It's going to take more than flying the flag

    Letís not overlook the part about the four witchit Stans.

    Or, as most of us figure out around the second grade, the Republic for which it stands.

    The flags unfurled from the front doors and car antennas are palliative and patriotic, but in the end they donít mean much unless each and every one of us is prepared to, as they used to say, do our bit for the war effort.

     And it may be a lot more than a bit.

    Iíve asked a few folks who I have seen displaying Old Glory if they would be willing to see their sons go off to war. Most of them said no. If the next war, like the last one, has to be fought by other peopleís children, America will not prevail.

    The trendy media phrase of the moment is a "boots on the ground" conflict. Meaning soldiers, I suppose. For Desert Storm it was "shooting war." Like there is another kind.

    But however one wants to phrase it, bombing isnít going to get it done. Strategic bombing doesnít defeat enemies. German bombing of London or American attacks on Hanoi and Baghdad didnít remove them from the maps and probably strengthened the enemyís resolve.

     It may not be like World War II where we put millions of people in uniform, but we are going to need our smartest, strongest and bravest citizens to serve their country. The Marines are going to have to be the many and the proud.

    Weíll need G-men and spooks. Rangers and Seals. Top Guns. More than we have now. And all dangerous, but necessary jobs.

    I hope, no, I pray that the United States has the resolve to save our civilization. Some, maybe many of our best people will be lost if we are to prevail.

    There will be signs it is happening, some subtle, some obvious. People in the suburbs will stop putting college stickers on their car windows so they can boast about their kid going to an Ivy League school and instead start to announce that their sons and daughters are at West Point or the Naval Academy.

    People will talk about starting the Draft again. Not only will it ensure fairness as to who does the dirty work (no student deferments this time around), but it will bring America together by throwing together types of people who most likely would never have met each other in regular life. As it did in World War II.

    And theyíll ditch the giant SUVís. Thereís something incongruous about a flag flying from a suburban Suburban antenna. Sooner or later, oil is going to play a role in this thing. At the moment, Saudi Arabia says they are our friends. But they are also one of only three countries who recognize the Taliban.

    Bicycles and rickshaws arenít necessary, but a sensible car helps a little.

    The oil-rich states are not democracies. They are sheikdoms and kingdoms, and at the moment join us not because of shared values, but because they donít want to become Kingdom Come.

    We will also start to look inward, and perhaps adjust our lifestyles. Our freedom, our liberty, our opportunities are the most lavish gifts ever bestowed upon a people. Here we are upon a plateau of our democracy, poised upon thirty years or relative peace and an historically unmatched prosperity.

And the question to ourselves which needs an answer is on what have we spent our winnings in the liberty lotto? Laden with heavy consumer debt fueled by a sprinting consumerism, we donít have that much to show for it other than shiny cars and a cavalcade of electronic gear.

    Parents get into fights at Little League games. Road rage. Litter. Things big and small that we shouldnít do. While we are capable of showing bottomless kindness and compassion as well as limitless achievement, we can also be spoiled brats.

    Which is perhaps why other people in the world love us and hate us. Those who hate us enough to kill us will have to be killed first.

    Historically, and therefore predictably, Americans have been called upon to sacrifice in order to protect the life which we all hold so dear. At some time in the foreseeable future, our freedom and safety will be returned to us.

    Then we can mourn our dead and perhaps thinks about how to spend the gifts they bought us more wisely than we did this time around.


September 24, 2001