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Saturday, July 17, 2004

 
The Problem with Cake
 
When I was just a wee lad, no more than three or four, I was very needy and demanding (some things never change). I remember an incident involving soda that can express the extent to which my impatience and inconsolability embodied my youth. My family ate dinner later than other families due to my grandfather's work schedule. Much like an archetypal example of a Pavlov experiment, my family gathered around the dinner table, hungry but patient, in anticipation of my grandfather's arrival, as if his entrance was our bell, our signal to salivate and begin consumption. Our "fast-until-grandfather-arrives" tradition caused a skirmish one evening when my grandfather was late coming home from work. I demanded my mother give me pop before dinner. My demands quickly turned into tantrums, as my requests were not being met with the utmost speed and sincerity they deserved. "Just a drop!" I shouted, "Please!" Looking defeated, my mother stood up, got the pop and a cup, and proceeded to pour. She handed me the cup and I hastily drank every drop. The problem was that every drop literally entailed one drop. Sensing a tantrum to end all tantrums—the Three Mile Island of tantrums—my mother quickly used her sense of humor and wit, "You asked for pop and you got it. You can’t have your pop and drink it too." Hardy har-har. Young children do not appreciate humor; thus, I cried.

"You cannot have your cake and eat it too," is the expression from which my mother cleverly deviated. What is the point of having pop if you cannot drink it? Cake if you cannot eat it? What is the point of having anything if you cannot drink, eat, use, whatever it? My developing mind could not comprehend such concepts. Now, I know. The point is simple: one cannot enjoy two conflicting pleasures/actions/thoughts/etc. at the same time. To better understand the proverb, think of it in this way, "You cannot eat your cake and have it too." My incident involving pop is scarcely related to two pleasures; my mother was simply trying to be funny while teaching me a lesson. As vague as the lesson may be to a toddler, I thank my mother, grandmother, and grandfather for teaching me such lessons at an early age. Many young’ens, especially Americans, do not get the same morally clear parenting; thus, our problem with cake.

In America, freedoms are taken for granted. The right to assemble, speak freely, practice the religion of your choice, and privacy are not luxuries afforded to every citizen of Earth. Even countries that claim they are democratic and free often infringe on individual rights. In France, children wearing a cross, a skullcap, or a Muslim headdress to school are violating separation of church and state according to a new law. Can you imagine such a law in the U.S.? The outrage would be overwhelming. America, while not flawless, is the best damn place to live on this planet, and if you don’t think so, you have every right to express your belief…or leave. Your choice (I’d prefer if you chose the latter).

But with freedom comes obligation and responsibility or, I might say, should come with obligation and responsibility, words so neglected in modern American culture I’m sure some of you are looking them up in ol’ Webster about now. In what I like to refer to as the Golden Days of America, pre-1950, taking responsibility for your freedom meant admitting when you’re wrong or you made a mistake, helping others in their time of need instead of relying on the government, and respecting yourself and others. During that same time, one’s obligation to freedom was simple: defend the right of every individual to be free. Our founding fathers put their lives on the line to fight for this obligation, this certain inalienable right to freedom that Jefferson wrote is a people’s "duty" to uphold. During World War II, America and its allies fought and defeated a German, Nazi regime supported by its citizens. Did we care to ask what the people of Germany wanted? Did we set up free elections? Did we allow Nazis to have any power in Government? No, no, and no. Why? Because America had moral clarity. We knew our system, our philosophy, and our way of life was superior to the fascist Nazi regime’s totalitarian control. In a sense, as self defeating as it sounds, America basically said, "You will be free whether you like it or not!" The result: a free, democratic Europe. I think I’d call that a success.

Sixty years later, America is at war with a country so technologically inferior its soldiers surrendered to camera planes and we are losing. Not because we don’t have enough troops, not because we don’t have superior firepower, and not because our enemy is more powerful. We are losing because we have lost our moral clarity. Too many people doubt the American philosophy, yet flourish from what it has created. People like Senator John Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz, become rich from the American way of life, having the freedom to criticize the government at every turn, and yet, they both loathe this war in Iraq. Kerry, who voted to give President Bush authorization to use force against Iraq (and was later shocked when it happened), recently said, "The world is far more tattered and volatile than it was when this president came into office. I believe one of the reasons is the ill-advised way he went to Iraq." If Kerry weren’t so busy trying to find a way to blame America (and Bush) for the volatility of the world, for which I would blame THE TERRORISTS, he would realize he’s partially right for the wrong reasons.

I like President Bush and I think he’s a far better president than John Kerry would ever be, but that does not mean he can’t be wrong. Kerry hit the bull’s eye when he criticized the way Bush went into Iraq, but like I said, for the wrong reasons. Bush, in his attempt to gain re-election, is no better than Kerry at realizing our lack of moral clarity is why we’re losing in Iraq. Bush claims to know the enemy, and he swears he wants to establish a free, democratic Iraq, yet more Americans lose their lives every day in Iraq because we don’t want to be big bullies. If we force our way on Iraq, the rest of the world will be mad at us! And we don’t want that, do we? Yes. Yes, yes, and yes. The only way to secure Iraq, ensure freedom, and stop the killing of our troops is to quit playing by the rules. Goodbye Geneva Convention. So long treating terrorist POWs with civility. America CANNOT win this war playing by the rules, especially when the terrorists we’re facing won’t even read them.

So, what do we do? "What can I do?" you ask. Be proud. Don’t be afraid to annoy your politically correct neighbors by flying your flag high. Never forget that the American way of life is and always will be the best and only way to live. Tell your congressmen, your senator, and President Bush that you’re tired of Americans dying in Iraq; tell them to stop appeasing terrorists and start defeating them; tell them to defy the Supreme Court ruling allowing terrorist detainees a right to lawyers at your expense; and finally, tell them that freedom above all other philosophies must be promoted in Iraq and around the world.

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