Whiting column: We all owe gratitude to the United States
Where are the thank-yous?
It has become “in” to criticize our country. These criticisms come from foreign nations, politicians, press, our own citizens and residents. A thank-you is more in order. Our country’s principles made it the most desired economic and political concept. No other country has the personal freedom and opportunity, as evidenced by the numbers who come to our shores.
The thank-you should come from:
• Every country possessing and desiring a degree of freedom. The U.S. military budget is $597 billion, the United Kingdom $55B, Australia $23B, Canada $15B. Why are other countries’ budgets so small? Because they overtly count on the U.S. to protect them if they are threatened. We pay 73 percent of NATO expenditures. The other 27 countries split the remaining 27 percent.
• Every country that wants its populace highly educated. Some 741,000 international students attend university in the U.S.; 428,000 from the United Kingdom, 121,000 from Canada — while only 47,000 U.S. students study abroad.
• Every country desiring the availability of the highest level of medical care. About 800,000 international patients come here for medical care, while 700,000 U.S. citizens look to all the other countries combined. More than 1,000 international students come here to study medicine, more than the total studying at other countries.
• Every country taking advantage of our scientific research. The U.S. spends $473 billion on research and development — more than the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the entire European Union combined, and twice as much as Japan.
• Every country expecting us to help in time of disaster and seeking protection from inhumane treatment from dictatorial force. The U.S. sent $6 billion to other countries in response to international humanitarian issues and $3.2 billion in natural disaster relief; the total from all other countries was $1.3 billion.
Our institutions are not exempt. Every business, large or small, should say thank you for an economic system that provides a framework in which they can be successful. Every person employed should say thank you since every employee requires an employer.
Foreign businesses should say thank you since our system has brought the degree of economic success that enables us to buy their products and travel to their country, boosting their economy.
Charities and the arts should be overtly thankful. Our ability to support them is a direct function of the success of our system’s ability to generate money beyond that required for our basic needs.
We as individuals are not exempt. Gratitude should come from every corporate executive making more than $1 million without having to take entrepreneurial risk, every person receiving the benefits of unemployment compensation or welfare, the guaranteed income of Social Security or the security of Medicaid or Medicare.
We should hear a thank-you from every immigrant who has come to our country for a better life; every athlete and actor for the opportunity to make millions of dollars playing a game and entertaining.
Those not falling into the above categories should say thank you for the economic, educational, employment choices and opportunities associated with our country as well as basic rights, freedoms and safety not common in other countries.
Our country achieves and prospers because it facilitates the unleashing of an individual’s genius and energy better than any other country. The price has been high, but we have paid it. Not only do most of the other countries and their population count on us to continue doing so, we have the responsibility.
With rights come responsibilities, and we must fulfill that responsibility, which can take many forms of sacrifice. This requires each of us to not only take advantages of these opportunities but to do so to the best of our ability. We must push through and work as if the success of our country depends on each one of us.
Those who haven’t sacrificed may have the freedom to protest some aspect of our country, but that doesn’t make it right.
The recent “protests” seen at NFL football games come from people who do have the right to protest, but should be saying thank you for our country giving them the opportunity to be millionaires and demonstrate without political retaliation. Make no mistake, sitting or kneeling during our anthem dishonors our flag, our country and those who defend it both now and in the past. They dishonor the same country and people who have provided and protect their opportunities and freedoms.
There are more appropriate ways to call attention to what they feel is an injustice. Our country isn’t perfect, and we have the responsibility to continually seek improvement. But problem finders are a dime a dozen. It takes talent to find a solution. If those who protest sincerely desire change, they need to come up with tangible solutions and a plan for implementation. Then they will have done something of value.
Two lines from the song “God Bless America” illustrate the point. “God Bless America, land that I love, stand beside her and guide her.” Notice that “stand beside her” comes before “guide her.” We have the personal responsibility to “guide her”: seek to make our country better, but we only earn that privilege when we “stand beside her.”
Bryan Whiting believes most of our issues are best solved by personal responsibility and an understanding of nonpartisan economics rather than by government intervention. He recently retired after 40 years of teaching marketing, entrepreneurship and economics. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month.
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