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Our Republic must be defended
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Thirty-six years ago today, I stood as a scared 14-year-old before a small crowd to deliver a speech on America and freedom.

It was July 4, 1976, our nation's bicentennial, the day America turned 200.

I was mortified to be giving this speech in public in front the Coronet store on a closed downtown street in Oakdale, where I grew up. I felt obliged, however, to read the essay because a local civic group hosted it and since I won the grand prize of a $250 savings bond.

This may sound corny and cliché-ish but my heart swells with pride every time the Fourth of July comes around. I was such an idealistic kid and the holiday was such a neat time. Fourth of July was great. Flags, fireworks, feeling good to be an American, watermelon and family dinners.

I was different from most kids. I was interested in politics and presidents as early as age 10. My head used to swim at the notion of visiting the homes of our Founding Fathers and feeling a connection to the greats such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

I looked up to Nixon because he was our president, then watched him self-destruct in Watergate, a scandal that I was too young to understand. I thought Nixon was innocent because he was our president. I was smart enough to know I was listening to history on the radio as I heard Gerald Ford take the oath on Aug. 9, 1974. I felt reassured when Ford took over, explaining that America would heal after Watergate and how we had a "government of laws, not of men," saying "here the people rule."

As we celebrate our 236th birthday today, I confess to being much more cynical. I have to work harder and making the Fourth feel as it should, a grand celebration of freedom. It's not that I am disappointed with the country and its governmental system; I'm not. I love both. I am disappointed with the current generation of Americans and its policy makers.

Part of me is disappointed in the fact that - on this day of celebrating America's greatness and law and order and celebration of our government and its laws - we watch a wholesale disregard for law as people celebrate with illegal flying and exploding fireworks that could burn a shake roof and blow off a hand or face. Not to mention those who fire live rounds into the air.

Another piece of me is disillusioned that the feeling I had as a boy - that all Americans celebrated the oneness of being Americans - is no longer shared. We have millions in the USA who disregarded law getting here. Or, if they got here legally, are speaking another language and flying the flag of another nation. Sure, the latter two are permitted in the land of the free. But allegiance to another country creates other constituencies here that divides and fractures. Our divisions grow wide with the advent of such groups as the Latino Chambers of Commerce and Black Congressional Caucuses - groups that segregate and divide. Doesn't a town Chamber of Commerce represent all businesses regardless of the national origin of the one running it?

I also feel that the politician that I grew up revering as an altruistic statesmen, represents a very real danger to my freedoms as an American. We now have people serving in government who grew up in schools that moved away from the disciplines of study - what happened to home ec anyway? - to social engineering and placing emphasis on environmental causes. Johnny can't write an intelligent essay today but he can tell you how bad we are for destroying the rain forest.

Even my belief in the checks and balances of our three branches of government has been shakened. It's one thing to have a president who feels it's okay to have the federal government force Americans to buy a product (health care). If we don't, we will get slapped with a fine. That's unprecedented. But we have a Supreme Court that is sharply divided in accepting such an action as constitutional. How can anyone on the high court not see that the Constitution does not allow government the right to impose such a mandate on its people?

If an unbridled government can start mandating health insurance, are we to believe that it will stop there? No, for people like Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer will be encouraged to ramp up their control freak streak.

I can see the following scenarios take place in my fertile imagination that now is scared to death of what could happen.

1). The Healthy Cardiovascular System Promotion Initiative (more aptly called the "Screw the Smoker with Obscene Taxes Act.") Forces Americans to stop smoking or pay a penalty (a tax according to Chief Justice Roberts) to help hospitals pay for medical costs associated with treating smoke related diseases. Oh, wait, the state just tried a variation of that, didn't they?

2). The Sensible Transportation for Environment Act (The "Government Cramming Draconian Mandates on Car Makers To Drive Up Car Prices Act".) Forces auto manufacturers to produce strictly electric cars if they fail to meet a 50 mpg standard in five years, or face billions in fines.

3). Affordable Home Utilities for Americans Act (or the "Forcing Homeowners to Make Billions in Repairs They Can't Afford Act.") This bill requires all American homes to be reduce their carbon footprint by 50 percent by 2020 or be subjected to a one-time penalty equal to five times the average of their five highest electric bills.

You know the routine. It's coming. It's sickening that people roll over and allow the hijacking of our freedoms in the name of security. (That was meant for you, Mr. President.)

We hear politicians galore talk about how collectively great and wise the American people are. I'm not discounting that there are a vast number of good and hard-working people across our land - Ceres certainly replete with them - who make the country work. But I also see an insidious enemy within our country: the voter (when he does vote) who looks only for his own interests, not the good of the nation.

There is hope. America is great because we have the right of self determination. We elect our leaders. And we are obligated to fire them when they step over the line. The good thing is that on Nov. 6 an end can - and probably will - be put to the current regime. That, more than anything, gives me faith in what this day represents.

But I must quote the words of Benjamin Franklin when asked, "Well, Doctor, what have we got - a Republic or a Monarchy?," said, "A Republic, if you can keep it."

We must fight to keep it. America is worth it.

Let's not allow our freedoms to erode by losing sight of how this country was founded and why and what makes it great. Let's remind ourselves what freedom is by seeing what it is not in other lands, which means we must open our eyes. Let's not forgot to educate our kids and ourselves of our history. And - do I have to emphasize this - let's vote.

If we don't, we will not keep Benjamin Franklin's republic.

God Bless America.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at