Do we take our liberty for granted?

Living here in North County I am reminded of the sacrifices our Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Infantrymen make when I drive through Pendleton, over to Coronado, pass the MCRD, or the Miramar base. I owe them, and those before them, an immense debt. I sometimes feel I have not paid the smallest price for the freedoms I have and the personal safety I enjoy.
Does being patriotic get a bad rap? For instance I’m guilty of mumbling the lyrics of the “Star Spangled Banner” at ballgames — not because I sing out of key, which I do, but because I am afraid that I might upset or offend my silent “neighbor.” My fear of how they might perceive me outweighs my sense of patriotism. Yet I have no fear wearing my Red Sox hat into Yankee Stadium. This doesn’t make sense. What is there to fear in saying I love my county?
On July 4, 1976, my neighborhood in New Hampshire celebrated the bicentennial birthday of our nation by gathering as a community around our flagpole in the morning to sing the national anthem and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. We then had a great barbeque with sack races and other events that concluded with the firing of muskets and the playing of taps. We were, and are, grateful to be Americans.
I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1995 to 2002. At that time, the Bay Area seemed like the epicenter of the “dot-com” revolution. Each week brought a new IPO, making employees paper millions in stock options. It was a frenetic culture of competition, fear, greed and a communal sense of “I have got to get mine before this thing implodes.” It was the rat race on steroids.
Then Sept 11, 2001 happened. It was America at its finest. It was stranger helping stranger, community helping community, families helping families. Across the country I could feel the energy, prayers and goodwill being generated and channeled to those in need.
As a country we became kinder to each other. We were more patient and tolerant with each other. We smiled at each other, recognized each other. We held doors open for each other, and let others merge before us in traffic or cut in line. The sense of community, of togetherness, was genuine.
Patriotism became cool. Troops were on the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge; choppers flew over the city. People stood and loudly sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” at ballgames. America was less divided. We were all on the same page. For a brief moment, there were no “Red States,” no “Blue States,” there was only the United States.
A crisis can bring clarity to our lives. With clarity there is the chance to live better lives for our families, our communities and ourselves. There is the chance to think, speak and act differently. The catch is, we have to participate daily, or the moment will pass. Without sustained effort and awareness today’s clarity can become tomorrow’s fog.
As we approach the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, I remember the sense of community and patriotism that surrounded that time. How we were all pulling for each other. 10 years later I am still trying to be a better person for my family, friends and my community. Am I kind and patient? Do I hold doors for others and say “Thank you?” Do I keep up on local government and local candidates? Do I participate in my liberty? I fear I fail more often than I succeed. I feel blessed and fortunate to be here. I hope I am doing my part to somehow earn it.


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