My vision of what America is and should be all about was formed in my childhood years.
I’d go to school and we’d stand in the classroom, face an American flag, put our hands over our hearts, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. We’d have pictures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln framed and hanging from the walls to remind us of where we came from.
I came from a small town, in rural America, that part of the country that’s truly “fly-over country.” And there’s a part of that which will always be with me, no matter where I am.
In my formative years, I believed in America, with every fiber of my being. I believed in what it stood for — freedom, equality, our voices meaning something to those who were supposed to represent us, the Statue of Liberty welcoming everyone from every nation and every walk of life, a sense of compassion. I believed in that thing called the American Dream.
I believed in hard work, and being compensated fairly for that work. I’d spend childhood years driving a Ford tractor pulling a trailer through a field, hauling irrigation pipe, turning bales of hay so they could be picked up by newfangled machinery and stacked neatly, being rewarded with a cold drink of tapped well water from an old glass A&W root beer jug covered in burlap, stuck in a cold stream to keep it ultimately refreshing on a hot summer day, watching my grandfather resting on the ground in the shade of an International pickup truck after he’d finished smoking some hand-rolled cigarettes.
As my grandfather slept for a bit during some break time, I’d dream of the future.
The work included climbing the stairs of a milking shed to the top, shoveling grain into a barrel with the grain being distributed below into bins for dairy cows being milked in the parlor. In the heat of summer days, roasting under a metal roof, the work was far from easy. But it had to be done.
My grandparents wouldn’t put up with slacking off. I learned about earning your keep early in life.
On the week of July 4th, my hometown threw quite a party. Salmon River Days. Stores would display their wares on the sidewalks all along Main Street. There were parades, patriotic music, motocross races on Dump Hill outside of town, and fireworks that most small towns could only dream about because our high school band teacher was very serious when it came to pyrotechnics.
Yep, I’ve got stars and stripes and red, white and blue coursing through my veins. I’ve believed in what I believed to be American values of treating others how we’d want to be treated my entire life.
I haven’t always been perfect in that, but any mistakes I’ve made I ended up learning from.
In later years, after my grandfather had passed and my grandmother was still alive, I’d see at least one con man calling himself a politician preying on my grandmother’s conservative beliefs. I could see his games, but she couldn’t. I don’t know how much monetarily she’d bought into it, but I felt sorry for her. She bought into “patriot games.” That con man ended up going to prison for defrauding two Idaho banks and at least 100 individuals in a $30 million investment scheme.
My grandmother was among the people who helped instill values into me that were priceless — honesty, compassion, trusting to a fault, believing that everyone’s equal, regardless of religion or whatever. I saw the values of America.
Where are those values today?
Part 2: A Vision of America
Part 3: Where America Is At Now
Part 4: The Fakeness of America
Part 5: Turning Things Around