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Letter: America Needs a Reality Check

(Editor’s note: This letter is in response to What Is a Veteran? that appeared in the Friday, Nov. 18 edition of the Levittown Tribune.)

Andy Booth is a fine American, a fine Levittowner, and a decent human being. I wish there were 100,000 more people like him. But none of these virtues immunize against departures from reality. It’s clear from his recent letter to the editor that he knows next to nothing about the country in which he dwells.

Suggesting that Americans are free to “find the job of their choice” is - albeit unintentionally - a slap in the face and insult to the intelligence of the hundreds of thousands of previously middle class Americans (including Levittowners) who daily deal with the toxic fallout from outsourcing, downsizing, debt, bankruptcy, unemployment, underemployment, over-qualification, food stamps, homelessness, and food pantries. All victims of our “free enterprise” system. Saying that one is free to “go to the school of their choice” seems unlikely given the parents who work two or three jobs and can still only afford to send their kids to a public school overrun with guns, gangs, and drugs and “educators” who teach hippi pop culture psychobabble instead of serious academic subjects.

Like Andy, I praise the veterans of World War II. But I just turned 50 and in that half century, because of America’s corrupt political system, American bombs have rained down upon the citizens of Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Serbia, Iraq, and Libya -countries that never attacked the U.S., never conspired to attack the U.S., and lacked the means to do so. There’s nothing honorable about killing tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

Since 1961, the U.S. has conspired to overthrow governments not to its liking, instigated hostilities between rival factions whilst arming both sides, helped the Israeli state apparatus drive Arabs out of homes in which they have dwelled for centuries, allowed the petroleum industry to reap billions of dollars in oil revenues in places where the average person earns less than $200 a year, and allowed companies to exploit child slave labor rather than pay American workers an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.

Andy, America in 2011 is not the New Jerusalem of Christian piety its Pilgrim Fathers sought to create. It’s not the New Athens of cultural and intellectual enlightenment its Founding Fathers aspired to forge. It’s not the liberator of peoples it was in 1945, nor the American Dream of a better life in communities like Levittown that it was in the 1950s. It’ll never be any of those things until we move beyond the pre-packaged plastic patriotism and generate enough moral backbone and intellectual honesty to take a good hard look at what we have become; until people begin to care as much about one another as they do about who wins the Superbowl and what’s on sale at Best Buy.

My little girl had an ancestor (Francis Cooke) who came to America on the Mayflower in 1620. It’s disquieting to think that my gift to her after high school graduation might well be a passport and plane ticket.

Paul Manton
Levittown resident