Delaney: American Priorities

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(HOST) With trillions of dollars in deficit and debt and juggling three wars, commentator Dennis Delaney thinks it’s time for America to refocus.

(DELANEY) For me, the word democracy has always had a positive ring to it. I’ve been involved in Vermont politics for a while and time and again I have seen that abstraction, democracy, transform itself into the richest reality. Citizens in the voting booth or standing up at town meeting endow the word with meaning far greater than those who coined it could have imagined. Who wouldn’t wish this blessing on the rest of the world? And in fact, many of our leaders want just that. Many believe in something called American "exceptionalism" and that our proven democracy can benefit the rest of mankind.

But the trouble is, we’re broke and there’s no payday in sight. Right or wrong we need to slow down and re-examine our priorities. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman recently wrote (March 23) about our aspirations for imposing democracy on the rest of the world and bluntly rang the reality bell with a few simple words: "Sadly, we can’t afford it". Then he went on to say that "we have got to get to work on our own country".

Now, Americans don’t like to be told that we can’t afford something. But the truth is, there are limits. Ronald Reagan called America "a shining city on a hill" but that shining city is now drenched in trillions of dollars of debt and budget deficit. And much of that debt is owed to those who don’t necessarily have our best interests at heart. So much for American independence.

So where do we draw the line? Two recent events have provided me with much food for thought on that subject. First came the President’s announcement that we had joined, indeed that we were leading an air assault on Libya. And that same day, much closer to you and me, a family sat in a pew in the Union Baptist Church in Waterford for the funeral service of its son and brother Marine Cpl. Ian Muller of North Danville. Cpl. Muller was the 39th Vermonter to die in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003.

This young man played the viola and loved to cook. He was an athlete, a Vermonter, and he fell on a far distant field of battle.

Make no mistake. I am deeply proud of those who serve: My father did, my son does. But our children should not have to look only to the military for a job; that should be just one of many good choices. I want our young to have what my generation had – an America alive with opportunity and optimism, not one choked by the smog of debt and endless war in foreign lands, no matter how noble the cause might be.

It’s hard to believe that America’s future lies in the Libyan desert, in the Afghan mountains, or in the unyielding sectarian strife of Iraq.  

And it’s getting harder.

(TAG) You can find more commentaries by Dennis Delaney at VPR-dot-net.

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