I was born in the apathy of the 1970s, grew up in the decadence of the 1980s, came to maturity (semi) in the millennial inertia of the 1990s, and devolved, in the first years of the “New Millennium,” into a cynic—a witness to liberty’s silent nightmare.
I watched helpless as my country was attacked—the anger burned. I mourned the loss of life—the pain left an indelible mark. I welcomed the spirit of friendship and fraternity that erupted from that tragedy—hope dared to break the surface. For people around the world, America was, for all its faults, either consciously or unconsciously, more than just a country, it was a symbol. It symbolized freedom, innovation, opportunity, justice, kindness, charity, honor, honesty, and more than anything, hope. Hope in what is and hope in what might be.
For whatever our reasons, we surrendered ourselves to the will of a vocal minority. We took all that made us great and put it in a box—a big ass metal, take off your shoes, leave your deodorant, abandon hope ,and embrace terror box—and, in doing so, ignored the warnings of our founding fathers: “Any society that would give up liberty to gain security will deserve neither and lose both.” (Benjamin Franklin).
We debated the definition of “Torture,” and reminisced for the days when we debated the definition of “Is.” A people that once condemned the kinky (and incidentally, in this authors opinion, imaginative and hot) use of cigars, condoned the practices of “Water-Boarding” and “Renditioning.” The country was sliced up into “Blues” and “Reds,” “Democrats” and “Republicans,” “Liberals” and “Conservatives,” and the “Powerful” and the “Powerless”—all the while, Liberty laments…
I’ve only read of men like Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Kennedy, and while none of them were perfect, or as altruistic as I was taught (read Zinn), they all accomplished one critical task at critical points in this nation’s history—they inspired.
Thomas Jefferson once said that “the ‘Tree of Liberty’ must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” While this may be true, it would be folly to assume that the “Tree of Liberty” can survive without the breath of inspiration and the light of freedom. We have spilt the blood but cut off the air and blocked out the light—shortsightedness and reckless aggression have seen to that.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word “Inspire” as “to stimulate to action; motivate; to affect or touch,” but it also cites a more archaic use of the word which means “to breathe life into.” While the former definition certainly applies, the next leader of this nation must be more than just great; they must be inspirational, in that they must breathe new life into our democracy.
In scanning the field of remaining candidates, I am happy to see that people are finally beginning to take notice of Barack Obama. The man’s charisma is undeniable, but even more importantly his ability to bring inspiration and hope to the desolate doorstep of a cynic is nothing short of a miracle. For the first time in my life I believe that I may be witnessing the ascendance of a truly great hero—one that can bring change and foster harmony, not just for the United States, but for the world as a whole.
We consider ourselves citizens of the greatest nation the world has ever seen. This declaration cannot stand on the volume of our collective voices; rather it requires the honesty of our collective actions. A nation that fights terror cannot impose it. A nation that espouses freedom cannot stifle it. A nation that sustains itself on the blood of patriots, the inspiration of leaders, and light of freedom cannot demand respect, it should, and it must, earn it.