I couldn't help but reminisce and recall experiences past as Dorothy and I celebrated our Thanksgiving. I don't know that I'll be telling you anything new but, in this recession atmosphere with so many of us out of work, they may not have been paramount in your thoughts, so let me mention them.
I was in the military, the United States Air Force, from 1950 (the Korean thing) through the Cold War and then a tour in the "hot" war (Vietnam). Many of you may have seen military service too and many, like me, may have served in foreign countries. Some of those countries were classified as "Third World" countries and involve some pretty tough living.
We flip a switch and the whole room is lighted. Turn a faucet and fresh, clean water flows - hot or cold. Press a button and in just a couple minutes the microwave delivers a hot appetizing meal. Press another button and hundreds of TV channels compete with each other to entertain us. Turn on a computer and a whole world of information is at our fingertips. Compare that to living in a tent or mud hut, walking some distance to scoop a bucket of water from a river, water that could well be contaminated - and do it before the sun goes down and it gets dark. Feed yourself and the kids with whatever you've been able to gather and if there's not enough, well, give what you have to your kids and grit your teeth. Maybe there's a TV, probably black-and-white, in the window of a store. It might be turned on and you can catch a glimpse of the lifestyle of the Americans on it. I wonder what they think.
Many children in these backward countries die of diseases that have long been preventable here. Many diseases and deaths are brought on due to malnutrition, not having access to the proper foods and often no food at all. When children are developing, in the womb and during the early years of their lives, their brain and bone and muscle need proper nutrients to develop. Kids who grow up under these primitive conditions have two strikes against them before they even start. How difficult is it going to be for them to make intelligent decisions? To keep from being misled? To compete in this modern world?
You may have gathered from this that I have a special place in my heart for children. You'd be right. There's got to be an especially warm section of hell reserved for those who mistreat or cause the mistreatment of a child. I am hard pressed to resist helping an individual like that in getting there.
A thought we should all remember every day of the year is that our freedom is not free, that our life-style did not "just happen." We, in the United States, with all our Democrat and Republican wrangling, have that freedom, the freedom to "wrangle." We can and should make our voices heard as evidenced by the Tea Party. In many countries nobody speaks up because nobody will listen. If someone does manage to make themselves heard, they may simply disappear or, if anything more is heard at all, there's a report of their arrest or assassination.
Even in the worst of it, we're living pretty well in these United States. Capitalism, the freedom to take an idea and run with it, to sell it to others, to make a profit is the reason the lights come on at the flip of a switch, the microwave cooks your meal, the fresh water flows and those hundreds of TV channels compete for your attention.
There is a dark shadow however. It can be stated something like this: "All power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." As evidence, look at some of those Third World countries. That's why the founders of our nation devised a system of checks and balances - a judicial branch, a legislative branch and the executive branch. Nobody controls all the marbles. We, each of us, have the responsibility to see that that system remains not only in government but in society and business too.
We're all created equal - before the law! We are obviously not equal otherwise; some have wealthy parents and greater opportunities than others. Some of us are smarter while others, through no fault of their own, are not. Am I my brother's keeper? Well I don't know about "keeper" but I think there's some responsibility in there somewhere.
Winston Churchill once said, "We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." We may be having trouble making a living just now but that shouldn't keep us from making something of our lives.
Editors note: Ben Mukkala is a local author whose several books on life and living are available in bookstores and gift shops or through his website, www.benmukkala.com. You can contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.