While all Americans struggle with our present difficult economic conditions, the worst since the Great Depression, my thoughts and dreams continually reflect on the America that I believe is my heritage and the heritage of my children.
Regardless of what is said in the accusatory polemic discourse about our present state, we have inherited the freest country with the most flexible market opportunities in the world. We are limited only by our “victim” stance and our “Chicken Little” fears. The sky is falling, the Muslims are coming, our President is not one of us — my, oh my!
Instead, I hope we can reflect on what it means to participate in the national community we inherited.
There are many ways to sacrifice, but one of the greatest community activities we ask anyone to perform is to fight and defend our great nation. Soldiers do not fight and risk death for polemic arguments. They fight for our communities to be safe and free. But our freedom is not unfettered. It comes with responsibility.
In my opinion, paying taxes is another patriotic sacrifice that all of us can make. I know it is popular to avoid taxes. But I think through hard work and paying taxes, we contribute to our community.
Why is this topic of taxation so important? I think the actions we have taken as a nation since Sept. 11, 2001, had a direct effect on today’s economic conditions. After that date, we went to war. We drank the Kool-Aid and thought we would not have to pay the costs of war. We collectively agreed that only a “few” would bear the burden of our defense, because there was no draft. Additionally, we refused to sacrifice economically, as well, by not rescinding the revenue reductions of 2001 and adding more reductions in 2003. This was very different from my parents’ behavior during World War II with their victory garden, chicory coffee and sugar rationing.
We must quit being victims, accept our responsibility for our nation’s present travails and develop a course of action to improve our situation.
We can do this by re-establishing three basic community tenets:
We should never again go to war without “forcing” our elected political leaders to follow the Constitution and declare that war.
We should agree that we all will share the difficult burden of our men and women in the Armed Forces by insisting on the reinstatement of the draft.
We should ask what economic sacrifices are required to defend our great nation and take responsibility for them.
If we take those steps, I think the national discourse about declining job markets, deteriorating infrastructure and struggling education and health care systems again can become civil. Collectively, we will have re-established our connections to each other with our shared sacrifice.
My early history books spoke to me of our great American expansion from “sea to shining sea.” But as a young man, I realized America’s spaces were filled, and my dreams for my country expanded to include the unexplored territories of fairness, justice, equality and generosity toward my community, the United States of America.
Stewart L. Beall was a commissioned officer in the Army, awarded the Ranger Tab and served in combat in Vietnam. He has lived in Steamboat since 1971, working 25 years for Energy Fuels and its successive companies. For four years at Arizona State University, Beall conducted research on supply chain practices for Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies.