America, Where Art Thou?

When I was a child, growing up behind the Iron Curtain in East Berlin, I had a neighbor friend who would get “care packages” from her aunt on the West side of the city. She would always receive such beautiful toys, foods and clothes, that I was green with envy.

The closest I came to owning a Barbie doll in those days was a friend’s hand-me-down called Comrade “Petra”. I never truly enjoyed that brown fizzy stuff called “Vita Cola.” And, my jeans were never quite like Levis, but a painted cloth look-a-alike version.

Then there were the TV shows, music, and movies “from the other side” that we devoured but weren’t allowed to tell anyone about, lest the secret police should arrest us for indulging in anti-socialist propaganda. In fact, my grandparents once derided me for spending an afternoon of tea and cookies at a neighbor’s apartment because I had forgotten my keys—for fear that I in my youthful innocence might divulge some incriminating information.

And that Wall: would I ever see such exotic places as France, the UK, or the United States?

Fast forward 15 or so years later, I stepped off a plane landed in Chicago to fulfill a lifelong dream.

And I didn’t even know the philosophy upon which all that greatness I saw in America had been built. It was reading people like Ayn Rand, Thomas Jefferson, John Stuart Mill, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard during my college years, that I first got introduced to the principles of individual liberty and free markets.

But these last ten years—the time that I have been lucky enough to grow and prosper in this country—have been bittersweet. The more I learned about America’s foundations, the more I became aware of how they are being steadily eroded: the assault on constitutional rights and elimination of presumption of innocence in the name of national "security"; proliferation of government secrecy, and centralization of power in the executive branch in the name of “expert” guidance; skyrocketing national debt, unsustainable public pension promises, Ponzi scheme entitlement programs, and unconstitutional mandates to buy health insurance in the name of “social justice”; stimulus, bailouts, government loans and tax breaks privatizing gains and socializing losses in the name of economic recovery; skyrocketing inflation in the name of promoting employment and stable prices; an overpriced, underachieving education system in the name of equal opportunity; taxpayer-funded malinvestment, economic retardation, and politically driven scientific malpractice in the name of saving the planet…

Where is that country I, as a child, had only been able to admire from afar and in secret? Where is that country I longed to live in for more than 10 years and for which I willingly risked the unknown? Where is that country that liberated me in heart and spirit? Where is that country that offered me the promise of freedom, hope and dreams realized?

America, where art thou? And what is it going to take to get you back?