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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tales Our Fathers Told

There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.
Ursula K. LeGuin

It is surprising where we as activists get our inspiration sometimes. One of the best sources is from the stories our parents told us as children. Be it tall tales of the big fish in the river to dramatic stories of survival in the face of adversity. The movie ''Big Fish'' gives insight into the sources of such stories.

We have no doubt all heard the stories about our fathers and grandfathers having to walk five miles to school, in the snow, across a river, uphill both ways. But have you ever really listened to the stories they tell? If you have, have you thought about what lessons you could draw from them?

Take my father for example. I have know since I was a young boy that my father was in the Vietnam War and repaired helicopters there. But I learned something new about him my senior year in high school.

He was taking college courses at the time at San Jacinto Junior College in Pasadena, Texas, and was naturally required to complete an english class as part of his curriculum. I recall it was our ''Senior Skip-Day'', but my father needed help in typing up an english assignment. I took him up to the high school where I had access to computers, being a data processing student. I felt so special, having my father ask for my help like that. Little did I realize it was a day that would change my view of my father.

My father and his buddies were relaxing in their barracks, playing cards, talking about their families that they missed, the usual stuff guys thousands of miles from home talk about. Then the alarms sounded, the base was under attack.

My father and his buddies grabbed their weapons and dashed out to their defense positions. His position was located in the third defensive line, the last line before the base would be considered overrun by the enemy.

He could see the enemy approaching the base and hear the bullets flashing past him. The first line was wiped out within moments, left dead or dying as the enemy penetrated. The fighting was so fierce, he didn't have time to think. Round after round was fired from his rifle, trying to stave off the onslaught of Vietnamese soldiers. The second line of defense was forced to fall back, joining my father and his buddies at the third line. The base was in danger of being totally routed.

Suddenly, as quickly as it had begun, it ended. The enemy withdrew for unknown reasons and retreated back into the jungle.

My father returned to the barracks which had taken a mortar hit at one corner. Picking up his watch from his bunk he realized the whole thing had only taken fifteen minutes.

It was the first time I ever knew my father had actually seen combat. It had been over twelve years, yet he remembered. I felt honored to have him share this story with me.

Now you may ask ''what lessons could this man draw from such a story? How does this relate to social policies and activism?''

The answer is, several ways.

First, we as Americans are well known to face untold adversity when we are fighting for a good cause. We are willing to endure being separated from our families, deprive ourselves of even the most basic comforts, and even put our very lives on the line when fighting for something we truly believe in or in the defense of our families. Our national forefathers swore their lives and fortunes to the cause of American freedom. Can we say the same for our causes? Do we believe in them enough to risk everything we have and are to see them through?

Second, we are a nation truly at war, not just in Iraq, but throughout the world. It is mostly a war of beliefs and economics, but a war none the less. Our first line of defense has all but crumbled, giving in to the powers of globalization and corporate profiteering at the expense of our society and communities. Our second line of defense is our non-governmental organizations, our charities, schools, and churches. They are, even as we speak, under seige by organizations and movements that are undermining our American way of life. They have been infiltrated by subversives. Our organizations have been turned into bastions not of knowledge, compassion, or enlightenment, but of multiculturalism at the cost of knowledge, programs that encourage irresponsibility and self-victimization, and citadels of divisivenesss and conflict within our communities. It is up to us, the citizens of the United States, to stamp out these problems. A handful of organizations have fallen back with us in the third and final line of defense. Are we ready to pick up arms to defend what made America great?

Lastly, listening to such stories, we learn to never give up. It would have been easy for my father and his buddies to retreat, leaving the base for the enemy to take, but they were defending their home, what there was of it. Should we be doing any less, simply because all too often the face of the enemy is someone of our own nation? Or that wears the badge of a governmental agency?

Thomas Jefferson once said, "the price of liberty is eternal diligence." To ensure the strength and continuation of America, we must defend it and its founding principles against all enemies, foreign and domestic. If our government has failed us, then it is up to us to change things. If big businesses no longer serve the economic interests of our country, they are no longer worthy of our patronage. If any nonprofit foundations or organizations are taking actions that we disapprove of, then they should no longer benefit from our contributions.

Just as my father and all the other veterans of our conflicts have stood up for American values, so too must we today in our own society. If America falls because of us sticking to our values, then at least we have fought honorably for what we believe in. If it falls because we betray it and/or allow traitors to undermine it, then we are all dishonored and unworthy of anything more than slave collars about our throats.

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