The End (of the freeloader discussion)

I have never been accused of letting a sleeping dog lie. The recent exchange of niceties makes that description appropriate. My column highlighted a troubling trend in America. I did not propose abandoning those in need of a hand –up!

The vitriolic response to my “Freeloaders” commentary caused me to take my eye off the ball, just as the so-called contraception controversy has taken the voters attention from the important issues of the upcoming election! I believe we have lost our uniquely American self-reliant attitude.

The letters to editor all were directed at my selfishness, my inhumanity, and my uncaring and uncompassionate attitude. None seemed to grasp the columns purpose of singling out the layabouts and freeloading attitudes I witness on a daily basis. Hue and cry was raised against the messenger, and I have no doubt the letter writers would lynch me if they could get away with it.

Why are we so loath to look at what our society has wrought? Are we afraid to point out people who have found a legal way to steal from those who are keeping the coffers of the country filled? Are we afraid to ask them to contribute? What have we become that those who work every day, pay their taxes, and contribute to the upkeep of their city, county, and nation are told to be silent and not point out the abusers? Not so long ago, if a family or individual was forced to take welfare or help from their church they felt ashamed and worked to end that dependence as quickly as possible. Obviously, there was a certain percentage even then that used the system, but most wanted to be in charge of their lives and made every effort to get off the dole.

Cortez is but a microcosm of the nation but we do reflect the rapidly vanishing self-reliant character. Let’s talk about what made America such an outstanding country. I recently read a transcript of a lecture by David McCullough, the historian. His book, 1776, published in 2005, was a bestseller and a television series.

He made the point that the Declaration of Independence and the subsequent Revolution was a leap of faith by the Founders. They were young and idealistic, but totally inexperienced in revolutions or nation making.

George Washington took command of the Continental Army at 43 years of age. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence at 33. John Adams was 40. Benjamin Rush was 30. When they started this glorious experiment, they had no money, no navy, no real army, and there wasn’t a bank in the country. The country consisted of a tiny strip of settlements along the East Coast. One bridge existed between New York and Boston. There were only about 2,500,000 people, with 20 percent of them held in slavery.

These men, these Founders, were not demi-gods, not superhuman or super intellects; they were just people like you and I. Some of them ardently disliked some of the others. The written accounts of the Constitutional Convention clearly speak to that fact. So how could this young, inexperienced, diverse group of people create such an illustrious document, fight a war against the best fighting force on earth, hold a convention and craft a guidebook that still stands after over 240 years?

To quote McCullough, “But the fact that they could rise to the occasion as they did, these imperfect human beings, and do what they did is also, of course, a testimony to their humanity. We are not just known by our failings, by our weaknesses, by our sins. We are known by being capable of rising to the occasion and exhibiting not just a sense of direction, but strength.” He makes the observation that almost no nations in the world know when they were born. We know exactly when we began, why we began and who did it!

So today we cry and complain about how difficult it is to make ends meet.

Try it when working 12 hours a day, chopping wood to cook and heat, walking miles to school or work and mending clothes by kerosene lanterns.

I did that for three years, and I am grateful for today’s easy life.

Larry Tradlener lives down McElmo Canyon.

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