Yesterday I learned that the last of my father’s siblings had died this month. Uncle Gus was one of six children – all except one emigrated to the United States from Greece. Reading the obituary, I learned he was a U.S. Army veteran who had earned six bronze battle stars (the things one doesn’t know about one’s family, certainly when ties haven’t been maintained).
Among many personal thoughts on this passing of family, being Veterans Day, I also thought about the still living veterans of World War II, who now number just over 1 million (at the end of WWII, there were 16 million veterans). As the decades have rolled past since WWII and America has seen so much dramatic, not always positive change and substantial erosion of the social contract, I can’t help but wonder how many veterans have asked themselves, “What were we fighting for?”
“The Greatest Generation” has witnessed American prosperity erode, as greed has given rise to too many fraudsters like Michael Milken, Angelo Mozilo and Bernie Madoff, just to name a few of the many. WWII veterans also have seen the outsourcing and offshoring of jobs, and thus the destruction of what had been one of the country’s strengths: manufacturing. Then they saw not just the loss of manufacturing jobs, but outsourcing and offshoring that impacted many other industries.
As well, veterans have seen that jobs not outsourced or offshored have been undermined by the mass importation of cheap labor for nearly five decades. Starting with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 and followed by successive legislation, we have continued growing the population through both legal and illegal immigration, undermining the American workforce and denigrating the value of American citizenship.
We now face yet another amnesty plan that has the potential to increase the size of the foreign-born population from the 9.6 million in 1970 to 65.2 million by 2033. It’s certainly noteworthy that employment growth during the last 13 years has gone to immigrants, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, even though the native-born accounted for two-thirds of the growth in the working age population.
In recent decades, the country has experienced mass, virtually unchecked, illegal immigration, be it from illegal border crossings or visa overstays, and American leadership has chosen to allow it. Seemingly anyone (drug-dealer, perpetrator of crimes in other countries and terrorist, along with the person “looking for a better life”) with the will and the means can choose to come to the country and live without consequence. This makes me think of the inanity of the oft-repeated line of the Bush II-era about terrorists: "We're fighting them there, so we don't have to fight them here.” Might we soon be fighting “them” here, because we don’t even know who is here, and, indeed, some of “them” may be terrorists?
Our remaining WWII veterans have lived to witness so many failures of leadership, both from their elected officials and business, as the concepts of American values, borders, citizenship, country, self-reliance, sovereignty and the work ethic all have been aggressively challenged since WWII. Yes, I think the question, “What were we fighting for?” certainly must run through the thoughts of many veterans.