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Not too long ago, I had the privilege of visiting Springfield, Ill. The trip to Illinois came right on the heels of a visit to Memphis, Tenn. Now, were I to do a national poll as to which town was the most famous, I would hazard a guess that Memphis would, by far, be more familiar to most Americans than Springfield.
While Memphis is known for barbecue, Basin Street and the blues, today it is unquestionably best known for something else. As I walked through the streets of Memphis, and then in and out of several shops in the airport, I was inundated with information: pictures, T-shirts, coffee mugs, calendars, ballpoint pens and even a Barbie who had ditched poor old Ken for “the King.” I met a lady who had come to America from Russia only after she was full-grown, but she “knew about” Memphis and was determined to send home at least a postcard from the airport, if a visit to “his house” could not be arranged. One would probably have to be a combination of deaf, dumb, blind and crazy, but most likely an alien, not to know that Memphis is the location of Graceland mansion, the home of the undisputed king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley.
From Memphis, I flew to the capital of Illinois, the hometown of a man who arguably could be listed among the greatest human beings who ever lived. It is true his modest home has been made into a shrine, his office preserved, and even his bank ledger put on display, but I saw no coffee cups or ballpoint pens. I did see one T-shirt, but certainly no Barbie who had left Ken for a mere president.
It was interesting to note that while many people can instantly identify Memphis as the home of Elvis, not nearly as many would as quickly recognize Springfield as the place where Abraham Lincoln lived, worked and practiced law. I cannot help but wonder: Does the relative obscurity of this great humanitarian, statesman, orator and president of these United States somehow speak volumes about the possible future of our nation?
Perhaps an even greater tragedy is the shocking lack of knowledge about American history so evident in today’s young people. The future generation seems to have no clue regarding our Founding Fathers, Independence Day or even our political construct. I was shocked recently while viewing a recent man-on-the-street clip from a major TV show; the number of college-age people who have no idea from whom the American colonies gained independence, or when, was appalling.
Even more distressing is the apparent thrust by educators (I use that term lightly), politicians and especially the present administration to destroy the foundation on which American exceptionalism rests – the rugged individualism of men and women who carved a nation out of a wilderness. Their descendants have made that nation, indisputably, into the envy of the world.
Had I not heard the following, posted on the Internet by one of the few news sources I trust, I perhaps would not have believed it. Your government (as of this writing) has spent from 2.5 to 3 million of your tax dollars on ads to get more people on food stamps. You read that correctly: It is spending your tax dollars to enroll more people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, i.e., food stamps.
The ads, which aired in California, Texas, North and South Carolina and Ohio, as well as the New York metro area, glamorized food stamps and encouraged people to apply. (FYI, states are paid bonuses for getting new people to enroll.) This, despite the fact that more than one in seven Americans are already on food stamps, plus 49 percent of Americans are not paying incomes taxes at all. So-called “wealthy” Americans earn about 50 percent of all income, but pay almost 70 percent of the entire federal tax burden, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Apparently, the current administration wants to replace American exceptional-ism and individual-ism with entitlement-ism. (What does it say when the very word “exceptionalism” is not even listed in the dictionary on my computer?)
Could we be raising a generation of people who want to shake like Elvis or grow up to be like our current president, as opposed to emulating the man who epitomizes true American values: heartland, small-town America.
Today it is popular to trash heroes, to make our policemen, firemen and other true public servants objects of ridicule and turn our military – the best in the world – into a social experiment. Hardly anyone, including many presently in office, aspires to “public service” for the sake of actually serving the public.
Could it be that the sounds we are hearing, the trashing of America, the belittling of American values and the devaluing of our heroes is the death knell of America?