What Price Freedom?

In the week ending April 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 429,000, an increase of 25,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 404,000. The 4-week moving average was 408,500, an increase of 9,250 from the previous week's revised average of 399,250.

--Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report, U.S. Department of Labor

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Spring has truly arrived. It's warm enough for me to slip on a pair of Okabashi U.S.A.-made flip-flops. Yesterday afternoon, the sun on his back, Don planted vines with purple flowers along the yard's south facing wall. "Good news," he said in the evening as we finally got around to eating dinner. "The vines were grown in local nurseries. And those wood trellises I bought to hold them up against the wall were actually made in the U.S.A." Two thumbs up, Home Depot and L & L Outdoor Living Products.

In the midst of the Home Depot / trellis discussion, the phone rang. It was my {younger, thinner} sister Joni. "Ding dong the witch is dead," she said. I had no idea what or who she was talking about. "Are you watching Wizard of Oz ?" I asked, which was silly because Joni's definitely not the Dorothy/Toto type. She laughed. "No, no. Haven't you been watching the news? Osama bin Laden's dead. Finally. Can you believe it?"

Don flipped on the tiny TV in our eating nook's corner cabinet. On station after station, the same message crawled along the bottom of the screen: "Osama bin Laden killed by U.S. operatives in Pakistan."

Wow. Hard to believe. Terrorist, leader of the Taliban, mastermind behind the September, 2001 attacks had finally been wiped off the map. Flip-flops, trellises and vines suddenly seemed insignificant. So many innocent lives ended on 9/11. So many brave, patriotic American soldiers have fought and died since then: 4,424 in Operation Iraqi Freedom; 1,461 in Operation Enduring Freedom. 5,885 total U.S. soldiers lives lost thus far.

Specialist Jameson Lindskog was killed just a few weeks ago. Trained as a medical technician, he was due to be discharged next year. Jameson and our youngest daughter were classmates. He was the first native of Pleasanton, California, to be killed in the Iraq-Afghanistan conflicts.

Jameson's father, Curtis Lindskog, told the PleasantonPatch: "He was a deeply caring individual who was committed to his family. He also had a deep sense of right and wrong."

The following is from the San Jose Mercury News:

"To his fellow soldiers, Spc. Jameson Lindskog will always be remembered as a hero. One is 1st Sgt. Randy Wright, who spoke to an overflow crowd Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Building in Pleasanton. Wright described the selfless act that led to the 23-year-old Pleasanton resident's death in Afghanistan on March 29, an act of bravery Wright said was unparalleled in his 20 years of military service…On March 29, the 101st Airborne Division received information about an insurgent stronghold in Sarkani, Kunar province, Afghanistan…Members of Lindskog's unit soon came under attack and two soldiers were shot. They called for a medic. Lindskog answered. 'Bullets were hitting all around,' Wright said. 'Not once did he flinch.' Lindskog rushed out to assist the wounded men. He was killed along with two members of his unit. Three other soldiers from the 101st also died that day."

I keep thinking about Jameson's "deep sense of right and wrong." How when his fellow soldiers needed him, off he went, into the bullets. It's a stunning, humbling image.

Let the media, as they must, weigh in on scum-of-the-earth ObL's death. I choose to instead remember a true American hero, Jameson Lindskog. To thank him--and those who've gone before him--for the peaceful lives we enjoy everyday here in the United States of America. For the purple flowers that will soon cling on our U.S.A.-made trellises. For the fresh strawberries and raspberries grown in American fields. For the freedom we have to do pretty much as we please in this vast country of ours. Specialist Jameson Lindskog gave his life for all of us. How can we possibly thank him for that?

How about by preserving and treasuring what we have? Thirteen million Americans need jobs. Who knows how many more need them but have given up trying. How about we look out for each other, give jobs to citizens who need them here at home? How about growing our economy right here, in the towns and cities so many soldiers left behind? Seems like a good idea to me. Am I wrong?

Perhaps 5,885 U.S. soldiers fought and died so that multinational corporations can freely maintain operations overseas. So that trade can freely pass from one country to another. So that American corporations can thrive and employ non-U.S. citizens in far off places.

But if that were true, shouldn't those corporations--who claim to be American--at minimum pay American taxes for the privileges soldiers like Lindskog have secured for them? According to the New York Times, General Electric, the nation's largest corporation "reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion" and yet paid zero taxes. "In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion." Please remember that in September, 2010, the last major G.E. plant here in the U.S. (in Winchester, Virginia) closed. Two hundred people lost their jobs. Yes, G.E.'s profits yield stock market gains for their investors. But at what price?

Right versus wrong. It's a concept worth our discussion and thought. Each and every day. God bless you, Jameson Lindskog.