Friday, August 26, 2005

ONE NATION... INDIVISIBLE?













Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, stunned speechless when asked if the national security should take precedence over more federal military pork for Georgia.

(This column will run in the 9-2-05 THE ALBANY JOURNAL)

“Former President Jimmy Carter ... was the target of scorn, shock, and disbelief ... for his lobbying to save a Connecticut submarine base at the expense of thousands of jobs for his home state.... ‘What was he thinking?’ asked Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue.”

Front page of the 8/26/05 Albany Herald.

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A United States Court of Appeals rules that the phrase “under God” can’t be included in the Pledge of Allegiance, and Americans of every stripe join together to hurl invective and condemnation at the black robed judges who dare remove mention of the Deity from the sacred words with which every schoolchild begins his or her day. But the rest of the words of the Pledge seem to recede into the background when issues involving our wallets are concerned.

Are we really “one nation,” “indivisible?” If the Base Realignment and Closing Commission (BRAC) is visiting town- not so much.

No matter how many American flags patriotic Americans affix to their gas guzzling SUV’s, no matter how many times they urge dissenters like Alec Baldwin and his ilk to take up residence in foreign lands if they can’t get behind the good old U.S. of A., right or wrong, no matter how many Lee Greenwood CD’s they scarf up at the local Wal-Mart (motto: “Buy American- unless Indonesia and China make it cheaper”), it takes but a nanosecond between mention of buzzwords like “consolidation,” “BMW factory,” or “base closing,” and the complete dissolution of all shared goals and common values.

Is Jimmy Carter a villain because he took the words of the Pledge of Allegiance literally- that we are all “one nation?” That if the nation’s security is better served by keeping the Groton, Connecticut, submarine base open, the right thing is to support the base, even if a remote corner of Georgia might have snagged thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in federal tax dollars at the expense of unemployment and depression in Groton?

It should no longer be news when a City Commissioner opposes consolidation of City and County police (“Can the minnow swallow the whale?” one Commissioner rhetorically asked when I broached the subject a couple of years ago) or when a governor tries to outdo a neighboring state by lavishing gifts on representatives of a foreign car manufacturer thinking of relocating to his state. The news flash will be the next time- which may be the first time in history- someone currently in office, who still has re-election ahead of him or her, stands up and says:

“I’m real sorry that the Naval Air Station has to close here, and I’m sorry that we will lose some jobs and a few million bucks because of it. However, let’s be realistic: we’re about 500 miles from an ocean, so what’s the big deal if the Navy can’t fly its planes here? And we’re about 10,000 miles from the nearest country that might even remotely be thinking of doing us harm. And if they wanted to do us harm, their airplanes couldn’t fly halfway to our coastline without falling into the sea like shotgunned quail over a baited field. So I guess our country really doesn’t need this Naval Air Station here in the Razorback Mountains of Arkansas. And you know what? With the money we save, we could build a better hospital for our boys coming home from Iraq, and maybe give them all a little pay raise besides. Because that’s what supporting our troops really means. It means shared sacrifice. And if we have to give up our little old Navy Air base to help a few wounded soldiers, well that’s all right by me. And you patriotic Americans should have no problem with that.”

Naaaaaah. Instead, we get a 100 percent whine from politicians big and small. Whining from local City Commissioners who would never consider giving up an iota of political clout by consolidating the City and County police forces, no matter what the savings in tax money. From East Albany when Northwest Albany gets another superstore. From Dougherty County when Lee County snatches away a car dealership and Wal-Mart. From South Georgia when North Georgia gets the lion share of that new highway money. From Sandy Springs elites who bolt from Fulton County because they want to spend their property taxes close at hand where only the rich people live. From the whole state of Georgia if, God forbid, we don’t gain jobs and tax money from BRAC decisions to close down bases all over the rest of the country.

So the next time a politician vents against a statesman like President Jimmy Carter for thinking of the nation first, one of you intrepid reporters out there ought to ask him if he knows the rest of the words of the Pledge. The ones before and after “under God.” The resulting brainlock will be a sight to behold.

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