September 15, 2009
Community service is not what made America greatBy C. Edmund Wright
Dare we say that the planners of the 9-11 attacks understand more about the greatness of America than our current President and some in Congress? I say yes. No one inside the beltway wants to argue the point. It sounds so nice. Fine. It is patently wrong however.
Besides, the 9-11 attacks had nothing to do with Medicare, the Junior League or Earth Day or working in a soup kitchen, let alone registering voters or pushing for sub prime lending on behalf of ACORN.
The 9-11 masterminds understood what it is that makes America great, and it was precisely some obvious icons of that greatness they attacked. It is our government-limiting Constitution -- creating an environment conducive to free enterprise, innovation, opportunity and military might, used for the good of all freedom loving peoples -- that has made America great.
In short, it is our freedom. Consider that the part of the world that incubated this hatred of our country is the part of the world blessed with the majority of the easy to get oil and a thousand years' head start on our culture. And yet, with all of that advantage in time and oil, it is our nation that has so much promise and freedom and their nations have tin horn dictators in fancy American and European-made limousines and jets.
The attack targets, you remember, were not arbitrary. They were carefully chosen for their shock value and easy to read symbolism. Nothing symbolized the American financial system to the rest of the world like the World Trade Center. Nothing symbolizes American military might like the Pentagon. Those were the structures successfully targeted.
The third, either the Capitol Building or the White House, used to symbolize a government dedicated to protecting and upholding that Constitution -- the one laying the ground work for all of our greatness. Ironically, what the terrorists could not destroy remains under attack from the inhabitants of the other two buildings they could not destroy.
This is not all that surprising really. The people who inhabit those buildings are the ones selling the myth that government "compassion" and community service are what made us who we are. Obviously this includes our sitting President, but I will throw in a current Senator who ran against him for that office as well.
(John McCain supported this myth during the Saddleback Forum when he joined Obama in chastising President Bush for urging people to go shopping or to get on an airplane and go conduct some business right after 9-11. Bush should have called for more "community service" and so on according to McCain, who by the way is still a private sector job virgin.)
The point here is not that volunteering is bad. It is good. So is charitable giving. True community service -- not agitating or "organizing" -- is good also. But you cannot donate or serve or volunteer in a vacuum. In fact, you cannot really provide any "net volunteering" or "net giving" until you have taken care of all of your obligations first. So by definition, pursuits that enable you to "give back" are superior to the act of giving back.
What Bush understood is that we as a nation had to get back to business as quickly as possible for two very key reasons. First, we had to show the terrorists that they had knocked down a couple buildings -- but not a way of life. And second, we needed to immediately jump start economic engine that produces our ability to handle obligations or be charitable. Bush was right. Obama and McCain sounded compassionate but they were wrong. Now which one is the dumb one again?
All we have is our time and our talents. We trade those for either money, pleasure or for service to others. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with trading a lot of your time and talent for money. In fact, until you have met all of your financial obligations to your family and your creditors, that is exactly how you should spend the majority of your time and talents. That is not greed. That is maturity.
Then and only then are you in a position to spend more of your time and talents in pleasurable or charitable pursuits. That's not to say you can't coach little league or go fishing until your mortgage is paid off -- it is to say that if you are living off the fruits of others while volunteering or agitating "for free," you are really not a volunteer at all. You are a mooch.
You are running up society's credit card but making yourself feel more virtuous than those actually paying for your habit because you are "not in it for the money." (Memo to self: there is no one quite so greedy as a liberal who is "not in it for the money." Ahem).
What really made America great is that a lot of people have purposefully prospered in our system and its freedoms and accomplished some fantastic things along the way. Some have prospered because of the fantastic things they accomplished. Some have made money and then accomplished great things with it.
Many have succeeded to the point that they have the luxury of giving away their time and their talents for pursuits not related to how they prospered.
For some, this means something pedestrian like retiring to Hilton Head to play golf most of the time and live off their savings and investments. For others, like Bill Gates and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, it means spending their time and talents supporting causes they believe in. Both are great pursuits, because we need folks to buy condos as well as run non-profits. Sadly our national conversation has greatly exaggerated the moral chasm between these activities.
(And then you have those like John McCain and John Kerry, who married into free enterprise money and spend their lives passing legislation that threatens to destroy free enterprise in their roles as "government servants.")
In stark contrast to our president and others, I say what we need now is a lot of self -interested financially motivated pursuits taking place. On the anniversary week of 9-11, it's a good time to champion that which the terrorists were trying to destroy --that which makes America great. And for the record, they were not trying to destroy candle light vigils for death row inmates or the "Adopt a Highway" program.
All of that is fine, but they were trying to destroy free economies and opportunity. They were trying to destroy the brain trust of a military whose history is that of conquering dictators and asking only enough real estate in return to bury their dead. They were trying to destroy our way of life. The American way of life. You know, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
They were trying to destroy what made us who we were before Obama came to save us from our own greatness. They did not succeed. But if we can't tell the truth about what it is that made this country great, then we will do it to ourselves.
In 2001, even Chris Matthews warned the terrorists that it was not wise to pick on a "cowboy kick-ass kind of a country." My, how much we have forgotten about what made us great in just eight years. It's enough to send shivers, not tingles, up your leg.