Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What Does America Mean to Me? - by Paula Cohen

Washington Monument, BaltimoreImage by cleopatra69 via Flickr[I posed the question, "What Does America Mean to You?" on LinkedIn and several people took their precious time to answer it for me. It's always an honor when people engage in conversation with you. Some mentioned the crumbling infrastructure of the USA, the Wall Street greed, the relationship with Canada, Mexico and South America. But then I read Paula's answer and knew that I wanted to share it with you... - Patty]

Still, after all these years...the Stars and Stripes snapping against a blue sky in a fresh autumn breeze. The sight of the Blue Ridge Mountains marching, wave on wave, into the distance, and the words "For purple mountain majesties..." running over and over through my head.

The Gettysburg battlefield in early July, where -- if you just listen closely enough -- you can almost, just barely, hear the sounds of the battle all around you, and feel the goosebumps rising on your arms. The road from Boston to Lexington and Concord, still there, with the stone walls on either side...the same road on which the British marched back to Boston, after the first shots of the Revolution; the same stone walls from behind which the Minutemen fired at
them...all still there.

The first sight of El Capitan and Half-Dome, as you enter Yosemite National Park from the southwest, which renders you speechless with wonder, and half incapable of believing that such beauty can exist, even as you're looking at it. The little islands off the Maine coast, just peeking through the fog at daybreak, reminding you of what the world must have looked like when it was

"The shining city upon a hill," in John Winthrop's words. A country founded to give its people opportunities that no people had ever known before. A country made and governed by men -- human, and flawed -- a country that has made some terrible mistakes; a country that has, nevertheless, tried -- and very often succeeded -- in learning from and correcting those picking itself up and moving on to greater and ever greater strengths.

A generous, big-hearted people. A land of big cities and small towns, of hard workers, who like their independence and relying upon themselves. The country of the Lady Liberty, lifting her lamp beside the golden door. The place where people -- including my grandparents, on both sides -- have always come, and continue to come, for the chance of a better life.

In Abraham Lincoln's words..."the last best hope of earth."

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Liberal" is Not a Four-Letter Word - by Patty Mooney

Spirit FlagImage by cleopatra69 via Flickr

Last night Mark and I saw the premiere of a wonderful movie called "Just An American," featuring vignettes of various citizens who each follow a dream to its fruition, demonstrating that anyone with enough passion, dedication and self esteem can achieve what they set out to do on this magnificent land we call "America." A stand-out scene is a naturalization ceremony inside the Hall of Liberty where our Declaration of Independence was signed.

The producer of the film, Fred Ashman, a friend of ours, is an erudite man with many intriguing stories to tell. Some of the best of these you will see in "Just An American." Layered between stunning cinematography of America, "from sea to shining sea," there is the story of a young Vietnamese girl whose family emigrates - literally by boat - to America and who overcomes language and cultural barriers to become a successful business woman. There is the young black man who survives life in the ghetto to become a doctor. A Brazilian boy also faces language barriers to achieve success first as a restaurant manager, and then as an elite Navy SEAL. His dream veers off-course when he loses the use of his legs during a mission in Panama. However, he overcomes his disability to inspire others as a Paralympian.

After the film, as the audience filed out of the theater, there was a video camera set up outside to record impressions of the viewers. I stood by as a local radio personality named Rick Roberts, spoke about his impressions of "Just an American." Mr. Roberts is the founder of The Warrior Foundation, whose "mission is to help injured and disabled military heroes leading the fight in the war against Terror."

As Mr. Roberts was finishing up his interview, the last thing he said, and I paraphrase, was "I challenge any liberal to come and see this film. It would have to change who they are." I made sure that the camera had stopped rolling and the interview was completed before I stepped forward and said, "Well, I'm a liberal and I enjoyed the film." He then said, "Then you should see it again." As he scurried off, I called after him, "I DID see it again." Fred had given Mark and me a copy of the film to watch several months ago. I enjoyed it then, and I enjoyed it last night. Furthermore, I wouldn't mind seeing it again.

I would have loved to converse further with Mr. Roberts about my impressions of the film, and his definition of "liberal." However, he could not leave my presence fast enough. It was sort of like watching a clock come apart, with the springs boinging away, and with no idea how to put the darn thing back together.

Maybe someday when Rick Roberts googles himself, he will come across this blog, and learn that this woman who had the guts to call myself a "liberal" in his presence - a man who daily vilifies liberals on his radio talk show, has this to share: No two people are alike. So why paint "liberals" with such a broad stroke? It leads me to wonder just what his definition of a liberal is. I admit, I have never listened to his radio show. I'd rather be mountain-biking in nature, or blogging about my adventures, practicing philanthropy or loving people. I stay away from hate.

Would it surprise him to learn that I come from a family of eight in which three members served in the military? Would the shock jock be shocked to know that I had spent a year of my life editing a documentary about homeless veterans? Just why was he in such a hurry to leave my presence?

I applaud his work with The Warrior Foundation. That's wonderful. But I think Mr. Roberts would do himself a favor to realize a few things. First, he is not the owner of the trademark for America. How boring would it be if every single American had the same ideas, feelings, desires and emotions as he did? I believe the great Rod Serling already covered that topic handily in "The Twilight Zone." The very diversity of Americans makes us great. Second, I may not have served in Afghan or Iraq, but I survived a brutal rape at 18, a grizzly bear attack at 31, a deadly fall off a cliff at 44, and Mr. Robert's snide comment last night. I'm both a warrior and a proud American. So my question to you, Rick, is this: Why alienate a wide swath of Americans when - with a little diplomacy - we could all work together to achieve the kind of America we all dream about? Just saying...

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