As I write this, I am sitting in a hospital waiting room as my wife undergoes a routine surgery (she’s now in post-op). Over the last hour we spoke together with the doctor and the anesthesiologist; asking questions and seeking clarifications. Then they wheeled her into the operating room while I went to the waiting room for her procedure to be finished, after which I will meet her in post-op.
What a natural process that for most Americans is second nature. Handing over my most prized treasure to group of experts who act in good faith to help both extend life and make it more abundant. A natural, uncoerced interaction taking advantage of the division of labor and of the liberty of free men and women seeking to add value to the world. A world built on trust, where I trust the men in the custody of my unconscious wife while I wait patiently – a stillness of faith and freedom soothing my anxiety.
What an amazing country, a place – and a system – that Americans too often take for granted, or worse; oft times even conjuring the catastrophic to justify acts of destruction. But it’s a resilient system after all – simply because of the nature of who Americans are, a people comfortable in their own skin and anxious to add value to society not because they are told to do so, but because by adding value to society they recognize the value added to their own lives. Rewards received in the currency of honor, dignity, gratitude, and pride of a job well done.
I appreciate this all the more, because I live overseas and I have a front row seat to all the evil that the world can muster. Poverty, oppression, disease, misery and war – those have been my daily bread for almost two decades. But I can return home to America – which I have done – when I need the occasional relief of peace or the essential service in competence of those whom I know I can trust.
I do have a point I’m trying to make. You see, so many cannot come here. They are trapped within their dysfunctional systems, in their poverty, or worse – so much worse – they are trapped by their oppressors. This morning before I came to the hospital I was drinking my early-morning coffee and perusing the news on the internet of places and causes that draw my interest, and realized that today is the renewal of the trial of a political prisoner in Venezuela named Leopoldo Lopez. Lopez is a friend of mine, which is irrelevant except that it makes the reality of his torture somehow more personal. He has been held for almost a year in a military prison. He has been deprived of visits by his family. He has had human excrement dumped on him; he has had the speeches of now dead tyrant Hugo Chavez blasted at him all night to deprive him of sleep, he has been refused sunlight and exercise, he has been assaulted by prisoner guards at night while he slept – and his trial is an ongoing sham that does not even pass the laugh test.
Yet all this, the torture of Leopoldo Lopez, has not affected me as much as one un-noticed occurrence a year ago. After he turned himself in to the ‘authorities’ and was placed under arrest, he was remanded to Ramo Verde prison. There, before being sent to his tiny jail cell, a final picture emerged of him undergoing a physical examination by the prison doctor. This broke my heart a year ago, as it did again this morning. Because, you see, they were violating the intimacy of his person because they intended to do him harm. They needed to know how much he could handle.
His doctors were not good faith healers seeking to extend life and make it more abundant, as my wife’s are. They have no care for his wellbeing; they are men putting their education to the service of a dictator and a failed political project that only brings misery.
As I sit here worried and waiting for my wife, I think also of Lopez’s family. His wife’s name is Lilian Tintori and she is my age. His children’s names are Manuela and Leopoldo Jr.; the latter is a little younger than my son. And I cannot imagine what they must have been feeling that day, as they watched a stolen photograph displayed on television of their husband undergoing a medical evaluation by those who intended to torture him.
And as I look out the window to the Rocky Mountains in the distance, waiting for the nurse to call my name, I’m eternally thankful and grateful for my country and the greatness of our American experiment. A place where I can provide for my family in their moments of most intimate need; where I can say what I believe knowing that this will not affect my ability to do so (because what a choice that would be, if you don’t believe me just ask Leopoldo who has had to make it); where I can hold steadfastly to the faith of my forefathers without hiding; and all the while where I can continue the fight for the people the world over who are striving to be free.
These are the things that make America great. So to those who have come before, and those who still fight to keep America the last great place, thank you and God Bless America!