Thats's Neil Steinberg talking to Korean War veterans in the photo to the left. Neil's the guy in the tie and dark sport coat chatting with American heroes in Leo's cafeteria. To the right is Leo High School Vice Principal and Marine Corps Veteran Frank Wilson and Illinois Veterans Affairs Asst. Director Rochelle Crump welcoming the crowd at the Leo War Memorial. I took the photos - my apologies for the lousey lighting. Windy City Veterans, Montford Point Marines, Burbank Marines, The Triple Nickle Parachute Veterans and the Leo Alumni Association - thick with veterans - Chicago Police, Chicago Firemen, Secret Service, F.B.I. and Postal Workers are all honored and participate. But - Let's get to the meat of the matter - one of our guests is a great American: Neil Steinberg.
Today's column by Chicago Sun Times columnist Neil Steinberg is brilliant. Steinberg, one of few journalists in Chicago who takes his time to get the correct, accurate, and honest presentation of events, Neil is also one of the very few writers who gets things right.
Neil Steinberg attended Leo High School's Annual Veterans Observance, celebrated on the Friday before Veterans Day, and actually spent most of his time with 80 year old veterans of WWII, Korea, and the younger guys of Vietnam and Desert Storm and America's continuing War on Islamist Terror. Neil Steinberg was not interested in the buffet - which seems uncharacteristic for news media types; Steinberg was busy asking intelligent questions of 80+ year Merchant Marines about the Murmansk Run; and Jim Furlong and Rich Doyle about being a tunnel rat and humping gear in the rice paddies.
People reveal who they really are when they think no one is watching them. The Leo guys saw Neil at his best - and he thought no one was looking. Neil Steinberg made no small efort to make Veterans feel good that they cashed in their youth in service to their country - Vietnam Era Vets and beyond found themselves holding the bag in Southeast Asia for those of us home here going to college and protesting the War. Now, soldiers in the War on Islamist Terror find themselves in similar straits - fighting an unseen enemy in a foreign land and getting their backs peppered with the contempt of those who sneer at their sacrifices. We tolerate some lousey attitudes in our wonderful democracy.
Neil Steinberg gets it. Here's some of his great essay:
Conformity, the suburbanite's sin. So what if people aren't rushing to fly their flags? Their loss. It's a shame that patriotism is usually left to patriots, who give it such a bad name by their mistaken belief that loving the country means blindly supporting any folly its leaders can conceive and heaping scorn on any fellow citizen who misses some conformist benchmark of behavior.
Patriotism isn't cool, but it should be. Forget suburbanites; you'd think the cutting edge would embrace it. You'd think the artists and the radicals, the malcontents and the visionaries, college students and tree-worshipping cultists would be the most patriotic of all, understanding that it is this great country that accepts their deviation, while in many other places they would be stoned to death or, more likely, never even exposed in the first place to the ideas that so overwhelm them.
But no. College professors, free-thinkers, vegans, Marxists all sneer at their country. They are young, or so dazzled by the sheen of their beliefs they fail to appreciate the soil they sprouted in, and they let flag-waving, misty-eyed patriotism be dominated -- present company excluded -- by exactly the sort of narrow, hidebound reactionaries who'd thrive under any dictatorship.
We are a nation born of radicalism, living under a constitution penned by rebels. Those who fancy themselves rebels today should appreciate that.
Rebellion has been redefined by a generation that would rather sneer at a country that embraces their individuality than display some patriotism
Now, That's Working Class Values!
Today's gem should be must reading for every American citizen. This is a later day Thomas Paine's 'Sunshine Patriot' caveat to the smug and self-satisified. Neil, I am proud to know you!
Neil Steinberg - American Patriot!
Leo High School will hold its Veterans Observance on Friday November 2, 2007 at 11AM in the Courtyard of Leo High School. Join the Veterans and genuine Patriots.