This article originally appeared in The Southern Illinoisan on 4 October 2011.
Military service runs in my family, like many American families. My grandfather and great uncles served in World War II or Korea, my father and uncles in Vietnam, and my cousin and I in Iraq.In my family, we serve because we owe everything to the opportunities America has provided us. Today I see a lot of flag-waving, bumper stickers and T-shirts with patriotic slogans.However, some opinions many Americans express seem to run contrary to this sentiment. Everyone loves America, but only to a certain point. Most Americans express undying devotion to America, until it requires some sacrifice on their part.
Americans like the benefits of government, but don't want to contribute to them. They enjoy the protection of our national security apparatus, but don't want to fund it. They want good roads, bridges and parks, but don't want taxes to fund them. They are upset Wall Street created this recession and got bailed out, but don't want new regulations because it may hurt their own wallets. They know we have to fix our debt problem, but don't want even a small tax increase, if only for the wealthiest 10 percent. They want all these things, but don't want to pay for them. Paying for stuff is seemingly "un-American."
The money should come from somewhere, but not from them and don't tax those with more because they might be among them someday. Americans still claim to love America. They do this because every American believes they are America, their lifestyle is truly mainstream American, and their beliefs and way of life are the American dream or the path to realizing it. If only the government and the rest of us would get out of their way. Every American is a little storehouse of strength and economic vibrancy just waiting to explode if only they weren't being held back by the others or the government.
No one is America. We are all Americans. This country isn't an idea; it's a nation. That means we must all do what is best for the entire nation, not just some of us, not just for ourselves.The system, services and the things we all need and cannot provide ourselves alone have to be provided for through contributions from all of us. Sometimes the monetary contributions won't be equal. This sometimes means those with more money have to pay for those with less. I and my family, like most Americans, are among those with less money. Others have paid more into the system. However, for three generations, men in my family have served America at war. My grandmother was a bookkeeper. My mother is a nurse. My aunts are teachers or worked with troubled kids. Though there are others who have paid more money in, the rest of us have contributed as much in kind to building America to have a place here. If we all love America, we have to start acting like it by treating our fellows Americans as such. We are all America.