My faith in the US and a tough question is answered
Monday, September 27th, 2010
Whenever I do Q&A with GW, I mostly get simple questions like, "What is your favorite color?" This week I received a very tough question which was quite thought-provoking: "Why, of all people, would someone of Cherokee descent serve in the military or have any faith in the US government?" Wow!
I wish I could say I joined the Navy for patriotic reasons or because of the Gulf War. The honest truth is that I joined the Navy for the education. I had reached the top of the company where I was working, and the only way to earn more money was to get an education beyond my high school diploma.
As for my faith in the United States, the answer is much more complex. Most people don't know it, but the Cherokee people actually won their case in the Supreme Court. It was an out-of-control president (Jackson) and Georgia troops who intentionally chose to ignore the ruling by our justice system. In a show of arrogance, Jackson actually said, "Justice Marshall made his decision - now let's see him enforce it!"
In our lifetime, we've seen history repeat itself as another misguided president threw out our Constitution and principles in order to wage war against innocent nations. Our government and our justice system may be broken, but it is still one of the best in the world. An experience I had in the Navy made this quite clear in a manner in which I will never forget.
In the 90's at the start of the "Haiti Boat Crisis" my ship was in the Gulf of Mexico. The handling of the crisis was the responsibility of the Coast Guard, but there were so many of them that my ship lended them assistance. For some background, Haiti is a small portion of the island which is shared by the Dominican Republic. Living conditions in the Dominican Republic are fair, but the extreme poverty in Haiti is heart-breaking. They literally make cookies out of mud, dry them in the sun, and then eat them to help curb the hunger pains. Money isn't the problem - it is the fact that almost all of their money is spent in bribes to their corrupt officials. That is why I was against sending money to them after the recent earthquake. To date, little money has actually made it to the people who needed it the most.
When my ship started looking for the "boat people" I expected to see groups of people crammed into little boats. There were no little boats. These people had bound together scrap pieces of wood and anything else that would float to create little rafts. There were so many of them, that it didn't take us long to spot the first raft. As I looked through the binoculars, I was confused when I saw that the first groups of rafts were empty. When I asked an officer, "Where are all of the people?" he told me that they were probable eaten by sharks. I didn't feel safe in a Navy destroyer, so I couldn't imagine people trying to navigate through the shark-infested waters clinging to a piece of wood. A few minutes later, we spotted a raft with several people on it. As we approached them, we realized that all of the passengers aboard the raft were dead. For several miles, every raft we spotted was either empty or carrying dead bodies. Some were male, some were female, and even some were just children.
Eventually, we spotted a raft with five living passengers. The plan was to take them aboard our ship, and then transfer them into the custody of the Coast Guard who would then deport them back to Haiti. It bothered me that all of these people were so desperate and risking their lives just to end up back in Haiti. When we approached their raft, I noticed it was constructed with a wooden door and other scraps tied together with rope. Their only fresh water was in a rusty gas can. I couldn't believe it - these people were drinking water out of a GAS CAN! I was shocked to learn that a young lady aboard the raft was five months pregnant.
As these people were transferred aboard our ship, they were at first held at gunpoint. That didn't matter to them. They were so happy to be rescued. I knew they hadn't eaten for days and were dehydrated, so I headed to our galley to fetch some food and water. I brought them up some water, some ham sandwiches, and what we fondly call "Shit on a Shingle" which is meat on toast. I have never seen anyone so happy and grateful to eat a ham sandwich!
I didn't speak their language, but words weren't really necessary. Meeting these people completely changed my perspective and I will remember them for the rest of my life. In the United States, we take so many things for granted. There are so many people who literally die just trying to get a little slice of our lifestyle. Life for them is so bad that they are willing to risk everything just to get here.
Last week, I was really disappointed about how our Senate behaved and I talked about leaving the country. A fellow veteran changed my mind when he said, "The problem isn't with America - it is with Washington, D.C." As the saying goes: I love my country, but I hate my government. Let's not let politicians ruin a good thing! If we don't change our leaders, the United States will end up just like Haiti.
Please help me clean out our Congress. Register to vote and participate in the upcoming elections!
-- Gary Wright II