By WILLIAM HODGES
In the political arena, many of the debates revolve around taxes, and many of us in our private discussions complain about taxes we pay. This year, I made a very bad mistake; I complained to my friend, Hugo. Hugo looked at me with a very serious face and said, “Considering the initiation fee I had to pay, the dues are cheap.” I asked Hugo what he meant about paying an initiation fee, and dues to what? His reply started me thinking. He said that back in the ’50s when he came to this country, his native land of Hungary was in a state of war. In order to come to the United States, he and his family had to crawl through the mud under the barbed wire, while trying to avoid the watchful eyes of the armed sentries. To Hugo, this was the initiation fee he and his family paid to join the greatest club in the world, and taxes are the dues he pays to keep it strong.
Hugo’s comments caused me to think of a friend I have in Florida named Peppi. Peppi told me that in order to get an exit visa he had to work in a Cuban cane field for two years without pay. At the end of two years, the Cuban government confiscated all of his belongings. He and his family were allowed to take only the clothes on their backs when they left Cuba to go to Miami. This was Peppi’s initiation fee. Since that time, Peppi and his wife have raised two lovely daughters, both with college educations, and Peppi has become a foreman at a boat company. Peppi doesn’t think the dues are high.
My own family came to this great country from Canada, and our initiation fee was a $1 trip across the Ambassador Bridge. That’s not much of a fee compared to that paid by Hugo and Peppi. Maybe it’s the low-initiation fee most of us paid and the ease with which we joined this club that has caused us to lose sight of its great value.
You can bet that around the world, there are hundreds of potential members who would willingly pay any price to take our place. They’re confined by brick walls in East Germany, and behind iron and bamboo curtains in other parts of the world. Instead of complaining, let’s try and remember the people like Hugo and Peppi and the initiation fee they had to pay. When you think about it, the dues aren’t high to belong to the most sought-after club in the world. For those dues, you can say, “I am an American.”
About this time, you may be wondering about some of my statements. Actually, I wrote the above in the ’80s when I was still in Ohio. As I considered submitting it for this week, I began to think how different things are today than they were then. There is no wall dividing East and West Germany, the bamboo curtain and the iron curtain for all practical purposes are only shadows of what they once were. Vietnam is now a trading partner of the United States. All of these things have come about either directly or indirectly because we paid the price to remain strong. Yes, the dues do seem high every once in a while, but it is still the best club on earth.
William Hodges is a nationally recognized speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. He also hosts an interview-format television program, Spotlight on Government, on the Tampa Bay Community Network, that airs Mondays at 8 p.m. (Spectrum channel 639, Verizon channel 30) and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. (Spectrum channel 638, Verizon channel 36). The shows can also be viewed at hodgesvideos.com. Phone: 813-641-0816. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: billhodges.com.