That remark by former New York City Mayor and almost Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani puzzles me. In fact, in all my almost 90 years, I never really understood what love of America means.
Since childhood, I’ve too frequently listened to the familiar lyrics: my country ‘tis of thee, oh, say can you see, of thee I sing, God bless America and so on. Even today at sports events, when rockers croak the patriotic anthems into discordant barks, the words still don’t make me love something as abstract as the word America.
My attitude goes back more than 70 years when I walked into a Navy recruiting office just before my 18th birthday. It wasn’t love of America that took me there. In 1943, the draft laws during World War II grabbed up most breathing males when they reached age 18. Draftees went straight into the Army, soon to be consigned to mud, foxholes and K-Rations.
I wanted a nice clean shipboard bunk, fresh sea air and regular chow served three times a day. After a short tour of sea duty, I was sent ashore with an advanced Navy unit during the Philippines Campaign. I then spent almost a year in mud, foxholes and K-Rations. While cursing throughout the experience, I doubt if any of my words spoke of loving America.
To me love can’t be bestowed on a vague image. It’s reserved for real-life relationships among people, involving spouses, children and parents. I don’t know if President Obama loves America. Chances are it doesn’t occur to him very often, except when he’s reading the words from a teleprompter.
However, unlike Rudy’s remark, mine isn’t a personal criticism. All politicians, as with National Anthem singers at halftime, are paid handsomely to follow the script. To earn their paychecks, they must recite the usual platitudes about love of country, religion and other clichés.
I can only hope that politicans understand clearly why we taxpayers pay them. It’s the same as with everyone hired to do a job. Instead of making grand gestures of love, the President should earn that $400,000 annual salary and free rent by working honestly for his employers.