My Greatest Fear?
An America That I Don’t Recognize
-Candace Cavanaugh Buehner
The other day, I received one of those “How Well Do You Know Me?” emails from a friend. These are the emails that contain a list of questions that you’re supposed to answer before you forward it on to a new group of friends, for their amusement and/or annoyance at their own email-opening convenience. I happened to answer this particular one, not only because it came from the friend that I would least expect to send this sort of thing, but also because interspersed with the “do you like diamonds or pearls?” and “What did you last eat?” questions was one that made me think: “What do you fear most?”
“War. In my own world.”
Unthinkable man-made badness has happened on Earth since it first began, and fundamental to almost every altercation, large or small, is the belief that the cause that Your Team is Fighting For is one for which you would – if not gladly, then at least with some degree of pride, however resigned – sacrifice your life or the lives of those you love. It is true that this absolute conviction of purpose might not permeate every level of society, but any woman can tell you when it comes time to send her husband or son off to war what side is “good” – and who she wants to win.
The older that I get, the more in awe I am of the founding fathers of America. These men had the presence of mind and the temerity of soul to realize that what they had here in their New Nation was a unique freedom that had to be first, respected, and second – and more importantly – understood by its beneficiaries in order to survive. As time evolved, the brilliant framework on which our country was formed has expanded the concept of “freedom” to include, rightfully, all human beings, regardless of gender or race. Every American has the freedom to choose whether to use his or her own abilities to improve their lot in life, or not, and enjoy the rewards or suffer the consequences accordingly.
It’s called self-determination, and more than two-and-a-quarter centuries after the ink on the Constitution dried, we all, as Americans, take for granted how we live our lives each and every day. We wake up, we kiss our children, we work (likely at a private business), we grocery shop, we might watch a smidge of reality TV, we eat, we sleep. We live, without investing ourselves in thinking of what it has taken to get us HERE, as Americans, or what is being done to make sure that our lives continue along in their blessedly normal way.
Even if we do vote, we pay little attention to what our elected officials are doing, catching a vague headline here and there on Google on our way to check our home value at Zillow, or the latest on Jon & Kate. I’d suggest that you ask Laura Ling about what American freedom means to her, but she can’t talk right now. She is the U.S. reporter just sentenced to 12 years in a North Korean forced labor camp for an infraction (alleged border violation) so absurd it would be funny if it weren’t so horrifically REAL. Women who have survived these camps tell of torture, abuse, and truly unfathomable cruelty, such as babies literally taken from their mothers at birth and then tossed aside. To die.
I certainly don’t want war with North Korea, or Iran, or any of the other myriad countries whose leaders hold fundamental beliefs that are opposite to our own. But I also don’t want America to be seen as a country of apologists or even worse, appeasers – people willing to turn a blind eye while politicians at home, or dictators abroad, act in complete, flagrant disregard of the concept of individual freedom.
My answers to my friend’s questionnaire have already been sent, but if I had to do it over again, my “greatest fear” would not be war. It would be the end of the America that I know, love, treasure and revere. No apologies necessary.
Candace Cavanaugh Buehner lives and works outside of Detroit, Michigan, where she is waiting patiently for her husband to install the U.S. flag kit she bought at Costco last year.
Read Candace’s last blog: Princess Leia, Depression and Me