The most pressing problem we face as a nation is that, on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis, each of us doesn't do what is necessary to keep America strong and thus free. 

Talk is Cheap
We don't take the time from our pursuits of happiness to do the small things that prevent simple acts from becoming incidents, and incidents from becoming trends, and trends from becoming almost irreversible national issues like the ones noted in the previous chapter. We don't seize the moment. We simply don't spend enough time on our country. America is not on our list of priorities and the results show. And please don't think this is a patriotic message it's not. It's a message of survival.

Oh, most of us would say we "love America", that we care about this country.  Many of us get a nice feeling when we hear Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American" or when an American athlete or team does well in an international competition, or when we hear a moving rendition of the National Anthem at a sporting event or Ray Charles' rendition of America the Beautiful.  But saying we care is often about as far as we go. David Viscott, a nationally renown psychiatrist and radio talk show host, cautioned callers questioning whether a particular person really loved them or not to "trust what people do and not what they say". And for the most part, we don't act like we care about this country. We pledge our allegiance, but we don't often show our allegiance!

Brian Shul is a Vietnam-era USAF fighter pilot with 212 combat missions.  He was shot down near the end of the war and was so badly burned that he was given next to no chance to live.  He did live, went on to fly SR-71s and completed a twenty year career in the Air Force.  He has written four books on aviation and runs a photo studio.  In a speech he made in Chico California in the aftermath of the September 11th attack on the U.S., he said:

"These murdering fanatics came into our land, lived amongst our people, flew on our planes, crashed them into our buildings, and killed thousands of our citizens.  And nowhere along their gruesome path were they questioned or stopped.  The joke is on us. We allowed this country to become soft. 

We shouldn't really be too surprised that this could happen.  Did we really think that we could keep electing officials who put self above nation and this would make us stronger?  Did we really think that a strong economy adequately replaced a strong intelligence community?  Did we imagine that a President who practically gave away the store on his watch, was insuring national security?  While our country was mired in the wasted excess of a White House sex scandal, the drums of war beat loudly in foreign lands, and we were deaf.  Our response was to give the man two terms in office, and even then barely half the American public exercised their right to vote.  We have only ourselves to blame.  Our elected officials are merely a reflection of our own values and what we deem important."

He is right on target!

Repairing Large Cracks is Costly
What about times of national crisis and wars?  During those times it is easy to focus our attention, to galvanize our energies and to act on behalf of the country. But when problems have become serious enough for a war, the price we must pay to maintain our freedoms is extraordinary lost lives, broken families, unfulfilled dreams, enemies made, worthy goals delayed and life-long psychological problems.  The daughter of a firefighter lost in the September 11th attack was asked what was the hardest for her was.  She said knowing that she'll never be able to call anyone "dad".

While the September 11th attack on the United States may not have been preventable, it is clear that many government agencies, elected officials, corporations and citizens did, or neglected to do, things that enabled this cowardly and horrific attack.  

Freedoms not Guaranteed
The freedoms and way of life we enjoy in this country are not guaranteed. Nowhere in the stars is it written that America will be free. It took a tremendous determination, risk and sacrifice to get to where we are today. Keeping this country free takes constant attention and sacrifice.  If we don't give enough of it, future generations will have to give proportionally more to undo the damage of our neglect and lack of attention.  You know what this is all about? The old MIDAS muffler slogan, "Pay me now or pay me later."

Click PLAY to hear the mother of U.S. soldier sent to Iraq as part of Desert Storm read a letter from her son.

Examples of Our Inaction (A.K.A. How the cracks get started and grow)
Here are some examples of our inaction and lack of caring:

  1. How many of us vote, and for those who do, how knowledgeable are we of who or what we have voted for?

  2. What do we do when friends tell racial or ethnic jokes or brag about their drug use?

  3. What do we do when someone asks borrow a copy of our computer software?

  4. What do we do when we see someone empty their ashtray in a parking lot?

  5. What do we do about gangs that kill innocent bystanders, intimidate their neighbors and create untenable educational environments?

  6. What do we do to remedy a legal system that allows a criminal who hurt himself while trying to escape to sue and receive an outrageous damage award?

  7. What do we do to stop the flow of thousands of illegal (not legal!) aliens who pour into our country and individuals who enter with visas but never leave?

  8. How many corporations and individuals go out of their way to avoid jury duty. Yes, jury DUTY, the responsibility part of freedom? 

  9. How often does a company take action against an employee who commits a crime against that company or even let someone go or fire them when their efforts are substandard? No, an employee is only fired when they turn the company in for fraud or illegal actions.

    A few years back, there was a news story about students at a large Texas university who ran up $5 million of phone charges on someone else's "calling card." The long distance company said if the money was paid back, no charges would be pressed! 

  10. And let's not overlook sports and entertainment. How many chances has baseball given to former baseball players (and drug addicts) Steve Howe and Daryl Strawberry and has the entertainment industry given to the Robert Downey Jr.?

  11. How many of us boycott products and services that are advertised in a misleading way?
  12. And how often do we give credit to, and support, others who do take action on behalf of the country.  The Giraffe Project is a group that does just that they publicize individuals who stick their neck out for the rest of us.  

It all comes down to us in a democracy we can chose to be, or not to be, in charge if we the people don't take charge, then the special interest groups step in to fill the void and the cracks get bigger. 

If there is any doubt as to whether the cracks are getting bigger and that each of us needs to be more involved, check out this 11 minute musical collage from 9-11!  It is a beautiful and moving piece of work.

The problems in this country are our responsibility. We have allowed them to become as large as they are and by allowing them, we condone them.  If we don't care, who will?  If we don't love this country, who will love America?  Two lines from the song America (a.k.a. My Country 'tis of Thee) have always seemed so poignant and provide all the motivation any of us should need to be responsible citizens.

"Sweet land of liberty ...
.. Land where my fathers died"