Thursday, October 20, 2011


This is not a warm, fuzzy, feel-good essay about our great country.  This is an observation from a guy who has been around the block a few times.  Did you ever stop to think about--I mean REALLY think about--what a blessing it is to be born in this country?  I never did until I traveled around the globe for business. 

As a little boy, I didn't know anything about the world past my own block, much less other countries.   When I grew into my teens, I was so busy having fun that worldwide events didn't concern me.  My biggest worries were passing tests, acne and dating--although not necessarily in that order.  Since I attended a local college, my life was an extension of high school--without the acne.  My draft rating was "Four F" so the Viet Nam War didn't drastically impact my life.

It was when I left the Mohawk Valley and transported this naive young man to Miami that my awareness grew.  I now lived about 90 miles from an island named Cuba.  Wait a minute, Cuba?  Wasn't that the place where the Communists had missiles pointed directly at South Florida?  I began talking to some of the Cuban refugees in Miami and learned that a fellow named Castro took away their freedom and dictated everyday living.  Some of the stories I heard made an horrific impression.

The first Cubans who escaped to Miami were  those who could afford to buy their way out.  These were professionals--doctors, lawyers, professors, educated people.  They couldn't practice without American certification so they took menial jobs but they stuck together and improved old run-down neighborhoods.  They were honest, hard-working people and I give them a lot of credit.  The same is not true of the second wave of Cuban refugees.  Many were the criminal element that invaded Miami when Castro emptied the jails.  That's when the drug problem started.

Later I entered the textile industry and traveled domestically throughout the South and Northeast.   When I advanced to international sales, I began world travel.  Wow, what an eye opener.  Seeing other cultures and living conditions is a true education.  Something happens to you.  It's not like a sudden change--that proverbial bolt from the blue--but instead, a gradual maturation of awareness.  Subtle happenings you experience manifest thoughts migrating from your subconscious to a conscious level.  You begin to identify with images you observe and realize differences from "back home."  Often these images distinctly tell a story about what's not there more than what is. 

I read somewhere being born in the USA automatically places you in the top 97th percentile of wage earners in the world.  Hello!  How's that for luck?  We didn't do anything to earn this, just fortunate enough to be born here.  Now that's what I call a real entitlement.

But what about our poor people?  Many of the people our government classifies as poverty level would live regally in many other nations.  I'm not saying it's good or bad, but I've seen the difference.  One of the great notions in this country is helping others and we do.  We are rated as number one in charity, but we shouldn't take pride in that fact.  We SHOULD be number one.  We are no more altruistic than the people of a third world country.  It's just that we have the resources to reach out and help when they don't.  They are fighting for survival.

I've lived and volunteered in Appalachia.  For years I helped to better the condition of the poor.  At Christmas we gave gift packages to impoverished kids and families.  Some of the children's packages consisted of toys, bikes and all kinds of clothing including shoes and coats.  Some poverty-level families have many more than one child and by the time we finished lavishing all the gifts out, I couldn't help but feel guilty when remembering starving kids dying in other countries.  Poverty in this country isn't exactly the same as many other places.  I hope we can someday eradicate poverty in America and move on to other locations.

Because of the Internet, facts and figures showing how the good ole USA compares to the rest of the world are at my rigid digits, but figures on a sheet of paper don't tell the story.  Let me put it this way--when I go to bed, I thank God every night for being born in America.

Think about all the daily choices you make.  Just having choices is a big deal in other parts of the world.  In some locations the choice of the day is eating a scrap of food or giving it to your child.  I've seen whole communities of people living in cardboard boxes with no electricity or toilet facilities.  We take insignificant and major modes of living for granted.  When I first went to Mexico City, guards with automatic weapons were stationed at bank doors.  I remember my shock at no toilet paper in the office building's restrooms.  Many didn't have toilet seats.  Real poverty can turn honest people into criminals and they steal anything that will help them survive.  In the Philippines kids bathe and play in open sewers.  In South Africa, female textile workers go to their jobs only when their tribal chief allows.

When I pledge allegiance to our flag, I also include a heartfelt thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Preach it, Cuz!! The truth never hurt anyone. We all should give thanks for being born an American.