Adaptation * Understanding the True Measure of What's at Stake.
Updated: Feb 27, 2021
I’m still struggling to get my feet back on the ground here in America, the home of the brave and the land of the free. Returning from the other side of the world is like going to a high school reunion after 40 years and realizing that your hometown has changed along with everyone in it. Do I really have a scarlet S for “Stranger” branded on my forehead?
February of 2020 was spent consulting in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A phone call at the end of a workday in Riyadh instructed me to be on the British Airways flight to London at 10:30 that night. Otherwise, due to COVID-19, they were closing their international borders at midnight. If I didn’t leave immediately, I would be spending an indefinite amount of time in the Kingdom.
COVID-19 put the brakes on my VVIP Aviation & Maritime consulting. Not bringing it to a complete stop but certainly slowing the pace. Nearly overnight the consulting process changed to a contactless one with time now spent on the telephone and various online conferencing programs. It’s just not the same as strapping into an airline seat for a 15-hour flight to the next project.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Really! But, after that moment in time, I was here. Actually here. To stay. No more long trips, returning to my wife for a brief visit. Rather like a quick check of home base before grabbing my rarely unpacked suitcase and taking off again on a new adventure. Life changes, and we adapt. There’s that word again. Adapt.
After settling down on Amelia Island, Florida, I searched for kindred spirits. Some, I found on the golf course. Golf is an activity that I can continue until I depart this vale of tears, slices and shanks, trudging up that damned hill to the 15th green at The Golf Club of Amelia Island, my new home away from home.
I joined a couple of organizations looking for time-filling activities that would also help me “fit in”. Friends of Fernandina Aviation (FOFA) accepted me into their ranks. Even the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) found a place for me. I’d bet a round of drinks that I’m the oldest 2nd lieutenant in military history. But I have something in common with them. We all have aviation fuel in our veins, and we all have deep feelings of patriotism.
Decades have gone by without me hearing, or even thinking about, the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. I was surprised that both groups began their meetings with “The Pledge”, even Zoom meetings. I barely remembered it the first time, but it quickly came back.
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Something was bothering me about the pledge but then it hit me. What’s this about “the Republic for which it stands….”? Aren’t we always talking about our Democracy? I hadn’t thought about it in ages, but I vaguely remembered that, in general, a Republic favored the individual with strong local and state governments and a very limited national government. A Democracy, on the other hand, favored a strong, all-encompassing national government that was controlled by the majority of the populace. The result of a Democracy is that an individual is subjugated to the “will” or votes of the majority whether they were neighbors or a half-continent away.
Time to visit the Internet. I used to love books, but they don’t lend themselves to the transient lifestyle I’ve had. If the information I need can’t be found on the Internet via my iPhone, iPad or MacBook Air then it’s probably too arcane for me to care about. I love the Internet and all of the magic that it offers. However, to paraphrase the Indian essayist Saeed Akhter Mirza, we rely more and more on the electronic age and the media for all of our information. His name for the period that we live in is “The Age of Amnesia”. Meaning that we used to know “stuff” but we don’t remember it anymore. I’ll carry his thought a step forward. The period following a total blackout of the Internet will truly be The Darkening of Civilization.
What a shame for that to happen when we are on the cusp of providing this magic learning capability to everyone in the world, even the child playing in the dust of a township in Africa. A child, who with education, provided by cheap, solar-powered laptops and low-level, repeating satellites, could come up with solutions beneficial to all mankind.
But I digress. Right now, it’s me, searching the Internet for an answer to a political question that gets more and more confusing.
Dictionary.com seemed like a good place to start. I read their entire explanation until the final paragraph caused my eyes to glaze. “The US can be called a federal presidential constitutional republic or a constitutional federal representative democracy.
Try this on your tongue. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the federal presidential constitutional republic for which it stands.
Or perhaps this, …and the constitutional federal representative democracy for which it stands.
A few spoken attempts at both of them and I had a headache. Found the Tylenol and went back for more research. Something had to be simpler than either of those explanations.
It was fascinating to read some of the descriptions about the similarities and differences between a Republic and a Democracy. Arguments abound about the type of government in numerous countries. One simple table was quite brief and informative, just what I was looking for. Thought.co has an article by Robert Longley that presents a basic and simplified chart that serves my purposes and I see now that we are not either a pure Democracy or a Republic.
Thank you, Robert. Apparently, we are a bit of a mishmash of both systems which seems to justify the tongue twisting descriptions offered by Dictionary.com.
The Right to Bear Arms
A dramatic example of our form of government that comes to mind is, that if we were a pure Democracy, a nationwide vote could be held on the right to bear arms. Should the vote go “against”, the right to bear arms would be immediately eliminated, for everyone, everywhere in the country.
As a Republic we respect the right to bear arms because it’s an inalienable right that cannot be taken away by the majority rule. It could not be taken away no matter what the final vote count was. Consequently, the right to bear arms is a persistent issue constantly battled over while haunting the American populace on both sides of our federal presidential constitutional republic or constitutional federal representative democracy.
Basically, we have a really confusing form of government that we try to impose on just about anyone in the world who will, or perhaps will not, listen. We have invaded countries and literally destroyed them in our attempts to “Bring them Democracy”. Our system of government, at times such as now, barely works here. And we have been using it for a couple of hundred years. How in the world can we expect a culture that has spent hundreds of years under less egalitarian forms of government to embrace our system and implement it smoothly? The answer, in my mind, is we can’t.
Before, after and during their wars I have flown into Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries with cultural differences that are far beyond our understanding or tolerance. I have seen their cities and their cultures demolished in the interest of Democracy. A system of government that, in my mind, cannot work everywhere.
We learned nothing in Vietnam where we declared victory and left while we could still get away. We spent billions, if not trillions, that could have been better used taking care of Americans here at home. Decades later that country is quite a successful place where businesses and people thrive. In spite of us, not because of us.
In Iraq, after the initial invasion, members of the Baathist party were not allowed to hold decent jobs. Most, if not all, of the military officer corps was made up of Baathists, the party of Saddam Hussein. The country immediately fell apart and is only held together now with the scotch tape of more trillions of American dollars. A most amazing educational system has been lost in Iraq. Prior to our participation in the war, they had an internationally recognized school of medicine that sanctioned women. Graduates of their system could work in most countries of the world without re-certifying.
After the Second World War members of the Nazi party were not, at first, allowed decent jobs. Perhaps our leaders were smarter back then because they quickly realized that if Germans had not been a member of the Nazi party, they were outcasts. Literally everyone was a member. Didn’t anyone in charge of Iraq read history?
We have not strayed as far from our initial writing in this article as you might think. I salute the flag and my fellow Americans who also salute the flag. I recite the pledge of allegiance even though each time I do, I question who and what we are and what our place in history will be.
As an American expatriate working in the Middle East for nearly four decades, I had the opportunity to observe America through the eyes of many different and objective foreigners.
My conclusion is that our first responsibility must be to our own citizens, not foreign nations or throngs of people stampeding across our border. In my mind, The United States of America is a large family. To go into horrific debt in order to “help” other countries (families) and their citizens is as wrong as it would be for me to ignore the needs of my own family and drive them into horrific family debt. Much of our debt today is in order for the U.S. to be a would-be savior for other countries (families) that will, inevitably, have to fend for themselves. Our AID, both abroad and at home, must be far more selective and targeted. If we continue on this path the only result will be to drive the standard of living of our own family of America ever downward. I certainly don’t want that to be the contribution from my life.
Our system of government does provide us with something very few others do. A system of voting that lets us choose our destiny. If the voting system is corrupt in your mind, prove it with hard evidence. If it’s proven to be corrupt, anywhere within the American system of voting, the responsible people must be prosecuted and held accountable with long, long terms in prison.
Voting is our way out of this mess. If you don’t vote, or you vote a particular way because your Daddy did, you’re doing a disservice to your own family and the family of America.
Some of our representatives in government are in their 80s and have been in power for decades. Vote them out? Term limits? Live with the situation as it is? It’s your choice, my choice, our choice. We will create the government and situation for our heirs that we deserve. They deserve so much more.
her daughters' remarkable adaptation to life in Britain: adjustment, conformity, acclimatization, accommodation, attunement, familiarization, habituation, orientation, conditioning, inurement, hardening, seasoning, acculturation, assimilation, integration, domestication, naturalization; blending in, fitting in, settling in, settling down;