October 11, 2001, The Santa Barbara News Press, Santa Barbara California, published the following op-ed, headed with color art work featuring the American Eagle:
by Patt Wardlaw
AMERICA, LAND OF THE FREE
I was raised a to be a patriot. My mother was a proud Daughter of the American Revolution (DAR) and my father had graduated from West Point at a time when MacArthur was Superintendent.
"Duty-Honor-Country" was drummed into me from short pants days and I tagged along to DAR meetings held at Washington's Headquarters. We attended veteran's memorial services, marched in parades, flew the flag at every opportunity and got teary-eyed singing the National Anthem or America the Beautiful (I still do). We were a very patriotic family.
Sometime after World War II broke out I began to realize that all kids my age were proud of their countries whether they were German, Italian or Japanese. Of course, so were those in England and other allied nations. Was it just a case of where you grew up, like you stuck up for your family or rooted for your school's football team?
No, they had said, we were different; we had right on our side. God, too, I was told. I tried to do as much for the war effort as any kid my age could do: aircraft spotting, selling war-bonds and wishing I were older so I could join up. Then we won! We had been patriots. I was proud and happy but I don't think I fully understood what really made us the "good guys".
It probably wasn't until after leaving for college that I fully understood why I really should be a patriot. I will never forget that day in Economics 101 (literally) when capitalism was first properly explained to us. A flashbulb went off in my head. Capitalist wasn't just a word for the wealthy who invested in steel mills and built skyscrapers. It defined all of us; working within the market place, free to set our own goals and achieve them to the best of our individual abilities. It was a system linked inextricably to all the freedoms we could enjoy as nowhere else on earth. It was Capitalism that had developed our national resources to a level that made it possible to win WW II and make the world a safer place. The free market would lead to the greatest prosperity world history had ever recorded. It was the true nature of our freedoms.
Now I understood the real reasons to be patriotic. I could properly comprehend the genius of those founding fathers who drafted and adopted the documents that rank as the most brilliant ever devised by mankind: The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States of America with its Bill of Rights. No other nation was ever founded on individual rights. Neither had any other country limited the powers of its government in the way our First Amendment begins: "Congress shall make no law..." Our system was designed, objectively, to be workable. It was and remains fairer than any other could be. We were truly free and we had been right!
The evidence continued. We cured polio, went up to the Moon and brought down The Wall. We thought we were close to making it possible for the world to enter a new era of peace. It was reasonable that other governments began to move in our direction. Former adversaries were becoming allies. Unfortunately, we didn't predict the unreasonable!
The incredible impact of the September 11, 2001 tragedies has now made it essential for all of us to understand the true nature of such irrational terrorism. First, the perpetrators were raised without freedom. They were all spawned in countries that are totalitarian: dictatorships, monarchies or councils of "clerics" that amount to as much. They have few liberties. Women are treaded like chattel, deprived of some of the most basic human rights. Courts hand out sentences frivolously and perform humiliating punishments and executions in public. Those who disagree with their rulers may be murdered before they even get to court. The most freedom that the terrorists ever knew was during the time they were here, plotting and preparing for their evil deeds.
Second, the economies of these countries provide prosperity only to an elite few. Even when there may be great national wealth, little of it filters down to the huddled masses. Individuals have no opportunity to ever improve their lot. They live in abject poverty without many fundamental human necessities, let alone such "wants" as cars, indoor plumbing, freezers, air conditioning and other daily conveniences we Americans may consider common necessities. They will never have a 401k, a decent home nor adequate medical care. They have zero chance of ever pulling themselves up to a level that many of us consider even with or below the poverty line. Life expectancy is in the 40s or 50s.
Third, these are a very unhappy people, without freedom, whose lives must seem futile. Unable to exert any control over their own destiny makes them gullible to the kind of brainwashing the terrorist factions provide. They are easy prey for the bizarre "religious" scenarios presented; dogma that grants them martyr status (when they die while killing innocents), complete with several dozen virgins waiting for each upon reaching "paradise" (I don't know what the female martyrs get; probably their brand of religion doesn't recognize them as such). Since they face the reality they can never achieve our quality of life, their "equalizer" appears as one of bringing us down to their level.
The U. S. is portrayed to them as the great Satan-nation that exploits the poor around the world. The facts are that the United States, far from exploiting others, is responsible for facilitating worldwide wealth and providing civilization with its most important advances. Yet wealth cannot be re-distributed by law or by treaty. Wealth for all those in a nation can only be created. To do that requires a free people who are endowed with individual property rights.
When flooding, earthquakes or other disasters strike, we are always the first to respond with aid, spreading the surpluses of Capitalism to help others. We were the first to fly and our language is now officially that of international air traffic control. The computer revolution began here and spawned a worldwide communication bonanza. We are the number one importer of products from all around the globe. Other nations and their citizens are huge customers of ours, too, and "Made in USA" is synonymous with first quality everywhere. We are also responsible for stability among many of the countries of the world, contrary to the false allegations of exploitation. We have been responsible for world prosperity; that's the truth and, as the line in the movie says, "...when you've heard the truth, the rest is just cheap whiskey!"
The terrorists are taught to hate us even though we made their countries rich by exploring and developing the vast reserves of oil that lay undiscovered throughout the Mid-east. After WWII, we failed to protect the rights of our oil companies and allowed the wealth that they had created to pass to those in power in those countries. Unfortunately, these leaders did not share the wealth with their citizenry as we had been led to believe they would. We, in effect, made these monarchies extraordinarily wealthy, enabling some of them to evolve into terror supporting entities.
Like many, I have been frustrated since September 11, too far removed from the scene of the crime to contribute physically. I'm quite sure the Air Force won't take me back at this late date (although MacArthur did invade Inchon at 70). Then it came to me, "I have a pen." They say it's mightier than the sword. Perhaps it's mightier than a coward's suicide, too. I have email. And a voice. Maybe I can help explain to just one person what it really means to be a free American and how we can best be Patriots.
If we don't sell our system, who will? But if we all begin to spread the word, defining the full extent of our freedoms, who knows the limits where the message may reach? Our youngest need to know. Those who really don't comprehend the individual rights we enjoy need to be enlightened. Our allies need to be reassured exactly what we're about. We might even get it across to some of those radical derelicts that their way to a better life is not reducing someone else's life to rubble. Supporting a government that sets its people free is the only way for them to gain a better life.
So write a letter, send an email, or just explain it to someone you think may not know who and why we are what we are. Yes, we need to support the President and our military in seeking complete justice and preventing terror-breeding governments from continuing. Yes, we need to aid the survivors and honor our victims. Yes, we should fly the flag. Most importantly, we, as individuals, need to do our part in helping spread our vision: the same vision that led to the development of our Constitution, so that our nation and "...that Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."