“Are There Any Great Americans Today?”

America needs a real life Mr. Smith to help us climb out the hole we're in.

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They used to make miracles come true.

I walked in the
door, home from harvest for the evening, and came face to face with a
76 year old Hollywood miracle. I know, the wonders they create are only
dreams, but every time Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is on the living room TV set I have to stop and think.

Most
of us know the story of Smith, the naïve young leader of a group known
as Boy Rangers. To the rich men, Smith seems harmless enough to be
appointed to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate, but suddenly, we realize
he has heart.

Smith has a boyhood hero, an idol and friend
of the family, the other senator from his state who turns out to be
corrupt, in the pocket of a big business-funded political machine. The
choice is made simple for Smith; bow to the will of the high and
mighty, leave his principles behind for his own benefit–or fight for
the people.

After listening awhile to my favorite movie I turned to my wife and asked, “Are there any great Americans today?”

I
once felt the same way Smith did when he first saw the Capitol dome.
“Look” we both said, “there it is!” Neither Smith nor I could wait to
go there, to visit the vast home of Democracy that is Washington, DC. Smith first caught sight of the Capitol in 1939; I saw it for myself 70 years later.

But today after several more visits, for some reason the Capitol seems smaller.

A still from
the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington shows Jimmy Stewart pointing to the Capitol building.
When
‘Smith’ was made, 1939, America was climbing out of a hole just about
as deep as the one we’re in now. It’s true, dust clouds don’t darken
the southwestern sky today like they did in the dirty ’30s, and bread
lines don’t form outside soup kitchens. But in these modern times it’s
as bad it’s ever been. I’ve read the history books. I know that
monopolies, crooked bankers, and political bosses were around then just
as they are now. And now just as then, America needs real heroes.

A
real hero looks adversity in the eye without blinking. A hero has to be
willing to run into a burning house to save the baby even if it means
he burns. Heroes find cures and invent new ways to do old
things, better, not for the promise of wealth and power but instead
inspired by the good they can do.

Heroes are people who’ll
give others the benefit of a doubt but not a free pass. Heroes hold
doors for those behind them and smile at strangers and grimy kids.
Heroes don’t measure themselves against others but against a yard stick
each one carries deep inside. It’s called character.

Heroes
aren’t only soldiers or firemen or cops, they’re kids who choose not to
smoke or take drugs or use foul language even though their peers do.
Heroes are drivers who stop at crosswalks, not just for people but for dogs
and squirrels. Heroes show respect for other people’s views even if
they aren’t their own, and when people take liberty for granted, heroes
remind them that all our freedoms in America were purchased with toil’s
sweat and the blood soaked tears of patriots. When times call for it,
real heroes renew our freedoms the same way.

They pay for it, but in a Democratic America, we must earn it every day.

We
have a great debate going on in our nation right now. I want to see our
leaders put themselves on the line. I don’t want canned political
rhetoric. I want to see Mr. Smith stand before the Senate to defend
right from wrong. I want to see a battle to the finish where pro and
con are discussed openly without cunning design or lie. I want my
leaders to debate directly on issues, not through sound bites or
character assassination.

I want to hear someone tell me how
it is that the minimum wage is bad even though both Mom and Dad have to
work to support their family. Tell me why it is we blame people for
high credit card debt without giving them any alternative to paying
bills. Is a lower minimum wage, or no minimum wage at all, an answer to
that? I want to have explained why the same people who supposedly
take too much for their single-digit hourly employment must work for
CEOs who are paid thousands of times more, even though these same CEOs
fail to deliver company profits to shareholders that any recent MBA
graduate from India probably could.

And after the banking
collapse, when people lost billions and the government backed that loss
with billions more–at the behest of a Treasury Secretary named Paulsen
who made his fortune as one of those overpaid CEOs–I want to know why
privatizing Social Security and placing it into the same flush hands
that ruined our economy is a great idea.

Make it clear to me
why the well-to-do have unlimited access to doctors, hospitals, and
treatments while poor men can only choose the way they die.

Someone
tell me please, why is job killing “FreeTrade” that floods America with
imports at a time when we need to reindustrialize our country, more
important than Fair Trade that guarantees the safety of U.S. consumers.
Fair trade offers quality goods instead of quantity contamination that meets Chinese standards for lead paint, dioxin, and melamine poisons.

I wonder, what the leader of the Boy Rangers would say to that.

After
years of our nation’s ignoring its own laws, laws like the Packers
and Stockyards Act that gave independent family farmers and ranchers
access to fair markets for their livestock right here at home, I’d like
to hear a Smith wannabe explain why monopolies are now acceptable as
food prices creep higher.

I’d also like to hear every
candidate explain every political donation he or she receives above $100 by
line item, and then tell why they think millionaires and corporations would spend
that much just to help them.

The wealthy and powerful who would own us are not like us. They’re like politicians who evaluate personal risks.

Heroes weigh the costs of inaction that willk be borne by us, the people.

Not
a single member of Congress can lay claim to perfect innocence. Still, I want to see a real life Smith. I want to hear as he shouts
himself hoarse, cries with anger and alarm, lays himself bare to
criticism and scorn. I want him to stand for his beliefs explaining
each one in great detail until he can stand no more. I want to see him
collapse exhausted from the effort. I want him to make himself
vulnerable to me and American voters who will judge him right or wrong,
good or bad, rebel, stooge….or maybe even hero.

 

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