Patriotic Philanthropy

"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country" -John F. Kennedy

I realize it's not very "original" to start off an article these days with such a magnanimous quote of seemingly mythical proportions; it's become cliche, in fact, especially when the words and the orator of those words are revered and idealized by grade-school students and octogenarians alike throughout our country.  Maybe it is because of the ubiquitous nature of this phrase that my mind immediately zoomed to that notable speech when I read the story of the recent repair of the Washington Monument and its financial support provided by an American billionaire (aristocrat).  It may also be the case that I was persuaded by its media coverage by CBS News and the New York Times, which both more than eluded to the phrase "patriotic philanthropy" and "patriotic giving" when presenting this story; nonetheless, I was hooked.

While the exponential divide in economic prosperity shows no sign of reversing--with economic growth in the U.S. staggering around 2%, unemployment numbers deceptively "normalizing", stock-market profiteering at all-time highs--, it's certainly refreshing to see at least some emblem of financial investment by wealthy individuals in our nation's deteriorating infrastructure and landmarks.  The constant barrage of political pander in the media, more often than not, promotes the ideas of government failures and obstructions to businesses through one form or another, yet those who have enough money to make more money never fail to do so regardless of government obstructions and regulations.  Meanwhile, the profits are increasingly used in international business ventures or accruing interest and increasing individual wealth or the wealth of a chosen few.

The story of the Washington Memorial repairs should serve as a blueprint for the American aristocracy to "fix" the problems of the country from the bottom up, by investing in our nations crumbling infrastructure, by creating innovative ways to spur the growth in better education, etc. instead of funneling money to the top to further their next endeavor.  As it stands right now, especially with the recent reversal of financial limits on political campaign contributions, the aristocrats are doing this country a grave disservice, by turning the U.S. Capitol into the Colosseum with politicians battling for the silver and gold coins pouring from the sky.

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