With the upcoming Fourth of July holiday around the corner, I thought that besides devouring a hot dog in the name of patriotism I would reflect on what this country means to me. One word came to mind: Freedom.
I'm talking about the kind of freedom that allows a woman who grew up in a three-story walkup tenement to find work as a secretary, attend college at night, become a self-taught probate paralegal, write and publish several books, sell real estate and top off her life by becoming a columnist. If you haven't guessed, that's me!
In what other country would an enlisted man in the Navy be given the freedom to further his education with a law degree leading him to become the assistant attorney general? Where did Bill Clinton start out? How many of our successful entrepreneurs came from impoverished backgrounds? I wouldn't be surprised if most of you reading this article know someone with a similar success story. Because of freedom of choice we have become a "can-do" nation.
Think how far we've come in less than 100 years. The other day one of my writing students read to the class a short story of how her mother heard some juicy gossip years ago because they had a telephone party line. How many people remember party lines? It would be difficult for a young person who has a cellphone, an iPad, a computer and every other electronic device known to man to believe families once shared telephone lines.
Who among us remembers the first family in our neighborhood to get a television set and how several of us would gather to watch this amazing new invention? Would a young person who has a television as big as a football field in his bedroom believe there was a time when families had only one small black-and-white television in the living room?
Modern technology gives us great gifts of communication. Even elderly people (like me) can learn to record their favorite television shows to watch later. I belong to a website that allows me to play duplicate bridge whenever I get the urge to lose faith in my intellect! I play Scrabble online with friends here and in the United Kingdom.
When I travel I see just about everyone using electronic devices for reading, texting, typing, gathering or giving information. I am annoyed when I hear someone having a loud, heated discussion on a cellphone, but everything has its down side. I will never forget searching for a working pay phone in the middle of a snowstorm in New York City because I was unable to find a taxi. It would have been a relief on that snowy night to whip out my cellphone and call for help.
I hear folks complain that the country is going downhill, that the United States is not as great as it used to be. How did people feel during the second World War? Food was rationed. People could not buy cars because they weren't being built. Silk stockings were difficult to obtain because the materials needed to produce them were diverted to the war effort.
My American passport gives me the freedom to travel pretty much anywhere in the world. I may need a visa for some locations but that's not a big problem. Even though national security has become maddening and we complain about red tape, I feel protected when I get on an airplane.
The media bombard us daily with doom and gloom, more than our brains and stomachs can bear. But I have the freedom to turn off the news and play bridge.
This country offers opportunities not available in many other places. True, things are not perfect. We all know someone out of a job. We have our homeless. But I am grateful for being born and raised in this great country. If my grandparents had not had the courage to take their meager belongings and somehow travel to America, I wouldn't be sitting here writing articles for the newspaper.
So join me in a virtual hot dog and reflect on how our free society has positively affected almost every one of us.
Feel "free" to drop Alexis Powers a line by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org