Sixty years ago in February I came to the United States. I was classified as a "displaced person" from World War II with no identity or knowledge of when, where or to whom I was born, an orphan who had miraculously survived on the streets of a war ravaged city somewhere in central Europe. On that bitterly cold overcast morning as I stood, alone at the railing of a ship, staring at the iconic image of the Statue of Liberty, I found myself arriving in a strange country itself coming face to face with a new and unwelcome role as the foremost nation on earth about to embark on being the most dominate economic and military power in modern history.
In 1951 the United States in addition to being the long established beacon of individual freedom for the oppressed around the planet and still trying to shake the memory and adversity of the Great Depression and World War II, had, by default, assumed the mantle of leader of the free world. The forty-two year military and geo-political stalemate with America's one-time ally in the War, the Soviet Union, was in its fourth year. The beginning stage of the greatest economic expansion in the annals of man was underway. There were still vestiges of the nations troubled past as 15% of the population still suffered from institutional discrimination based solely on skin color. Yet optimism regarding the future was palpable.
Not having had the opportunity to experience a childhood and unable to escape the events of the past, I came to this country already old beyond my years and as a consequence I was never able to be fully absorbed into the mainstream of the culture. I, as did other survivors of the War or those who lived through the deprivations of the Soviet Union or the re-education camps of Red China and immigrated to the United States, became not only the most loyal of citizens but in essence outside observers and part-time participants in the passing American scene.
These past sixty years have been a watershed in the history of America. In that extraordinarily short era in the life of a nation, the United States, which during this period became the most powerful country in the history of mankind, is now facing national insolvency and a rapid descent into mediocrity. The people of the country, once brimming with confidence, are now fearful of the future for their progeny.
A nation whose founders gave it an ability to correct its failings and which finally did so in the 1960's by guaranteeing equality to all its citizens now finds itself bogged down in a quagmire of "political correctness", intimidation and animosity among its citizens. The culture, which once emphasized honor, integrity, self-reliance and restraint, is now beset with greed, corruption, despair and degeneracy.
The United States and its people, unlike so many other nations throughout the world, have been blessed by not experiencing any overwhelming national adversity in over 150 years. While the Great Depression was an economic disaster, it pales in comparison to the wars, repressions and genocide over the past century. Events which not only destroyed countries and entire continents but claimed the lives of over 170 million and another 200+ million wounded or displaced.
Since 1951, the Gross Domestic Product of the United States has (adjusted for inflation) grown by a factor of 6x or average of 9.6% per year. The personal incomes of Americans increased (adjusted for inflation) by a factor of 7x or an average of 11.8% per year. Never in history has any nation experienced such phenomenal wealth creation in any sixty year period.
As America has experienced the best of times the immutable and fundamental nature of the human race became the catalyst for the dilemmas and anxieties the country is now experiencing.
The most dominant trait mankind has, as do all living creatures, is an innate desire to survive and prosper. While some may willingly choose to pursue subsistence on their own terms, to the majority of the human race, the path of least resistance is the most desired. Thus mankind is susceptible to crime and resentment or violence towards those who may have more. Religions and societies over the centuries have sought to control this predisposition by setting forth absolute tenets of behavior.
As a corollary to this trait, many people, particularly in a wealthy society, are very open to and expect a central authority to provide them with the means of livelihood with no thought as to the how.
A secondary characteristic of the human race, and the most dangerous, is the need by some to maintain total control and power over their fellow man, as they are predeterminedly superior to the unwashed masses that make up the bulk of any society. The only restraint on this human characteristic is age-old established ethical and behavioral guidelines which can be easily and often are ignored.
The confluence of these human traits combined with seemingly never-ending economic growth and a lack of any national adversity has placed the United States in its present predicament.
The current Ruling Class is predominantly made up of those active in various political movements in the 1960's through the early 1980's and is the most self-centered and egotistical generation in the history of the country. Having been raised in unfathomable prosperity and told how unique they were, many sought out political and social philosophies which aided and abetted their determination to justify a hedonistic lifestyle, eliminate any ethical or behavioral absolutes and solidify their need for power and notoriety.
Concurrent with that approach and needing the acquiescence of the populace to keep themselves in power it was necessary to first delineate people by group and pit them against each other in order to keep the electorate divided. Secondly, no limit was placed on the largess and promises emanating from Washington D.C. and the various state capitals which were willingly accepted by the recipients. Lastly the public, thus content, was inundated with images and propaganda through the media and entertainment outlets promoting an erosion of the culture and ethical standards.
Those of us who immigrated to the United States and experienced first-hand the devastation and suffering in various countries and societies know that this destruction came about not by the symptom of economic setbacks but by the disease of corruption and unbridled lust for power.
It has been difficult and heart-rending to watch over the years what has happened to a nation we have all come to love. In order to awaken at least a part of the populace it has taken an imminent financial and societal disaster and the election of President Obama, who personifies the excesses of the past sixty years. He is someone steeped in radical re-distributionist ideology; he is dishonest, as he is a believer in the end justifies any means; and he is dominated by an overweening narcissism. Mr. Obama is the epitome of someone with a lack of character, as manifested in his indecisiveness and willingness to destroy America's future in order to permanently seize control over the citizenry.
Replacing the President by electing politicians who will make some cuts in spending or modifying entitlement programs may delay but will not save America from eventually entering the annals of the rise and fall of great nations. The only factor that can truly alter the future is a change in the hearts and minds of the people and their leaders. The foibles of human nature are hard to overcome without a massive national catastrophe as a catalyst.
The founders of the United States were aware of the failings of mankind and as a result tried to establish a government structure which mitigated those traits. That structure is still in place, but are there national leaders willing to risk their ambitions in order to tell their constituents the awful truth? That the future of the United States is dependent not only upon immediate changes in fiscal policy, but more importantly the people and their leaders must re-constitute American society wherein honor, integrity, self-reliance, restraint, and respect for one's neighbor are paramount. These attributes will also ultimately solve the nation's long-term financial woes and insure the future. Unless the country does so, it will inevitably join the likes of Rome and other nations on the ash heap of history.
The image of the Statue of Liberty on that cold dark morning sixty years ago is forever in the forefront of my memory, together with the most important day of my life; when I became a citizen and at last had a name and a country I could call my own. I speak for many others like me who were welcomed with open arms into the United States, please do not allow the noblest experiment in the history of mankind to fail; if so there will never be another fountainhead of freedom and liberty to take its place.