The Notion of a Nation  

Posted by Brock Booher

What makes a nation a nation? Is it the borders that enclose and define it? Is it the language or languages spoken by its citizens? Does a specific culture determine nationhood? What makes a nation a sovereign entity or does a nation ever really rise to the level of sovereignty? Perhaps the notion of a nation is simply something we invent in our minds to help us better classify and organize our perception of the world. What makes a nation a nation?

It is true that language, culture, and geographic borders are characteristics of a nation, but characteristics do not a nation make. The Hawaiian Islands have a unique language, culture, and clearly discernable borders, yet they exist as a part of the United States of America, not an independent nation.

Only one thing can give birth to a nation and sustain its existence – Law - clear, enforceable, binding law.

A few years ago a member of my church drove into Mexico in search of shopping deals. As soon as he crossed the border, the Federales stopped him. They politely asked to search his vehicle, and he, being unfamiliar with the laws of Mexico, consented. During their very thorough search they found a small amount of ammunition in the glove compartment of his vehicle (a crime in Mexico). It took him several months to get released from a Mexican prison and return home to his anxious family.

Harsh you say? He broke the law in Mexico, and he suffered the consequences of a clear, enforceable, and binding law. That is what makes a nation a nation.

Another friend of mine was taking pictures of the subway in Moscow, clearly a heinous crime worthy of punishment. A Russian “Barney Fife” wrote him a ticket, and except for the quick talking of my friend’s interpreter, the official would also have taken his camera.

Ridiculous you say? He broke the law in Russia, and was punished by clear, enforceable, and binding law. That is what makes a nation a nation.

In 1994 Michael Fay pleaded guilty to vandalizing cars and stealing road signs in Singapore. He was sentenced to four months in jail, fined 3,500 Singapore dollars, and six strokes with a cane.

Cruel and unusual you say!? He broke the law in Singapore, and was sentenced according to clear, enforceable, and binding law. That is what makes a nation a nation.

Every nation in the world has as system of laws in place that dictate the requirements for entering and leaving its borders. Such laws dictate the required paperwork, points of entry, period of stay, and often include such minute details as the size of the rubber stamp and ink color in the inkpad. Nations that don’t control the movement of foreigners within their borders may soon find themselves in peril. Without those laws would a nation really be a nation?

We need only look to the history of the State of Texas as an example of what can happen if a nation fails to control the influx of foreigners. After winning its independence, Mexico encouraged and allowed organized immigration into Mexican Texas, but in few short years immigrants from the United States greatly outnumbered the Mexicans. This disparity fomented the flames of rebellion within a few short years, and the rebellion soon resulted in the formation of the Republic of Texas. Remember the Alamo? The Mexican nation was unable to enforce its laws in Texas, and a new nation rose up in its place.

We face a similar dilemma.

We as a nation need the “huddled masses” of immigrants. We rely on the influx of both talent and manpower to enrich our nation. Our immigration laws are structured to control that influx. But if our government simply ignores those who defy immigration law, then it is officially aiding and abetting criminals, and will not long stand as a ruling body.

Under the Constitution, our legal system clearly allows for freedom of speech, including speech that runs counter to our own established laws. Therefore, people that are here illegally are free to speak out against the very laws that they are breaking, without consequence. We should not change the law to eliminate freedom of speech.

However, if WE, as a governing body, wish to continue as a nation, WE must enforce our clear and binding immigration laws. If we consider our laws to be inappropriate or unenforceable, then we must work to change them. We cannot simply look the other way and pretend that the law will change. We must not be duped into believing that no consequences will follow our failure to enforce our immigration laws. The rule of OUR law is what makes US a nation.

We face a crossroads as nation, if we wish to remain a nation. Will we enforce our clear and binding immigration law, or will we cease to be a nation?

A Man of the Earth  

Posted by Brock Booher

I recently wrote this small segment as an exercise and wanted to share it. It expresses my personal perceptions of my Grampy, Charles Talley.

A Man of the Earth

I can still remember the smell of the tall green grass as I crawled through the field behind my Grampy’s house. My older brother and I would spend hours stealing through the pasture as we hunted each other with “guns” made from tobacco sticks. They were memorable days, but not as memorable as my Grampy himself.

“You boys put your guns away and come in for dinner,” said Grampy as we crawled out of our own private jungle. He spoke with a deep baritone voice that didn’t match his small frame and seemed to reverberate right through us. It was like hearing the horn of a large truck come from a small car, or the foghorn of a large cruise ship singing out from a tugboat.

I never heard him raise his voice, but then again, he didn’t have to. His voice was accustomed to being obeyed, and willed you to do as he commanded without changing in volume. Its rich, solid tones penetrated you clear to the bone, and took away your will to do anything other than what he directed.

In spite of his commanding voice, he was terse and chose his words carefully. He would engage in deep conversation by listening intently, and then speak a few carefully thought out sentences of substance.

A man of the earth, most summer afternoons you could find Grampy in his beautiful garden tending to the soil and nurturing his tomato plants, green beans, and corn. He loved to make things grow, and would carry the smell of freshly turned soil to the dinner table.

His face was often expressionless, except the eyes. His misty hazel eyes seemed to penetrate and look deep into a problem or a person. They also carried a slight measure of sadness, deposited there by the many hardships he had faced.

He had contracted typhoid fever as a child, and the disease had hindered his growth, leaving him shorter than most men and of small build. He had a slight, almost imperceptible limp or shuffle that resulted from the disease, but his size only disguised his strength and quickness. When we playfully challenged him we would feel his vice-like hands clamping down on a shoulder, or feel the playful slap of his soft palm across our cheek. We would laugh as he utterly manhandled us and gave a resonating chuckle of delight.

Charles Talley, my Grampy, was a rock. He courageously faced the adversities of life without asking for quarter. Even as I stood watching him on his deathbed, I sensed that he was a man of substance, not easily swayed by the winds of calamity. In my mind, I could hear his strong baritone voice calling me to dinner, and smell the green grass and soft moist soil.

My Piece of the Wall  

Posted by Brock Booher

Fighter pilots sometimes classify other pilots as follows - There are fighter pilots and pilots that fly fighters. I must admit that after a couple of years in the A-10 I still considered myself the latter. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy flying fighters. I loved the flying immensely. It does mean that I never felt completely worthy to classify myself with the first group.

The other night I was helping my son with a school project about the Cold War and the Berlin Airlift. He shrugged off my suggestions, like he so often does, leaving me feeling a bit rejected. I wanted to shake him and let him know that I was there when the Berlin Wall came down. I had taken a piece of the wall, and bought old East German military trinkets at Brandenburg Gate. So, I went in search of my piece of the wall.

I pulled out some old boxes of memorabilia and started digging. I found all my old Air Force awards officially describing my accomplishments. I found old photos of a younger me daring the world to put me to the test. I was able to share a bit of history with him and bring his assignment to life, but I never found my piece of the wall.

I found some old journals, back from when I kept a regular journal like I should now. As I opened the dusty pages of bad handwriting, I recognized that same self doubt that keeps me from classifying myself with the first group. Line after line of self-effacing emotional drivel. No wonder I never felt adequate. No piece of the wall here.

My kids were a little surprised at my awards and decorations. To them I’m just the guy that goes to work and comes home complaining that the house isn’t clean. They asked why I didn’t hang them all on a wall to show them off. They asked me to explain what I had done to be honored with each one. Each time I simply smiled. No piece of the wall here.

Past personal accomplishments hold little value for me. Today is a new day, and demands new achievements. I would rather be trying and failing today than reliving the few successes of yesterday. Yesterday is just a lost piece of the wall.

Fighter pilots may never classify me as one of their own, but I’m ok with that. Today is a new day.