Submitted by AMAC Member Diana Erbio –
Are Americans no longer responding to John F. Kennedy’s plea to “Ask not what your country can do for you ─ ask what you can do for your country”? Or have they just begun to answer that question with “Ask the 1% what they can do, we the 99% have done all we are going to do.”
There is a lot of talk these days about those who have done all the right things deserving their fair share. But what exactly is a citizen’s fair share and who determines that share? How will a citizen from the 99% respond when he or she is asked for more because someone in the lower portion of that 99% is not getting their fair share?
Americans who work hard and play by the rules have never expected to be held responsible to make up the difference if other Americans who also worked hard and played by the rules felt short-changed for one reason or another. America’s promise that has drawn people from around the world to her has been the idea that all are given a chance to climb the ladder to the top. The promise was not that you would be carried up the ladder. Often in America, people who have made it to the higher rungs of the ladder do offer a helping hand. But you cannot blame them for not wanting to be pulled off the ladder by too many hanging on.
If the goal is to level the playing field, many may instead be inspired to quit the game. Fewer and fewer players remaining on the field left with the responsibility of providing those who have left the field with their fair share is not a winning formula.
The winning formula for our nation has always been the God given right to freedom and the pursuit of happiness. However, with that right also comes the right to failure.
True, too many as of late have been spared their right to fail. Financial institutions, automobile companies, preferred corporations and others are at the top of that list. Instead of trying to eliminate failure, which is of course impossible, why not level the playing field by allowing all a chance to fail and all a chance to succeed?
This brings to mind the tale of the Ant and the Grasshopper. As I am sure you recall, all summer long the ant worked hard to store food for the long winter ahead. The grasshopper chose instead to dance and play the summer away without making any preparation for the long winter ahead. In the version of the story I am holding up the ant did in the end help the grasshopper. But it was of the ant’s own choosing. The ant was not mandated by anyone to help the grasshopper. The ant did so by its own free will.
It is important that we extend a hand to help others up the rungs of the ladder. But have we become more like the grasshopper than the ant? Are more and more of us expecting others to make up the difference for our short comings as Charles J. Sykes, senior fellow at Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and author of A Nation of Moochers: America’s Addiction to Getting Something for Nothing (St. Martins Press, 2012) suggests. Sykes is concerned that we are at the tipping point at which more Americans depend on the efforts of others than on their own.
Let us move the scale in the right direction by returning to JFK’s call and answering it by helping each other out by choice and not by commanding others to do all the helping. Let us make a pledge. No more demanding our fair share, but instead choosing to share our fare.
Diana Erbio, a freelance writer, lives on Long Lsland, N.Y.