Did My Nation Change Or Did I?
By J. Logan Diez the Pen Dragon
Here is a thoughtful essay by the Pen Dragon about growing up in an extremely patriotic country and how our national pride might be challenged once we grow older and learn more about the political corruption of America. We must consider how much we have changed both as a nation and as an individual, but more importantly, as J. Logan Diez realizes, how much positive change we are capable of producing on both levels. I hope you’ll find this as inspirational and motivating as I did, and that you’ll pass it along.
I was born on June 15, 1956 in San Angelo, Texas when the population hovered somewhere around 25,000 souls. We didn’t live in San Angelo for long. First my dad moved us to Big Lake, Texas in 1958 to be closer to his oilfield job. Then back we went to San Angelo to live across the street from my maternal grandmother when Mom and Dad divorced in 1960, then to Christoval, Texas the spring of 1962 when my mom got work as a nurse’s aide at Mrs. June Pettit’s Golden Years Nursing Home. Then we went to Miles, Texas the summer of 1963 when Mom was offered a better-paying job at a cafe that let her bring home leftovers for us six kids still at home. Then we moved back to Christoval in 1964 when Mom married Mr. James Andrew “Buzz” Crawford after my Dad died. Finally, we went back to San Angelo the summer of 1968 when Mom’s fifth marriage ended in divorce. She stayed a “single mom” after that, even though she still had her looks, and put all her love and energy into her last three kids at home.
Between first and sixth grades, I attended five different schools and had five different sets of schoolmates so I learned not to get too attached to my most current “best friends,” and not to rely too much on things remaining unchanged. About the only thing that seemed to remain unchanging and reliable was America herself, and the idealistic image my naive young mind had been brainwashed into believing in with rock solid stubbornness. “America, by God, is the best damned place in the whole world to live,” I had heard countless World War II veteran uncles assure me. “The US Government is the only one in the world we can count on, by God. A hell of a lot more honor and integrity there than in them satanic Communists and Socialists and Monarchs and such,” I often heard from the female side of our extended family. Now I look at things through eyes of experience and wonder — did my nation change or did I?
Society, of course, did change. From 1956 to 1966, even in most of the larger cities, a child could readily walk around without much fear (other than maybe from stray mongrels). “Child predators” were rare and far between; drug dealers would never even think about giving or selling drugs to a kid; even the most notorious of gangs had rules against letting little kids get involved, and those few “youth gangs” that did let kids hang around would exclude the younger children from their violence and illegal activities. Violence against adversarial gang members was frequent but family was off-limits and any “rumbles” were had away from residences so no innocent bystanders got hurt. But it isn’t the societal changes I refer to. Society change is like ocean tides that rise and fall, come and go, to be expected.
The change I refer to is the utter lack of honor and integrity in our government. Is it some relatively recent development, or has government always been so corrupt and just used to keep it hidden better? Have our elected and appointed officials simply grown so comfortable in their corruption that they actually no longer feel what they do is wrong, so they no longer even bother to hide it?
I like to believe our government has fallen into corruption over the years due to the temptations of “big money” and greed for more and more power, that in the past our government officials truly wanted to serve the people and nation. But present officials think and want the people and nation to serve them and their quest for power, wealth, and advancement of personal agendas to benefit their cronies.
In my youth, whether naively or for just reason, I believed an elected official would only lie if it was to protect a “state secret,” and that any decision made in office would be the one that was to the greatest benefit of the nation as a whole. Now, I believe an elected official would as soon tell a lie as to drink when they are thirsty, that truth is practically considered a disease in our state and national capitols, and decisions are based purely on profits and most power, regardless of how much it damages our nation as a whole. Has “politics” always been so corrupt, or has the nation indeed changed? Were presidents like George Washington, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt as crooked, philandering, dishonest, and corrupt as Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush have been exposed as being?
Granted, the people tend to have far more access to information today than they did when Theodore Roosevelt was president from 1901-9, and better education for more citizens helps us to see better when someone questionable turns up. But even in the days of the earliest government, I can’t believe the people were so blind and ignorant that they would not have seen corruption had it existed to such a prolific extent as it does today!
In the past, elected officials were called “statesmen.” Today they are called “politicians.” Interesting. The Oxford American Century Dictionary defines “statesman” as “a distinguished and capable politician or diplomat,” but “politician” is defined as “1. a person engaged in politics, esp. an elected official; 2. opportunistic or manipulative person; smooth schemer.” More interesting still! And I believe the second definition probably most aptly defines today’s elected officials.
When these United States were founded, and for many decades thereafter, people who ran for office did not seek to make it their life-long career. They served the people and nation for a brief time, then returned to their REAL lives on their farms or in their businesses. “Politics” was a necessary evil they deemed something to be done as quickly as possible so they could return as soon as possible to their normal lives. Somewhere along the way, however, politicians stopped being “statesmen” and started being “opportunistic and manipulative schemers” bent on spending a life of ease as a proverbial leech sucking the financial blood out of taxpayers. When they could no longer satisfy their greed from the public funds, they sold out to the highest bidders and became the cancer upon our nation they are today.
Yes, my nation did change for the worse, but thankfully I also changed for the better. No longer am I a naive child blinded by the patriotic propaganda and political rhetoric. I am now a discerning adult with enough education and common sense to see just how dishonorable, disintegrous, and generally corrupt our government is. The problem is: how do I help my fellow Americans see this as clearly as I do, and how do I motivate you to do what is necessary to excise that cancer and cleanse it the wounds it has inflicted upon our nation? Well, first, I have to get your attention. Second, I have to get you to listen. Only then can I persuade you to do what we must to get America back on track and respected by the rest of the world.
If you’d like to respond directly to J. Logan Diez about his essay, you can contact him at this mailing address:
James Logan Diez AKA the Pen Dragon
810 FM 2821 West
Huntsville, TX 77349