American life has become so full of ironies and paradoxes that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry for our beloved country. Even a quick perusal of the morning paper can have you shaking you head, chuckling, or weeping—maybe all three.
I happily read that former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel seems to be doing all right as mayor of Chicago. That great city where four of my kids live deserves better than the hell-in-a handbasket trip it’s been on for decades. Then I read that one of his successes is the reduction of shootings of high school students by 21 percent. Wow. Imagine that. A few days later it’s Memorial Day and 12 people are shot to death in Chicago over the weekend.
Then I see that Asian-American students are taking on Harvard because they claim they are being discriminated against by the admissions process. A student from Asian ancestors must score 140 points more on the SAT than other students to be accepted at that esteemed institution. As a minority you’re not supposed to be so smart?
Well, at least the 1 percent are still getting kicked in the teeth. The pundits and professors are really sticking it to them. I start to wonder who exactly the 1% consists of. The rich folks, right?
But wait. I read that the president of Yale, earning in excess of a million a year, just retired with an $8.4 million dollar farewell gift card. You look at your kids and grands and begin to understand why those student loan debts are so high. Then there are the Clintons, knocking off a half million to three-quarters a million a speech. Of course, as Bill said, they gotta pay their bills, you know.
And Hillary made a point of reminding us, multimillionaires or not, that she hasn’t forgotten where she came from. Yeah, Park Ridge, a tony suburb of Chicago, where the kids may not grow up eating from a silver spoon but sure as heck don’t dine with plastic forks either.
Despite all, I still happen to believe in American exceptionalism. Of all the nations that have ever existed, I believe, the United States of America is the best, flaws and all. We have a great democracy—if we can keep it (as Tocqueville said). Yes, we have poor people in this nation of ours, and we have to do something about creating for them the same opportunities that we and our parents have had. Most of the people of my generation are the offspring of people with limited education, whose parents were not long off the boat, and who worked hard so that their offspring could go to college and better ourselves.
The answer has to be opportunity, not welfare.
And that ties in with the “immigration problem.” The problem there is that we seem to have forgotten that immigrants—our forebears—are the lifeblood of America. These are the people who get off the boat (or wade the Rio Grande) and go to work to make a better life, and in the process fire the furnace of American innovation and work ethic. As for the illegals from Mexico, most of them came here during a period when we were deliberately looking the other way because no one wanted the demanding jobs they were willing to take. Both the Democrats and the GOP are cynically seeking to exploit the situation to their own advantage. They should get off their well-padded duffs, seal the border, and move to regularize the presence of the “illegals,” yes, even if it is called amnesty.
Maybe my complaint is that there is too much complaining going on. The shoe folks at Nike in Oregon honor the police in their community with a discount day, and African-American activists protest that Nike is being insensitive in light of the recent shootings of black men by cops. Oh, come on. What about the two cops murdered in New York? Or the two officers gunned down in Mississippi the other day?
Mr. and Mrs. Average go to work every day and can pretty sure they’ll come home that night. Not so police officers. Even the most peaceful community can spit up violence, and enforcing the law in areas where lawlessness prevails (where even your school kids may not come home) makes for a combat zone atmosphere. Yes, power corrupts, and there are bad cops, just as there are bad lawyers, judges, doctors, teachers, politicians, clergymen, CEOs—anyone who has power. But overwhelmingly police officers are decent people who work hard day in and day out protecting our towns and neighborhoods.
Well, thank heavens, I’m not a complainer. If I were I might get upset over ISIS, Iran, the IRS, Wall Street crooks, thieving bankers, bigots on both the left and right, weak-kneed college students suffering from “triggers,” and religious freedom.