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I am very proud to be an American. I often say that I bleed red, white and blue. I joined the Illinois National Guard within a week of my 17th birthday. My plan was that I would stay in the Guard for a year or two and then I would request to be put on active duty. It didn’t work out that way, the Army doctors said they would give me a call if a war broke out, but at the time, my vision was not up to par. I returned to the Guard for several years before transferring into the US Army reserves. I open this column with the above simply to say, I love this country. I thank God that Mom and Dad got on the boat at Queenstown.

My question today is what has happened to “my” country? This is not about Democrats or Republicans, but rather the mood that they both have created in this country. Hey, I‘m a South Sider who has seen a fair amount of conflict, so I‘m not easily intimidated, but there is a litany of craziness that has gone beyond any reasonable boundaries. I think our leaders need to get things done; not just rattle on about what they are going to do. So I have decided to address a few of the issues as I see them.

For example, the large scale shootings that have become far too common. What are we doing about them-arguing about the abuse of the gun laws? Consider the number of random shootings throughout the country and how the public simply gets a lot of talk about who is guilty—but very little of substance is done about it.

It is like a lot of other things, the political leadership simply says they need to study it or argue about it, but nothing gets done about it. I claim no great insight into our criminal justice system, but reading any daily newspaper will convince you that we have a significantly flawed system in place. It does seem that minorities are particularly victimized by the system.

Maybe rather than putting young minorities in jail, we should develop other methods or programs. Perhaps opportunities in organizations like a domestic Peace Corps would help a number of these individuals to reach their maturity with a sense of pride in a good day’s work.

Such programs would allow men and women to learn a marketable skill or a trade, or even just learn the sense that working for a living is not simply for fools would be a good thing. Where are the intellectuals who could design such a system? I do not know what it costs the state or federal government to incarcerate someone, but wouldn’t we be better off helping these individuals learn a skill or trade rather than abandoning them to a prison yard picking up “tools of the criminal trade”? I’m not talking about simply handing them a job that they can abuse, but rather one where they could improve their work skills. Something they can take pride in.

Let me move to another subject, when did we as parents decide that we wanted to be friends, pals, or buddies with our children rather than PARENTS? I am convinced that many of us parents simply abdicated the parental role. We as parents must be our children’s first teachers. We must help them understand the responsibility of being a decent human being. Help them understand that those football players who spent the afternoon bashing into each other should not walk off the field without shaking hands with the players of the other team. Is that easy to do? No. But it is the accepted response once the game is over. This is how mature people behave.   

We have fooled ourselves into seeing great value in our Johnny or Judy getting a participation trophy simply for showing up for games. We are diminishing the value of the very trophy that we are presenting to our youngsters. Basically we are telling them that their performance didn’t really matter, it was their presence on the floor, on the field, etc. that is important.

Kids are smart and they soon learn that you simply need to show up. Woody Allen once said you get 50% for just showing up. Think of the state of mind that fosters. Is s/he likely to be a good solid performer at work? I doubt it. I believe this is how the current view of how “It’s all about me” developed.

We have come to accept if not celebrate mediocrity in our society; it’s become part of the American culture. I argue that many of us have lost our sense of pride in this country that earlier generations of Americans cherished.

Our political “leaders” have sacrificed many of us in foreign wars when it was convenient to their political future. We need to demand accountability from our “leaders” at every level. In our current situation, China could and might very well hold us hostage because they manufacture a very high percentage of the drugs used by this country, including those needed by our military. Our political leaders have been asleep at the switch.

Do you have suggestions on how we could demand and expect a greater sense of responsibility from our leaders? What ideas would you have about helping more of our children to see the greatness of our country? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts; my email address is shown below. CARPE DIEM (SEIZE THE DAY).

THOUGHTS FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:
Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
Secretary of State Colin Powell
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
Sir Winston Churchill

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties. Helen Keller

James Fitzgerald is president of James Fitzgerald & Associates, Inc., a Naperville, IL-based senior executive coaching and career transition firm. Jamesffitzgerald.com This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 630-420-0362

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