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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Standing Tall

Editor’s note: The following is a guest column written by my oldest son Mark William Altman II, a 19 year old Junior at Embry Riddle Aeronautical Engineering University.

“He, who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” –Albert Einstein

This last Wednesday I was talking to my younger sister about how school was progressing. She was explaining to me that she had begun to question the callousness that her fellow students felt towards the world, a complete apathy towards school, the government, human relationships, and life in general. Without thinking, I reminded her that these students had been trudging along, mindlessly, head bowed, shoulders slumped to the dull beat of society’s drums for so long that they had become accustomed to the rotten stench of their unused minds, and had forgotten what it was like to stand tall and breathe the fresh air of freedom and innovation. It cheered her up to know that there was someone out there empathetic with her, but I couldn’t help but have a nagging feeling that there was more to what I had said.

As fate would have it, the next day in one of my classes we were discussing International Crime. The most disconcerting topic was that of Human Trafficking. I have always known Human Trafficking is present in the world, but never understood why Americans would allow such a human rights violation to continue unchecked, with barely a word against it. I ceased wondering as my fellow students began an in-depth discussion as to the “economic viability” of addressing this crime against their fellow humans; but they failed to discuss the human cost of allowing this egregious sin to continue. I began to question our societal mores. I was not questioning our society due to the free discussion between students; rather I questioned a society that taught its children that the almighty dollar was worth more than a human life.

We teach our nation’s children to go unquestioning into the workforce, and all levels of civil service, accepting that some people are less fortunate than others. We teach our children that the exploitation of foreign workers is acceptable since the pennies we pay these workers are “more than they usually would earn.” We encourage them to lie, cheat, or steal since “everyone else does it.” Most importantly, we tell them that sitting on the sidelines in life is adequate as long as they “grieve” for those less fortunate, and those who do not receive the basic human freedoms they deserve. We do not intend to teach our children these lessons; rather, we allow the sin of omission to run rampant through our homes. By avoiding these delicate and morally complicated questions we don’t give children time to forge an opinion, instead they are forced, as young adults, into the opinion given to them by society.

It is time we no longer allow our children to go through this world unquestioningly. We need to teach them as children to ask why our world acts the way it does. Teach them to allow the views of the past to fade into history, and to embrace the change that the future brings. Teach them to be citizens of the world, as well as American patriots. Allow them to stand tall, breathe deep, and use, not just their basic human instincts, but also their higher moral functions. As Americans, we should not allow ourselves to be of the numbers that march unquestioningly to the beat of the drums; we should instead question the legitimacy of authority, and make our decisions based on our own moral beliefs. Most importantly, we should teach our nation’s children Voltaire’s maxium, “Every man is guilty of all the good they didn’t do.”

Mark Altman II is a Midshipman 3rd Class in Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Program and is pursuing a degree in Aerospace Engineering, and is a graduate of Coeur d’Alene High School.

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