Twice in my life — at 17, when I enlisted in the United States Air Force, along with Charles Hale, and Jimmy Downs; and a few years later when I became an officer — I raised my right hand swore before God, the United States Flag and the Air Force Flag that I would defend my country from ALL enemies, Foreign and Domestic. I meant it each time despite my being a direct descendant of America’s Slave Class. If I have been relieved of this responsibility, I failed to get the memo.
For the 20 years I was in the Air Force, including a voluntary tour in Vietnam during the peak of the war, I was clear about “Foreign Enemies” — they were those nations bent on inflicting such harm on the United States that the freedoms dreamed about and promised for all our citizens would be foreclosed. But when I was preparing to retire from the Air Force and move into a civilian career, I began to ponder what was meant by “Domestic Enemies.”
I finally determined that “Domestic Enemies” were those internally created syndromes that have the same negative effect on the quality of life for American citizens as foreign enemies would like to inflict. I included in my definition also that foreign enemies would not have to expend one iota of effort to achieve debilitating conditions because we do these things to ourselves or stand idly by while they evolve, which I consider a major transgression in a democracy.
The level of disdain I have for people who abuse citizens is at the same intensity level I feel for institutions and policy decisions that achieve abusive results.
In the years since I have been a civilian, domestic threats and devolution have proved to be considerably more formidable and more harmful than those leveled from afar. Poverty, for example, is America’s greatest internal threat to national unity and “Domestic Tranquility.” Poverty destroys people physically and spiritually.
An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all nations. Plutarch
More Americans die from poverty than in wars. A total of 628, 600 Americans were killed in all wars, combined, from WWI to the War on Terror. But in one year, poverty kills 886,500 Americans (Columbia University’s School of Public Health).
The poverty rate was higher in 2014 than in 2007; and in 2010, the rate was the highest it had been since the rates were first published. The rich-poor gap is 30 to 40 percent larger today than it was 30 years ago and is now nearly twice as large as black-white achievement gap. (Sean F. Reardon, Stanford University)
Poverty is especially onerous for descendants of slaves and children.
A disproportionate percentage of African Americans are poor. Today as never before, the poor Black family lives essentially alone, insofar as progress-relevant assistance and competent leadership are concerned. Upward mobility from the bottom of the income distribution chain is much less likely for black families than for white families. Black median wealth almost halved during the recent recession, falling from $19,200 in 2007 to $11,000 in 2013.
America is second among industrial nations in the degree of child poverty, better than only Romania. A higher percentage of black children live in impoverished, toxic environments than any other ethnic group. Currently, the poverty rate for ALL Black children in America is about 40 percent, up from 35 percent in 2009. And for Black children under five-years-old, the percentage below the poverty line is nearly 50 percent.
America is guilty of many errors, many faults and many abuses, but our worst crime is abandoning children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many things can wait, but children cannot. Right now is the time their bones are being formed, their blood is being made, and their cognitive capacity is being developed. To them we cannot answer Tomorrow! Their name is Today! (From Gabriel Mistral)
The key questions for THIS VETERAN remain: How should we define patriotism when the enemies and abuse are domestic; and, providing we want to improve, how we should go about eliminating this internal evil from our nation? We have the capacity and the resources, but lack the will.