April 20, 2008

The "Bitter" Truth

When Wendy and I decided to take the plunge into the blogosphere, we had envisioned the Lemon Tree Chronicles as a blog that would be potentially free from the blogging fodder of religion, politics and sex. Well, it IS an election year, the available material is hard to resist and I seem to be terribly fond of participating in, and talking about all three.

So, against my own best judgment, my first entry in Lemon Tree Chronicles tackles the recent Sen. Obama comments made in Pennsylvania, and I quote, “And it’s not surprising, then, that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

This is the person that most large media outlets think has a lock on the presidential election in November? Barack Obama plants his foot solidly in his mouth and reveals that he is first and foremost an out of touch political hack, just like the other leading candidates in this race. This man hasn’t got a clue about the average American; what they believe, how they see the future of this country or what our values truly are. So, I’m going to spell a few things out for those of Sen. Obama’s ilk and fill them in on the “bitter” truth.

My family has been in this country since the mid 1700’s. My lineage shows at least two Revolutionary War soldiers and continuing on, several that fought in the War Between the States, the American Civil War. Which side did they fight on? My great-grandfather’s first and middle names were Ulysses Grant, kind of gives away the answer! My grandfather was a coal miner, raising eight children in one of the most economically depressed areas in the country – Logan County West Virginia. He worked three jobs to keep the family together, food on the table and a roof over their heads. He built the house they lived in with his own hands, kept a vegetable garden his entire life and built handcrafted furniture in his “spare” time. He was married to the same woman for 54 years, until he passed away from lung cancer in 1977.

I put these details out there, not because they are unusual or in any way extraordinary, but precisely because they are not. Millions of Americans can tell similar stories, with similar examples of dedication to country, dedication to family and a work ethic that epitomizes what America stands for.

My grandfather was not a bitter man. He lived through the Great Depression, suffered terribly for what he achieved, but to the end was someone that above all else was proud of who he was, what he had worked for and the friends and family that surrounded him. In an era and a place where the “N” word was common vernacular, and the KKK was active, my grandfather worked alongside Black Americans, had Black friends and even though times were tough, when he owned a local grocery store, everyone got credit and a lot of that credit was written off because he knew the economic hardships that his neighbors suffered.

There were scores of immigrants in the coal and steel areas of the United States during the times that both my grandparents and Wendy’s grandparents lived. My daughters are a mix of English, Scottish, Polish, German and Sicilian ancestry. Even though separated in origin by birth, language and culture, each of these respective groups came to this country with a common goal – to be Americans. And they all succeeded. They learned English, intermarried, overcame prejudices and united in hard times, war times and good times to create the America they envisioned. I think they did a great job.

My ancestors; Silas Pennix Wooten and Josiah Marcum knew and respected the value of guns. They had to take up arms against a repressive government that no longer valued or respected its citizenry. Far from clinging to guns, they recognized that a free people cannot rely on the government to provide for their needs, only the people can and should do that. The best government gets out of our way and allows all men (and women) to find their own way to the American dream.

For all of my forebears and those of millions of Americans, the faith they chose was not something that separated them from their neighbors, but rather the glue that helped keep the fabric of our united dreams, our united America and our united future together. They may not have all worshipped together, but they knew that a respect for a power greater than them helped provide a common denominator for the basis of the society they all believed in. They didn’t fear each other, they did not have an anti-immigrant sentiment; because they knew from whence they came, and they believed that the American Dream was open and available to anyone willing to do the work necessary to obtain the blessings that our country offered.

Wendy and I are fortunate to live in a neighborhood that represents the best of America. It is diverse; within several hundred feet on our pleasant street we have Asian, African-American, Hispanic and mixed-race neighbors. We all get along, our houses are well-kept and we invite each other to cook-outs, Pampered Chef parties, and buy Girl Scout cookies from each other. All of us have seen hard times, good times and we have all persevered to be where we are.

Two of my best friends happen to be black. It is not noteworthy, it is not something that we feel we need to talk about and it has never been an issue with any of us. These are men of character, with families that are strong, with church ties that are enviable, and due to our backgrounds and upbringing, all three of us are gun owners. We have all worked hard to achieve what we have and I know that each of us is ready to protect that from someone that wants what we have without doing the work. On many occasions we have stood together, hands clasped and heads bowed, and thanked our God for the food on our table, the blessings we have and the freedom, the opportunity and the bounty that this country offers to all who are ready to accept the responsibility that being an American requires.

No Mr. Obama, we aren’t bitter. But we suspect that you are, and that those who believe in a care-taker government, in socialism, in universal healthcare, in no self reliance and self respect are the real bitter Americans. You don’t understand people like us and you can’t figure out how to get us to turn on each other and the shared values, faith and respect that keeps us united. Truth is, we are glad you can’t and we aren’t worried about the November election. I’m a registered Republican, both my friends are lifelong Democrats, but in the last election we all voted for the same candidate. I have a feeling that is going to happen again. So long Barack.

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