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Commentary: We forget the pride of being American

By Wes Mader Community Columnist May 1, 2019

Our second president, John Adams, wrote, “Remember Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes exhausts and murders itself.”

Adam’s words seem appropriate for the current state of affairs in Washington. Our president and leaders of the opposition party are wasting time, energy and resources in petty bickering while Americans grow exhausted from the result. What we get is a non-stop barrage of unverifiable, he-said, she-said allegations belched out by national news sources while once-hallowed institutions like the FBI and the courts lose their luster.

Is our democracy murdering itself, and have we lost pride in being Americans?

It was fifty-three years ago on May 8 that a stranger in a faraway place rekindled my pride in America in an unexpected way. My wife, Char,had driven me to the Roanoke, Virginia, airport the day before to embark on my first-ever trip to Europe. I would land the following morning in Oslo, Norway.

When Char commented that I had forgotten my coat, I wasn’t concerned. At 31 years old, my inflated ego was relishing the upcoming adventure of spending several weeks visiting defense contractors in Norway, Germany, France, Italy and England.

The left-at-home coat came to mind when we landed Sunday morning in a wind-driven snowstorm. I felt a bit foolish crossing the tarmac in suit and tie while other passengers were bundled up against the cold. It didn’t help my ego when the driver who met me asked if I knew that it got cold in Norway. He drove me to a clothing store to purchase a topcoat before dropping me at the Intercontinental Hotel downtown.

Alone that evening in the almost-empty hotel dining room, I noticed a very distinguished looking older couple across the room. While struggling with menu selections written in Norwegian, I was startled by a voice asking if I was American. It was the older gentleman from across the room. When I said yes, he asked, “Would you honor us by being our guest?”

Responding that I didn’t understand, he explained. May 8 was Liberation Day, the anniversary of Norway’s liberation from Nazi Germany 22 years earlier. The gentleman had served in the Norwegian underground resistance, fighting against Germany’s forces and providing tactical information to U.S. intelligence.

His story was one of personal courage, but his message was about America’s role in saving Norway. He said it would be an honor for him and his wife to have an American as their guest on Liberation Day.

They made it an unforgettable evening, driving me on a lengthy tour of Oslo after dinner. When they dropped me at the hotel at the end of a long evening, I was wide-awake absorbing the emotion of that special evening. When they said again they were proud to have had me as their guest, they couldn’t have imagined how proud they had made me.

Less than two years later, I was visiting Kongsberg Vapenfabrikk (Norway’s leading defense system contractor). It was January 24, 1968, the day after North Korea captured the USS Pueblo intelligence ship.

I was unaware of the incident because of my preceding overnight flight. When I arrived at Kongsberg, I was ushered into a conference room and greeted by a senior executive. The atmosphere was somber as he informed me of the Pueblo news. In sincere tones he expressed concern for U.S. Commander Lloyd Bucher and his crew. Then, more emotionally, he said Norway would never forget that America’s entry into World War II is what saved Norway from Hitler 24 years earlier.

With criticism of American involvement in Vietnam percolating worldwide, it was comforting to again hear support for America from a respected ally.

While I have no worry about Norway’s forgetting what America did, it seems some Americans have. Lest we forget, it was America that led the effort to save Europe from the oppression of Hitler and to save Asia from Japan’s expansionist appetite during the war — and then America bore much of the cost to rebuild the countries and economies of these enemies.

America led the UN effort that saved South Korea from being conquered by North Korea and led the coalition of nations that drove Sadaam Hussein’s army from Kuwait. And most recently, American involvement has been crucial in diminishing the influence and cruelty of ISIS. While I’m still proud to be American, our borders are open for those who aren’t and who may wish to leave.

God bless America’s loyal ally Norway and her people as they celebrate Liberation Day.

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Wes Mader is a former Prior Lake mayor. Following retirement after serving as president of Bowmar Aerospace and Defense in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Wes and his wife Char retired in Prior Lake.