or more of the Iranian electorate stayed home during the recent Iranian elections - despite being rigged by the mullahs.

And then there is Iraq. Despite the naysayers, we have yet to reach ONE FIFTH of the slightest number of casualties predicted before the war, let alone the direst, and we have been there almost eighteen months, now. Iraq has a representative government, and is on its way to an elective government, after decades of dictatorship. Iraq no longer poses a military threat to the region for the first time in a generation. We have a coalition of twenty countries helping us in Iraq. A miserable dictator will be tried, and, one hopes, hung with the full weight of the law - civil, not Shari 'a law.

Schools, hospitals, roadways, pipelines, and businesses are being built at a pace not seen in the Middle East (outside Israel) since the end of the colonial period. An indicator of the good? Satellite dishes on rooftops in Baghdad: an informed populace is never an enslaved populace.

If one were to take a very critical look at the world of just three years ago, one could never have predicted how hopeful the future looks. We are in revolutionary times. Something of value has been created these past several years: think about how these successes came about.

We are also in the political season of a presidential race. Let me quote at length from David Frum's article, "The Two America's Canard," from the August 9, 2004 edition of The National Review:

If the [Dem] ticket's pseudo-populism makes little sense economically, it makes even less sense politically. Americans vote their values as well as their interests, and on the core values historically associated with American populism - work, family, and nationalism - Kerry-Edwards has zero to say. Kerry has begun to use the word "values" often without specifying what those values might be - a trick pioneered by Michael Dukakis, with ungratifying results.

This is a ticket led by a senator who disdained welfare reform (and then flipped to vote for it) and balanced by another who voted against elimination of the marriage penalty. It's a ticket that regards laws to protect traditional marriage as "bigotry and ignorance," to borrow the language Kerry used to explain his vote against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. It's a ticket that vests its hopes for American security in the United Nations and sees the War on Terror as essentially a police action. This is a ticket led by a man who pedals an $8000 bike. This is populism? No, this is Massachusetts liberalism at its most caricatured. Its working motto is not "Two Americas," but "Vote for Kerry: He's better than you."

Let me quote myself here:

Are you just tired of this "America Sucks and I'll Make it Better" campaign rhetoric? Are you tired of that obviously elitist, condescending, self-centered Boston Brahmin and that self-serving plaintiffs' attorney hectoring you about everything while standing for nothing?

Given all we've had to suffer, we are doing great. Don't let those people drag you down.

Copyright © 2004 by Paul Fordiani
(Previously published at The Commons, www.paulieworld.com/blog)

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