Friday, July 3, 2009

A Feeling About the 4th

If you have to work today I hope it's an easy day. If you are on vacation you should read this blog, take the moment I'll ask you to take at the end, and then do something fun.

I've always appreciated this George Orwell quote: "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." Orwell understood that there is a price to freedom.

As we stand on the doorstep of July 4, 2009 I have a hard time seeing the faces of those "rough men." I tend to see the faces of young men and women, most of whom would much rather be in college or at a picnic or having babies rather than being at risk on the other side of the world.

We are at a pivotal point in our evolution as a nation. We face unprecedented challenges on a wide variety of fronts and, like most people, we want simple answers.

But, coming up with the answers is based on being able to understand the questions. Consider these two bits of information:
- The vast majority of high school students can not pass the same citizenship test required of immigants who want to become Americans. (in fact, I'm betting a startlingly large number of adults would not do well on the 100 question test) Without understanding the basis of our nation how can we answer questions about where it should go?
- Most people think their power costs will go down if we start relying on wind, solar, coal, and nuclear. In fact, costs may go up. The main determinant of cost for power is not the power itself, it's the delivery systems. The plants, towers, power lines, and distribution are what drives costs up.

If you are bored at this point you understand the challenge of making the decisions. It's easier to listen to, or read emails from, blow-holes, demagogues, and talking heads spouting simple answers, and nod and say, "OK, 'let's do that,' without taking the time to understand the underlying issues."

In the movie, The American President, Michael Douglas says, "Democracy is advanced citizenship, you've gotta want it bad."

I don't know if those young people on the other side of the world want democracy badly, but I'm sure they want a better life, for themselves and for the rest of us. Think about them tomorrow when you go to the beach, or the pool, or the grocery store, and no one stops you at a checkpoint and asks to see your papers. Or, comes to your home with a weapon and demands that you come outside to be checked. Or, leaves a satchel on the bus you are riding.

The government and the Port Authority of New York are reopening the head of the Statue of Liberty this weekend for the first time since 9/11. That is happening to a great degree because of those young people I mentioned and the people who command them.

Take a moment tomorrow and say a prayer for all who keep us free.

And then say a prayer for the rest of us...and future generations. I have faith that we, as Americans, will make it to that better future. But, we need all the help we can get. And being smarter is the start.

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