Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent

P.O. Box 366, Lightfoot, VA 23090
Office: 757-561-3255
"Assisting people in re-gaining hope and a better way of life."

Tuesday, October 28, 2003


Of late, I've been reading 19th and early 20th century poetry regarding our nation and its leaders. These writings extol the grand and noble ideals on which this nation was founded. Praise is heaped upon the great leaders and patriots of old. But, where are the leaders for the present? Where are the men of today about whom poets of tomorrow will write songs of praise? I ask you, "When did we stop being Americans?"

Common men rose to uncommon heights while pursuing the founding ideals of our country. What made these men "Americans" was their will to rise above every-day pettiness in order to seek the betterment of their fellow man. Men of great wealth forsook earthly pleasures for themselves to pursue freedom for all. Men of common means gave the one thing they had, their lives, while rallying to the clarion call of Lady Liberty; knowing full-well that, in following her, they would most likely die and never drink the sweet libation of Freedom. Yet, they pressed on, if but to let her gain purchase on this great continent so that their posterity might feast at the banquet table she spread before them.

So, we prospered as a nation for a century. Freedom swept across the land (for most). But there remained a profound blight in the complexion of Liberty: slavery. Great men and patriots rose up, brother against brother, to right this wrong. (Yes, there are debates regarding the true purposes of "the war between the states," but the fact remains that slavery was abolished.) Again, great leaders came to the fore. Again, men rose to new heights, sacrifices were made, and blood was shed; all for the cause of Freedom.

We, however, fell short of the goal of true freedom for the slave. We unchained him from the whipping post, but we didn't set him truly free. We labeled him as a lesser race and kept him "in his place." But again, great Americans rose up and led the march to freedom and equality. What American hasn't heard Lady Liberty crying out, "I have a dream!" through Martin Luther King, Jr.? Songs have been written and multitudinous books concerning this era when America was rocked by protest and the cry of freedom was heard throughout the land.

But in the last forty years, few have been the leaders who have championed the cause of American Freedom. Rather than a living hope, freedom has become a bit of nostalgia. The older generations get a bit misty-eyed when they remember the wars they fought to preserve our great country, perhaps. But the younger generations seem to have forgotten what freedom truly means. We seem to think that free enterprise, self-expression, and gratuitous sex are the "be-all and end-all" of freedom.

We have people who call themselves leaders, but where are they going? Whom do they lead? The "American Spirit" is that of Liberty. Yet, do our leaders not lead us further into bondage? Are we not becoming more and more addicted to government hand-outs? Are we not forfeiting our freedoms in order to feel more "socially secure?"

The great leaders of America-past were not people who took responsibility for themselves: They were people who took responsibility for others and for future generations! They were people who sacrificed the present profit with an eye to the future gain. They were men who stared the threat of death in the eye and rallied to the cry, "Give me liberty or give me death!"

In the latest century, who are the men who led the way in business? Are they not Ford (who paid his workers a living wage and kept his cars affordable) and Getty (who opened his financial books to the unions to prove he couldn't afford the raise they requested, but gave it to them when he could) and Gates (who gained the greatest share of the computer market by making computers available to the common man)? Politically, was it not Reagan who stared down the Russian Bear and made us proud once again to be Americans? These men upped the ante for their generations and led the way to new prosperity and freedoms throughout the world.

But today I ask you, "When did we stop being Americans?" We wrap ourselves in finery and drive ourselves in luxury. We ensconce ourselves in our gated communities. But do we care about those who are not as fortunate as we are? Do we sacrifice ourselves for the next, let alone the present, generation?

We are surrounded by people who suffer poverty, hunger, lack of viable education or work skills, and homelessness. But when we see this new "leprosy" in our society, do we cry out, "Unclean!" and cast stones to drive them away? Do we wrap our self-righteous robes around us a little tighter lest we should be "defiled by this filth" as we pass by? Are we iron-fisted in our attitudes as we say, "Well, it's their own fault!", even as we deny them the hand-up we are so able, but unwilling, to give?

Where are the great Americans of today? Who will follow the example of Americans past and sacrifice themselves and their present comfort for this and future generations? Who will step out of the anonymous masses and stand tall in the face of criticism to lead the way? Will it be you? Or will historians of the future look back and ask, even as I do now, "When did we stop being Americans?"

Geoff McKenzie


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