“When in a republic power rests in all the people, it is a democracy. When it is in the hands of just a few, it is an aristocracy. When it is in the hands of only one, it is a dictatorship”, Baron of Montesquieu.
In the more than half a century that I have been living in this country, American society has suffered profound transformations in its political institutions, its demographic composition and its moral structures. I remember with nostalgia Miami in the 1960’s, when we could sleep with our doors open and we could walk in the center of the city, at two in the morning, without fear of being held up or even murdered. A society were rogues, differently from what occurs today, were not tolerated nor pitied, but punished with the whole weight of the laws they had violated. Then compassion was for the victims, and the punishment for the delinquents, because that is the only way in which a civilized society can prosper and last.
However, during these years, sometimes in a hardly noticeable way, but always progressively, the American lawmakers have decided to increase the size of government in order to have more power. The Baron of Montesquieu saw it very clearly when he divided his proposal for government in three branches that would serve as a check and balance in the system.
That form of government was the one the writers of the first North American constitution had in mind. But since 1776 it has rained a lot and many nights have been brightened by many moons. The rascals that govern us today have realized that giving gifts to the lazy and supporting idlers they get votes and increase their power. The warnings of the founders of this nation that the power that the government gains is lost by the citizen has become a reality.
Other factors that have changed the national American character have been the culture and the levels of education of a considerable number of the recent immigrants. During the great migratory waves of the XIX and early XX centuries, men and women, escaping from an impoverished and torn Europe whose governments lacked the resources to give social help to their citizens, landed on the American shores.
They did not know what unemployment checks were, free medical services or food stamps. They were doctors, engineers, masons, carpenters, or watchmakers who did not expect any help in the new country. They wanted only freedom and opportunities to make the American dream a reality with the fruits of their work and professional ability. Unlike those men and women, a considerable proportion of the recent immigrants, mainly those of the last twenty five years look for the American dream under the protection of a paternalistic state. They are in their majority people with low levels of education and high levels of despair. And who can blame them? They escape the misery of their countries of origin and they buy a relative prosperity in their adoptive country with the promise of an unconditional vote for their recently discovered patrons. They are not corrupt, but they are the instruments of corruption. The corrupts are the politicians that dehumanize and manipulate them to accumulate absolute power.
Now then, the issue of greatest concern is the crisis of the moral structures of this country brought about by the collapse of the North American family. What sociologists call the cell of society plays a less important role each day in this country. Those who doubt this have only to ask teachers, judges and policemen. Statistics of one parent homes are frightening. It is true that the African Americans with 72 percent in this category are at the forefront, but Hispanics and white North Americans have suffered a dangerous disruption of the family unity in recent years.
The crisis in these three areas of national life is an alarming and worrisome issue for those who want to leave their children and grandchildren a functional society where they can develop the potential of their abilities and can enjoy a dignified and secure life. I confess to have been overwhelmed sometimes by feelings of frustration and fear.
But it is an irrefutable truth that after each night there is a sunrise, and that in the midst of the most profound darkness you can always find a ray of light. In my case, I found that ray of light last weekend when I visited the military academy where my grandson Michael Peter Santana is a junior.
In the historic and welcoming city of Charleston, South Carolina, where the shots that unleashed the North American Civil War were first heard, you can find The Citadel Military College. Founded in 1842, The Citadel Military College has produced more than 50,000 men and women of principles and character that have contributed to forge this society of liberty and opportunities that are the United States of America.
The mission of this meritorious institution has been described with sovereign clarity by its actual president, Lieutenant General John W. Rosa, with these words: “The Citadel’s mission is to educate principled leaders. Service learning and civic engagement are key elements toward producing principled leaders. Before you can lead, you need to be able to serve.”
The fruits of this labor of educating citizens to construct nations have become evident in the long list of graduates of Citadel that have had a positive impact in North American society. Among the most notable graduates in its history of 171 years of existence, The Citadel has produced 6 state governors, 3 federal senators, 12 federal congressmen, 8 North American ambassadors, 28 three star generals, 4 four star generals, 5 pilots of the Navy Blue Angels, one astronaut and, to enhance the already impressive list, 1994 Miss USA, Ms. Lou Parker.
Two of these distinguished graduates deserve, on the other hand, a special mention for the talent and courage that they showed when facing extraordinary challenges. Four star General William C. Westmoreland, as Commander in Chief of the North American forces in Vietnam between 1965 and 1968 maintained the cohesion and the moral of soldiers that were fighting a contaminated war, because of political interferences, and was repudiated by the public of the United States.
The other took the road of service as a distinguished civic leader. Who in South Florida doesn’t know the name and the civic labor of Alvah Chapman , Jr.? In the dark night that followed the brutal devastation of hurricane Andrew, Alvah H. Chapman, at the time President of the Board of Directors of Knight-Ridders, was the firm hand that directed the reconstruction of a devastated Homestead.
These two men and the ones mentioned by me before, digested in their early youth the principles and values that I was able to verify during my recent visit to The Citadel. Next to murals where one could see illustrations of acts of heroism in the defense of liberty and democracy, not only in the United States but also all over the world, one could read phrases directed to the formation of exemplary citizens. Next to the central theme of the institution “Honor, duty and respect”, one could read phrases such as “God, Country and Family” and as an unyielding expression of character, “I will not lie, I will not cheat, I will not steal, nor will I tolerate others to do this.”
Upon my return from this trip to the America of honor and hope, it is true that I find a government paralyzed by the infantile tantrums of politicians who have lost the way to service to their people. But, different from my days prior to the visit to The Citadel, I am convinced that, in spite of all our difficulties, thanks to my grandson and this cadet classmates not all is lost.