Three men look look at a mountain, one from the base, one from the summit, and one from halfway up the slope. Each sees something different. Thus, a young black man, Tre Borden, demands a response by an old white man. (“What does it even mean to be an American now?” California Forum, July 2).
On July 4 I was 73. I served 21 years in the military, including one tour in Vietnam. I have lived in three other countries, and my wife is an immigrant. I have spent 10 years teaching in public education and 10 years in private education. I hold a master’s degree. My view of America is somewhat different than Tre Borden’s. As the saying goes, “Been there, done that, and got it wrong then too.”
Borden writes that America is a capitalist country built on the back of slaves. At the time of America’s founding, slavery was the worldwide norm. More slaves were shipped to Brazil than to America. More slaves died in the trans-Sahara slave trade than died on the Middle Passage. We, alone among countries, fought a war that was partially at least about freeing slaves. Nothing in history has succeeded in raising the living standard of the average man as well as capitalism.
Boren uses the all-inclusive immigrants when he writes that we demonize immigrants while ignoring their contributions. Nobody is demonizing my wife, her mother, and her 12 brothers and sisters. Arguing that illegal immigrants who commit crimes should be deported would meet only a diehard liberal’s definition of demonizing. Expressing the opinion that existing immigration laws be enforced does not qualify as demonizing. Nor does the expression of either of those beliefs imply that the speaker ignores the contributions of immigrants.
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to have a rational discussion about the answers to such basic questions as: What does “fair” mean. Who pays for something that is “free.” How does a “general welfare” differ from a “specific welfare”?
When American’s were thought to be independent, resourceful and self-reliant, such conversations were not contentious. But then, in the bad old days, people were expected to have facts to support their opinions.
We need to decide if it is a place of “freedom to” or “freedom from.” “Freedom to” means individual responsibility, and the right to make a bad decision. “Freedom from” means leaving the responsibility to someone else.
John Paul coaches high school football and lives in Carmichael, firstname.lastname@example.org.