My wife Julie and I recently met a beautiful woman who was born in India and came here to live in the United States when she was 6 years old. She’s returned to India a few times and tells of how the people there are so warm and hospitable even though the country is rampant with poverty and pollution. By co-incidence another friend of mine is there in India now on business, and he also speaks of the same things.
My son Ben has spoken to me of his tour of duty in Iraq and the obvious troubles there, and of his year-long posting in Korea and what it’s like there. Also of his travels to Japan and how crowded they live. He also tells of visits to the Philippine islands and how some there seem to be striving to even exist.
A life long friend of mine is lucky enough to live on a sailboat and spends his retirement sailing to places like the coast of South America. He and his wife regularly send us, via Email, detailed texts and photos of the travels they make to beautiful, but impoverished countries like Bolivia, Columbia, Venezuela and others. They also spent some time in Lithuania, and though they had a good time there, they say Lithuania definitely has its problems.
My stepdaughter has traveled extensively in Ireland and England and tells how the British always have to be on the lookout for a pipe bomb from the IRA or other terrorists in any crowded place. And speaking of Britain, my wife has studied in the Bahamas (a British protectorate) and mentions how though the corporations there make big bucks from the tourist trade, most of the locals do not and live below the poverty level.
An Aussie I know who vends here at swap meets every summer (their winter) has lived in Australia all his life and surprised me by bitching about how screwed up that country can be at times. He always looks forward to coming to the states.
Another swap vendor I’ve come to know as “Mademoiselle” was born and raised in Belgium and came here to live when she was in her 20’s. She can’t say enough about how glad she is to be living here now.
I used to work with a woman who transferred over from Bosnia (formerly Yugoslavia) when GM bought out their car-seat upholstery plant, and she told me of some of the absolute horrors she’s seen there. I also used to work with another person who came here long ago from Italy. Though he often went back to visit and was so damned proud of being Italian (like most Italians are LOL), he was always glad to come home to the “States”.
In fact, I used to work FOR a guy who escaped with his family from communist Poland in the bad old days, and he ended up becoming my boss at General Motors. He often asked why American born citizens didn’t appreciate what they have. And just a few months ago a seventy-one year old dude who escaped from Cuba back in 1968 did an excellent job mending a complicated tear in one of my saddlebags that others just couldn’t fix. While he worked we spoke of the same thing. It’s odd how these two men from different places but with very similar experiences both noticed American’s lack of appreciation for our system of government.
Now, these are all people to whom I’ve spoken at length and they “know” life in these foreign countries from first-hand experience. ALL of them love and deeply appreciate this country. They appreciate our quality of life and even our culture (when Americans aren’t acting like assholes we can be charming). They relish our freedom to be able to travel without documentation and the sheer beauty of our natural wonders. Many from other countries are dumbfounded by our wealth and the easy access we have to material pleasures. The everyday things we all take for granted, like our highway system and our public parks, just amaze these people!! Most of us can go on vacations that these folks used to dream of.
Even our below average income families and individuals can usually purchase food, clothes and even stuff like used furniture, TVs, computers and vehicles when needed. And here I’m just talking about things that require bucks….of course there’s a lot more to freedom that has nothing to do with money.
Like the freedom to rest assured that your children can be educated and will be safe from social turmoil. When you remember that we’ve all seen news-photos of little kids running around waving AK-47s and chanting in places like Africa and the Middle East, you can rest assured that our kids are protected from that madness.
Sure, there are certainly dangers out there. Hell, life itself is a danger. But at least those who might be out to get us are those who actually break the law, not those we should be able to trust to protect us, like our police and our military. Granted, some of our police and judges might not like the fact that we’re bikers (for instance), but even they tolerate us and only bust us when we’re being bad instead whenever they want. We’re at least guaranteed that protection. And if we feel our rights stepped on, we have a free press that allows us to say whatever the hell we want about it.
I’d like to also say that just because I love this country doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m not aware that there are many threats from those who want to control us or prevent us from speaking out when we feel we should. (For instance, the tobacco-phobes managed to jack up the tobacco tax, bringing the price of bulk tobacco up to $47 a pound instead of my previously reported $37). I think the main reason most of us joined ABATE is because we’re all very conscious of the fact that we know the freedoms we have can be taken away or manipulated by others who might not want to let us have them. Freedom requires vigilance.
But, this July 4th holiday let’s remember how wonderful this country can be and strive to make it even better. Let’s also remember how lucky we are to be born here instead of elsewhere and realize that we could be living some place a helluva lot worse. And whenever you see a service man or woman, a fireman or emergency personnel of any kind, tell them how much you appreciate them and what they have to do for us everyday. Let’s not be forgetting the sacrifices they make and the dangers they suffer to allow us to lead safe, happy lives.
Now, go play, have some fun and take advantage of whatcha got