Monday, October 31, 2005

The American Spirit: A Campfire Chat

In all the craziness that is the ever-changing America of today, it is easy to lose sight of what a real American man is supposed to be like. The constant news stories that reflect the changing values of many Americans makes it easy to view this country as a country of new-aged, politically correct, serially offended, socialist victims. The media portrays men as the second-class and weaker sex in popular fictional dramas where gun-wielding, butt-kicking women lead the charge in everything from fighting crime to leading the country. This promotes a new ideal of what a man should be. All this is enough to think that the spirit of the traditional American man is all but gone.

It is the spirit of perseverance in times of crisis. It is the spirit of making your own way in life regardless of the misfortunes that may befall you. It is the belief that a man is responsible for himself and his family. In a broader sense it is the spirit that America is still great and a place of opportunity no matter what your life has dealt you. It is the faith in core values that have made America strong, the same values that are being chipped away by "progressives" who peddle victim mentality and social programs to soothe these victims. It is this spirit that lead American men to volunteer to fight in WWII after they had suffered the ravages of, yet persevered through, the Great Depression in the decade leading up to the War. It is a spirit that I thought was nearing extinction, until this past weekend.

I was camping in a state park outside Natchez, Mississippi over the weekend with a friend. We were headed to the Angola Prison Rodeo in Louisiana on Sunday. We were sitting around the fire discussing the erosion of traditional American values, the fading masculinity of American men and the death of that American spirit that has made this country great. We discussed the aftermath of the recent hurricanes in the context of the victim mentality that contributes to the death of the American spirit. Shortly after this discussion evolved into some other topic I don't recall, the men in the adjacent campsite returned in the dark.

As I watched one of the two trying to back a trailered bass boat through the trees and the other attempt to direct him in dark I walked over and gave the one directing a flashlight. I quickly detected an accent that wreaked of New Orleans. Upon completing the task he came over to our fire to return the light and a conversation ensued initiated by an inquiry into the fruits of his labor on the lake that day.

In the discussion of fishing he remarked about how lucky he was because even though all his expensive fishing rods were flooded with muck during Katrina, they still functioned properly. Upon hearing this I began questioning him about the ravages of the storm and found out that his house had been flooded with 3 feet of water, on the second floor! His house which included his home office for the two small businesses he ran was completely destroyed. It gets worse. His businesses were operated out of a warehouse in New Orleans that also flooded. He lost one operation completely and is only able to serve a minimal number of his former customers with his second business. This man is a victim for sure, right? Well don't tell him that; true American men are not victims.

In this discussion he told how he had taken his family to Baton Rouge prior to the storm in order to protect them. He mentioned several times,not how hard it would be to recover but that it would be years and he was going to be fine because, in his words, "When something like this happens you just deal with it and keep going, that is all you can do."

In all this talk of the storm and his misfortune this man, who had lost everything but his family and his own life, never once blamed anybody; he never once whined about not getting some handout. He accepted his lot in life as that which occurs in the aftermath of a natural disaster. He accepted his role as the man responsible for himself and his family's well-being in this time of crisis. He also accepted his responsibility for securing a better future and herein lies the hope, not hopelessness, that permeated his story.

As he thanked me again for the flashlight and walked away. I looked at my friend and said, "That was an American man."

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