I do not like the United States of America right now. This dislike is not the masochistic self-loathing of the leftists, rather it is the disappointment that a parent must feel for a child that has done something terribly wrong and now must be dealt with. I love my country to my core, a love seconded only by my love for my God and my wife, but I cannot like it right now.
I am privileged to count myself among the numbers of people who have voluntarily chosen to serve this nation as part of the United States Military even during those times when such service has been unpopular, difficult, even unwanted. I have done so because I believe in the American ideals embodied in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. I believe that the United States of America is something great, and I believe that greatness is worth defending to the death, if necessary.
Much of the rest of my nation, however, apparently does not share my love, patriotism, and resolve. Instead, they share an apathy, unreality, and discontent in a measure far greater than their circumstances justify. Because so many Americans do not care and because some of those Americans have been deceived into caring strongly about the wrong things–things that do not advance our nation or its ideals–America is rushing headlong into a disaster that will affect us all for generations to come.
It is truly amazing to watch the debate unfolding in Washington DC and on the internet with regard to the status of our ongoing operations in Iraq. Make no mistake that this debate is ultimately a debate over the entire War on Terror–the entire war the rest of the world is waging against fundamentalist Islam. Yet, this debate centers on the question of whether we should quit in Iraq and concede that nation and its population to the ravages of an enemy that has already killed tens of thousands and threatens to enslave billions if it allow to continue unchecked.
Americans, however, sit back and watch this debate as if it does not affect them. Really, this debate is six years too late–this is the debate that should have been held when we were attacked before 9-11 when we still had a chance to prevent the past six years from happening at all. Too many Americans have no idea that the debate over what to do in Iraq will define the next fifty or one-hundred years of American history and credibility with the rest of the world. In spite of these facts, most Americans simply do not care. They just want the debate to be over and out of the public view.
So, the question becomes why, given the enormous apathy and defeatism so many Americans display, I and my brothers and sisters in service continue to do what we do? Why do we continue to serve, to defend, to fight, and to die if Americans do not care what the outcome might be? Why do we continue to serve a nation full of citizens who would just as soon abandon us and our mission in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa, and the Philippines as watch American Idol or Survivor? What are those of us who serve even defending?
Do you think that these questions do not apply to you? Then what are you doing to be part of the answer? Too many Americans–Americans I know, respect, even love–do not believe that answering these questions “is their job”. In fact, too many Americans form opinions from sixty-second sound bites on the nightly news or the 24-hour news-trough de jure and conclude that someone else–the government, the military, just somebody else–should do something about all of this. Too many Americans, if they bother to vote at all, vote for the same tired parties and candidates that got us to this point then expect those people to figure a way out of the mess they created.
Do you think that these questions do not apply to you? What are you going to do when America or its allies are attacked again? Our enemies continue to threaten us and try every day to kill us, yet most Americans are determined to live their lives as if nothing is wrong. Most Americans refuse to accept that we are at war, a long war that will not be won by killing a few media anti-celebrities from the Middle East. If we do not win in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, the Philippines, and a dozen other countries around the world where fundamentalist Islam threatens to enslave entire nations, we simply guarantee that we will be next.
Do you think that these questions do not apply to you? Then to whom do they apply? We all live in a nation of, by, and for the people. We are those people! By definition, because we chose to live in a nation based on the liberties and freedoms we enjoy, we incur the responsibility to care about things like Iraq, the War on Terror, and the rise of fundamentalist Islam. The moment we stop caring, we lose our grip on those liberties and freedoms because we abdicate their protection to others who have no reason to have our liberties and freedoms in mind when they make decisions. When those people whom we abdicate to make bad decisions, then we have no choice but to suffer the consequences because we had no hand in trying to make the right decisions.
So again, I ask, why do I and my brothers and sisters in service continue to serve. So that so many of the rest of you can be oblivious to the defining events of our time? So that we can be ordered to defeat in a fight we could win if enough people would just care? I wonder how many Americans will be willing to accept Americans place in the world when an economically superior China or a nuclear-armed Iran surpasses us as a world power. It will be too bad that there will be nothing that can be done about such a state of affairs then because the chance to change to course of events will have long since passed.
I have no answer to the central question I ask here. I struggle with it on a daily basis, and its potential answers haunt me as certainly as the questions and answers about what to do in Iraq and the War on Terror haunt our nation. I suspect that I will keep serving until the bitter end, simply because I will believe in my nation and what it stands for until I am dead, but I wonder if that death will be in a land free because of its brave citizens or under siege because its citizens did not care when they needed to the most.
What are you going to do to help me achieve the right answer?
Dennis L Hitzeman
10 September 2007