The Republic is crumbling

Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"They have sown the wind; they shall reap the whirlwind..." -Hosea 8:7

It was an ironic setting for ruins - a warm spring sun arcing across a flawless blue vault of sky on a quiet afternoon. But the atmosphere itself was rather melancholic. I stood at the grass edge that overlooked the rubble of the barracks at the old Fort Seward site in Haines. Ravaged by fire decades ago, the spot is now a historic open pit, strewn with what appear to be the remembrances of turn-of-the-century Alaska: massive, rust-red boilers, contorted bedsprings, blackened accordion steam radiators. There is a sadness to this collection of discards now half buried under crumbled stone walls. It is sobering to consider the lifeblood that went into the barracks' construction, how men laughed, worked, patrolled, prepared for battle against distant enemies. The nation was still young then, it seemed, and they were a glad part of its building.

Not so anymore. As I stood pondering the golden past, the tarnished present hove startlingly into view.

The controversial Department of Homeland Security document that surfaced last month made it clear that America's age of innocence is long gone. Enumerating the character traits of suspected domestic enemies, the document mentioned that "disgruntled military veterans" might be lured into the supposedly ubiquitous "right-wing extremism" due to issues of gun control, the floundering economy, or the inability to resume normal lives after the horrors of war. Under a firestorm of protest nationwide, including a letter of rebuke sent to Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano by the national commander of the American Legion, Napolitano kind of, sort of, apologized. The wording, it seems, was a bit unfortunate, conveying an unintended inference.

Uh, yeah. This "apology" is from the same person who recently claimed during a CNN interview that foreign nationals are not necessarily committing a crime by illegally crossing American borders. Did you get that? Illegal aliens are not necessarily committing a crime by crossing the borders in violation of American law. Now you know.

On a local level, some military veterans right here in Haines have voiced their outrage. One of them, a master sergeant, U.S. Army, retired, noted that the report contained "some of the most un-American comments stated by an administration."

The point he's making is that our servicemen and women perform their duty in a foreign land, yet for some, the "Welcome Home" banner is embroidered with suspicion by the very people who sent them there. Let's face it - when Barack Obama suggests that veterans' personal insurance carriers get billed for the vets' injuries in the field, and the same administration now casts aspersions on their personal and military honor, it doesn't exactly inspire confidence in said administration. The report also appears to conflate single-issue Americans - like those with opposition to abortion, illegal immigration, or the Obama administration's policies - with those capable of home-grown terrorism. Multiplied millions of our countrymen - minus any propensity for violence - fall into those opposition categories. The implications are very disturbing.

Tradition has it that when Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown in 1781, the British band, in grief-stricken irony, played, "The World Turned Upside Down." How fitting that song now seems in relation to our own country and time. When returning military veterans are suspect, when decent people with moral worldviews are branded extremist or possible security threats, when the very principles upon which America was built are derided by the politicos who claim to uphold them ... something is terribly wrong.

The Bible repeatedly speaks about spiritually sowing and consequently reaping a harvest. Plant good, reap good. Plant bad ... well, the obvious happens. Standing on the edge of that ruined army barracks I couldn't help wondering, believing, that the rubble I contemplated was more than just a snapshot of the past. It was a portent of the future.

The first stirrings of an ill wind are blowing across the country. Better batten down the hatches. We're about to reap what we've sown.

• Reeves is a Haines resident.

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