I was driving home about an hour ago, bouncing with lots of fun ideas for the next installment of Building the Ideal American, when all of a sudden I was hit between the eyes with a diamond bullet. I had made a commitment before Christmas, and through my neglect I have damn near let the window close on it. Damn near, but not quite.
So let’s talk about what you owe. Nothing soaring and abstract this time. I mean, specifically: what you owe me. What, do you suppose, do you owe me for all of the essays and entries over the past year or so? Brass tacks: how much, in cash, do you think you’ve gotten from this website, in terms of time well spent?
Can we say $5.00? Minimum? Does that seem fair? If you’ve been coming here a lot over the weeks and months, and if you’ve read most of the SILENT AMERICA essays, do you think that might be worth perhaps $10.00? No more than $20.00, certainly -‘ that’s what I was going to charge for the as yet unfinished book. So, can we agree, you owe me somewhere between $5.00 and $20.00 dollars? That seem about right?
I’ve been writing about, and you’ve been reading about, the nature of this country -‘ about it’s generosity of spirit, about the mechanisms of our wealth and prosperity. And I feel I am at my best when I talk about the men and women who serve and defend her in our place, so that we may sit here warm and comfortable and surf the net in safety, free from fear.
I was asked to drive down to Camp Pendleton a few weeks ago and talk with the commander of the First Marine Division. In person. I was heartbroken to have been unable to attend that great honor, but I promised to do my best and that is what I am doing now. My best.
In the next few weeks, these young men and women will return to the deadly Sunni Triangle in Iraq. They read the news. They can count.
If you do not think that these teenagers are thinking about what we are about to ask of them -‘ again, for these were the kids that lassoed that statue and pulled it to the ground -‘ then you have another think coming.
When an entire division ships halfway around the world, it is like moving a small city. Everything they need must go with them. Space is at a premium. And in place of additional weapons or ammo or other vital supplies, in place of some personal items to help them stay connected to home, these Marines have chosen to dedicate 3 entire ship borne containers of their own tightly limited supply resources to bring to the Iraqi people, and especially the hard-line Sunni’s who are doing most of the fighting -‘ the elements that they not only need, but also some things they most decidedly do not need. The kind of things that make life feel like something a little more than survival. Like fifteen thousand Frisbees -‘ that’s two tons of them, each printed with the word ‘FRIENDSHIP’ in English and Arabic.
Think about that for a second. Think about the sight of these fearsome, towering, heavily armed warriors distributing Frisbees to kids and teenagers who have likely never seen one, much less tossed one before. What kind of invaders do such a thing? What kind of monsters throw Frisbees with kids?
Three containers also holds a lot of medical equipment. The West Caldwell, NJ, Fire Department has just donated all they could spare of their surplus Fire Helmets and Jackets -‘ 18 sets or so. With all my recent silliness aside for a moment: Where do we find these people?
Those helmets and jackets are going in the containers. Lots of things can go in the containers. Police and Civil Defense supplies, so that Iraqis can feel some sense of pride in themselves and their institutions once again.
If you have ever marked my words, do so now: Arabs having pride in themselves is the absolute key, the very fulcrum upon which this entire, world-changing strategy depends.
This is too important to screw up. This image of America, this face of our soldiers is the essence of everything I have tried to convey to all of you over the past year.
Not only do I think this is essential to the people of Iraq; I believe in my heart that this will, in the long run, save the lives of some of the sons and daughters we are sending over there next month. I do fervently believe that what the Marines have asked us to help them with will turn the hearts and minds of many who may have been turned away.
So I am asking you now, to pay back the debt you owe me. I am asking you to go to the Spirit of America website by clicking here. And I am asking you to donate from $5.00 to $20.00 to this cause, because my voice is only here because of people like this, because of a nation that can do such things as this.
The final words of the Declaration of Independence echo through my mind at this moment, like a fading cannon shot across still water:
We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Our lives are safe and comfortable, thanks to these men and women. Our fortunes have seen no equal in all of history, thanks to these men and women. And our sacred Honor is being upheld by teenagers in uniform who have asked us to help them bring medicine, fire helmets and Frisbees to a people brutalized for two generations. Some of these kids, likely, will not come home. They know this. And still they go: volunteers all.
We owe them. We owe them.