We weren’t expecting a tornado last week. But when it struck the Adairsville area, even before the call went out for help, the community was already gearing up. On Facebook, churches were organizing and their members getting ready to serve - they didn’t let differences in religion get in the way, with the Church of God, Methodist, Catholic, Baptist and other congregations all coming together and asking: what can we do? They were packed wall to wall, and generously providing food – if volunteers went hungry while they were helping out, it was their own fault!
Everybody who had some kind of training or ability was able to show it off and contribute to those who were stricken in this disaster. In one hard-hit area downtown, we found an emergency care center untouched right next to a destroyed house. And the medical caregivers there didn’t have to wait for the ambulance to bring the injured: they were next door and went into action. Medical personnel who were off duty also showed up and were able to provide medical services if needed.
Some people were walking around stunned. Yet every member of the community who was affected, didn’t have to look for an opportunity to ask for help. By the time they emerged from where they had sheltered, they were surrounded by first responders, emergency workers, police, volunteer Civil Air Patrol cadets, Young Marines, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and so many other groups with leaders to help them.
In addition to the CAP volunteers – some of whom were flying reconnaissance in their own aircraft – and using their training, their radio skills and familiarity with presentations to update the response teams, there were veterans all over the place, being used to help lead teams. These are men and women who have already served our country, some serving overseas in harsh conditions – but when they unexpectedly found themselves in a different kind of harsh condition, here at home, they stepped forward again. Their skill set of being able to assess, decide, and move provided value-added support to the support teams and leadership, and with as many veterans as we had – it provided consistency in communication and on the radio.
As a veteran, I share with them the understanding that when you put on a uniform, you’re selfless. You’re proud to give of yourself. On the days that it was raining and cold, they showed up with raingear – and if the affected homeowner didn’t have raingear, they gave it off their backs.
From the churches, to the veterans, to the volunteers throughout our community, they gave this dedication without pay. It is ownership in the community – no federal program that can do this. With the resources we have, we do whatever we can to be self-sufficient, handle our disasters and take care of our own. If it’s too big, we will ask for help – but we will exhaust ourselves first.
This is the image of America that I grew up with. In my parents’ day, after World War II, they lived with a 90 percent income tax rate in order to pay for war expenses. During the Cold War, the need for large-scale government expenditures for national defense continued, in response to serious threats on a global scale. I joined the Army in response to this threat and at the time I did not expect to live beyond the first strike.
But that all changed about 25 years ago. The Soviet Union ceased to exist, which not only made that kind of deterrence unnecessary, but also caused hardship to its former dependent territories when the support from Moscow stopped coming. Here in the U.S., the 1980s also saw deregulation and the end of corporate monopolies (remember Ma Bell?). Money funds in the U.S. expanded and took on partners worldwide, as government control began retracting, and business took the front seat as the dollar was conquering the world. Since then, our economy has seen a number of booms and busts – savings and loans and junk bonds, the rise of personal computers and the dot.bomb crash, and most recently the housing and mortgage bubble and crash of 2008. That is the nature of an unregulated free market – there are risks and rewards. And when the market takes on too much risk, we know to expect a correction.
And throughout these changes, one thing that remains solid and unquestionable: citizens own our country. Citizens and the private sector respond better and more efficiently than the government.
In recent years, as the economy has been trying to correct itself from the housing and mortgage crash, there has been a “boom” in government programs as well as the size of government itself. There are a lot of people who still have a WW II concept of government – that all parts of life should have some part of government in it – and they may not protest.
But as U.S. citizens, we should be allowed to risk, and allowed to fail. Once we lose that ownership and become so dependent on government – with no risk or failure, just a government check – we will not know we failed, and may not see that the risk is gone. We will not prepare ourselves and our communities for the unexpected. But will we be happy as long as we expect the next check is in the mail?
The Soviets I saw in the 1980s did not look happy.
The future – of our country, our families and ourselves – deserves better. A sustainable future will not come from bigger government and an unlimited debt ceiling with no speedometer so we don’t know how fast our handbasket is going. The government is now taxing at new levels, everyone’s payroll taxes went up, and our economy may be shrinking as a result. There is a concern about drastic deflation in Japan, and Germany is taking measures to protect itself. Could this correction lead to a money war – on the scale we feared during the Cold War? Are some of our states becoming dependent territories – those that will require bailouts to survive? And how can we have confidence that an administration that did not produce a budget during the last four years would be able to muster the leadership skills to respond to that kind of unexpected crisis?
The crisis last week here in north Georgia was forced on us by nature not the government. And a large part of the response from our local government and volunteers did not require federal government approval – because we have the freedom and the resources to respond. We must not give them up. We have to have ownership of this country, treasure it, treasure our freedom, and cherish it. That same ownership that was on display this week in my own community can very easily be seen just about anywhere in the nation by those who take risk and seek rewards. From our local leadership and volunteer commitments, family traditions, and the Constitution we have fought for, it is what we expect.