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Time was when national security was hardly even a thought. The United States “back then” was big, still under basic infrastructure development – and initial stages of environmental degradation – and no one was really looking ahead at what we had, where we were really heading, and what would happen when we got there.

Two and a half centuries later national security seems to have become far more important than national security; the former is a mission, the latter a concept: mission trumps concept. Everything goes, nothing is off the table, not even another war or semi-war against yet another Middle East power that is on unfriendly terms with a nation many see as America’s favorite ally.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and literally thousands of other “pieces” of legislation and Executive Orders have now come and gone. Many of our freedoms have also gone, and replacing them are fears that our once trusted government has become a giant repressive monolith intent on world domination. Conspiracies are aired from one day to the next and the average American is often reported, and seemingly screaming from one neighborhood to the next, that his or her ability to enjoy the rights our country fought so hard for is being eroded by State apparatus, with the intent to subjugate and exploit.

Although an apparent “national security” dogma seems to have roosted on the steps of the US Supreme Court, the Capitol, and the White House, as well as the front door of every American and visitor to our nation, the Constitution is still there, although its pages burn in anger and are frayed in embarrassment. Its beacon-born promises of freedom and protection from abuse by the state and by each other still mean something to most Americans, all of whom, in uniform or out, are patriots in their own way. Being simple people as people are worldwide, we expect our freedoms to be respected, to be protected, to spread and to work together to build a better world.

Today the world we see is often perceived as not a better one but one that is far worse than the one we knew, and getting worse by the hour. Six year-olds placed in handcuffs, school children being given remote-control shocks should their behavior be deemed over the line, our nation’s leaders being cited – not yet in court – for crimes against humanity…it all is a bit much to take, even for the eternal optimist.

Yet eternal optimism is exactly what spawned the first immigrants from Europe to go to the New world. That they eventually subjugated a native population, one that is today finally getting back some of the land taken from it, is undeniable. But also undeniable is the fact that American values and aspirations are not yet dead and buried, no matter how successful efforts have been to date to make it appear so. To paraphrase Old Abe, it is up to us the undefeated, the expectant, the optimistic and the loyal to dedicate ourselves to the great tasks remaining before us, to wit: to seize back the freedoms taken from us, to force our elected and appointed officials to protect our nation and not just their own vested interests. These tasks are surely sufficient for today’s and coming generations of Americans and immigrants who still believe in the same core values that our country’s founders, and their families, professed to believe in.

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