04 March, 2010

Land of the Free?

The last words to the American National Anthem say:
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Make no mistake about it, one of the key things that has caused people to flock to and envy America for more than 200 years is the freedoms which we have guaranteed to us as a people in the U.S. Constitution. People have fled their homelands to get to America where they can experience freedom, often arriving with nothing more than a dream for their future. These freedoms and the right to pursue our dream has made this country great. The combined fulfillment of these dreams has caused Americans and America to prosper and become the envy of the world. But something has been and is happening to America that is putting us into bondage and may lead to the collapse of America as we know it. In fact, it just may be too late to get off of this slippery slope.

I recall in my mind a conversation that I was involved in about 11 years ago. The year was 1999, and I was sitting on a backyard patio in Berlin, Germany having coffee with four generations of a German family. This happened to be on the former East German side of the Berlin Wall. I was particularly enthralled with the opportunity to talk with the older folks who had lived through the Hitler regime, the communist years and the tearing down of the Berlin wall and the re-unification of Germany. I sat for hours listening to them tell their stories. But then an elderly woman looked sternly at me and said, "America is next. You people are headed down the same road that we went down and you are losing your freedoms." She went on to talk about the socialist dream and how wonderful it sounded at the time, but how that before they (the German people) realized what had happened, they had lost almost all freedoms. She spoke of how charismatic Adolf Hitler was, and how intelligent he was, and how the people hung on every word he said. She said that in the beginning, he made good on his promises, and as people began to prosper, they followed him without question. Then she began to talk about how that socialism seemed to make everyone equal for a time, but after awhile people began to realize that they need not be motivated anymore, because the government would take care of them. She said that the more the people learned to depend on the government, the lazier and less productive the people became, and with each step of government provision, they removed a piece of their freedom. Several in that family told me that now (in 1999) even though the Berlin Wall was down there was still a great division among the people of Berlin. As they told it, the people from the former East Berlin expected the same wages and benefits that the people of West Berlin enjoyed. One of the men said, "they do not feel they need to earn it, they feel they are entitled to it." This man was very motivated and had begun his own business after the wall came down, and his business had become very successful. He said, "Do you know what is sad? Almost every employee I have with me now is from the West side. They have energy and determination to succeed. The East German's just want a check." They told me that American's were becoming soft and lazy, with an entitlement mentality. The grandfather told me that the more that American's relied on their government, the more lazy they would become and the more they would be ready to embrace socialism.

Here we are... 11 years later, and I look at the nation in which I live and I see the prophetic words of these German people unfolding before my eyes. In our local paper online, I was reading an article this morning where a man stood behind Jim Bunning holding up the bill to extend unemployment benefits by asking, "how are we going to pay for this?" (By the way, I agree with Senator Bunning and wish more of our politicians would ask this question!) Many of the people commenting to that article were screaming out that "We are entitled to this! The government MUST pay us!" Why? Why is it the governments job to pay someone? Do we understand that the "government" is not paying anyone... our tax dollars are! Who is going to pay for this? We are! Take a good look at this health care bill. More than TWO TRILLION dollars! (Let that sink in.) Who is going to pay for this? Certainly not those on the welfare rolls. This bill says all Americans MUST purchase insurance. (There goes your freedom!) If you don't, you will be fined or imprisoned. (Woops , there goes your freedom!) Payroll taxes will be increased. (There goes more of your money, and your freedom to choose where your money goes).

I could write a book on this, but let me quickly suggest to you where your freedoms are disappearing. Think you have the freedom of privacy? If you are reading this online right now, you are being tracked by the government. If you have a cell phone, Big Brother knows where you are at any given moment because of the GPS installed in your phone. This week, right here in Illinois there is debate going on in the Illinois Senate to begin installing cameras on traffic signals across our state. The argument is "traffic safety and regulation" but every one of these cameras will be linked to a central computer with facial recognition capabilities. In other words, you and I are being spied on at all times. Our phone conversations are monitored. Make a withdraw of "your" money from the bank of a certain amount and automatically the bank notifies the government of your actions. Use a credit card, debit card or link card and every purchase you make is easily tracked. And speaking of "your" money... work 40 hours and take a look at your paycheck and tell me how much of "your" money has been taken from you? Did you have any choice in that? Do you have any control over the government taking the money that you worked hard for, and giving it to the person on the other side of town that has made the choice to have 2 or 3 kids and lay at home on the couch eating cupcakes watching cable tv, talking on their cellphone, taking their kids to the ER, buying their groceries with a LINK card.... all paid for by you and I. Now ask yourself, why would that person want to go get a job? Why does the young person want to go to school and get a job? Why should they when they can do nothing and get it free?

I think you might be getting the idea. The words of my German friends are unfolding right before our eyes folks. Are we really all that free today? I wonder where we will be in another 11 years?

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