Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Ten-Minute Cab Ride

From my journal archives:

August 23, 2009 - I’ve found it a great irony of life that some of the most profound realizations and learning experiences occur during brief encounters with complete strangers. Such an encounter happened last Monday during a brief ten-minute cab ride from the train station back to base. The cab driver, noticing my oversized suitcase, politely inquired where I was returning from. I told him that I was returning from my brother’s wedding in the States and immediately, without hesitation, he asked with keen interest about what had been going on the other side of the Atlantic, particularly the two matters that have dominated the news: the economy and health care. Not really being one to discuss politics with complete strangers, I attempted to deflect his questions and return to the more mundane topic of the summer heat wave passing through Western Europe. Still, I could not help but notice that he had what seemed to be a genuine interest in the socio-economic upheaval that we find ourselves in. I deflected again onto another topic—the stark chasm in driving skills between American and German drivers (more on that in a separate post)—and as we pulled up to the front gate our brief conversation, with the cab ride, came to an abrupt end.

Thinking back on our short discussion and the driver’s interest, I realized something that I had not before: The world is watching us. More than that, they have been watching us for 233 years. Two centuries ago they watched from across oceans as we fought for our independence; now they watch through instantaneous news feeds, all the while observing with a keen eye (sometimes more keen than even our own) this great experiment in representative democracy that we call “America.” Some, no doubt, are watching and wishing us ill, but most look to us as a beacon of freedom and opportunity. Both watch with interest for the same reason: because, from our very foundation, our nation was created to break the status quo. We were founded upon the idea that our rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” do not originate from any king or appointed government, but are inherently granted, along with our existence, by the God who created us. We are a nation of laws and of equal opportunity, where no person should be hindered from either working hard to make a decent living for themselves and their family or from making their own choices in life insofar as they do not violate the inherent rights of others. Certainly we have our flaws—as any institution created and operated by fallible human beings does—but there is a reason we are looked to as the greatest nation on earth. It is not because of our wealth or military strength; many empires that possessed both have risen and fallen. It is because of the source of that wealth and strength, namely that we are the first who, from our foundation, have valued the protection of the rights of the person above all else, and as a result have reaped the collective prosperity that inevitably flows from the opportunity for unhindered individual success.

Our Republic represents a great hope of freedom and the chance for prosperity for many around the world who suffer without one or both. Let’s not let them down by sacrificing either.

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