- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

Paris in the fall

“Enjoyed your article,” James B. Davis writes about our item on disgruntled Americans who are contemplating moving to Canada or beyond because they can’t stomach four more years of President Bush.

Mr. Davis, fittingly enough, is founder of Help.Them.Leave.com, a 501(c)3 organization that offers relocation assistance for “disenfranchised” citizens at absolutely no cost.

“In return for your irrevocable renunciation of your United States citizenship, and a sworn statement that you will never return, we will provide free one-way transportation to one of our politically matched, recommended countries on one of the jets we have chartered to provide this service,” the organization states.

It goes so far as to carefully match relocation countries to political leanings:

• Leftists: France, Germany, Italy or Spain

• Socialists: Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, Norway or Sweden

• Communists: Cuba or North Korea

Uncommon actor

Most recognize him as Cliff Clavin, the mailman on “Cheers,” but Hollywood actor and director John Ratzenberger is keeping busy these days actually plugging America.

Every Tuesday night at 9 o’clock on the Travel Channel, “John Ratzenberger’s Made in America” takes viewers into America’s shops and factories, introducing otherwise unrecognized men and women who strive through hard work, skill and devotion to make this a better country.

Over the past two years, Mr. Ratzenberger has touted Americans who produce products like Craftsman tools, Steinway pianos, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Barbasol Shaving Cream, John Deere, Brooks Brothers, Stetson hats, Swanson TV dinners, Spam, Gatorade, Ivory soap, Gibson guitars, Goodyear tires, Airstream trailers, Crayola crayons, the Louisville Slugger baseball bat, even the Wiffle ball.

Mr. Ratzenberger, who this columnist met with last week in Los Angeles, says “Made in America” is “closer to my heart than anything I have done professionally in 30 years,” primarily because he’s so concerned about America’s future.

“[T]he America I grew up in hardly exists anymore,” says the native of Bridgeport, Conn. “The America I remember from the 1950s and ‘60s was an America of ma-and-pa stores and a blue-collar middle class. There was a sense of community, and above all else there were community standards.

“But from what I can see all around me today, that America is fading fast, if it’s not already gone,” he says. “Like America, Bridgeport was all immigrants — Italians, Poles, Irish, Africans, Puerto Ricans, Portuguese. Yet there was no racial or ethnic tension, at least among the kids. We were bonded by the fact that our parents worked hard jobs.

“In school we said the Pledge of Allegiance and in summer marched in parades on streets decorated with American flags,” says the actor, who appearing before one recent audience criticized this country’s “silly educational emphasis on multiculturalism” that “only causes people to be hyper-aware of color instead of being colorblind.”

“From what I can see, too many kids don’t learn pride in their country anymore. You may not share my concern — but you should,” he says. “The fact is that, in another generation, at least half of all native-born Americans won’t have learned about patriotism even by osmosis.”

The actor warns that “structures and organizations, even countries, don’t survive forever on momentum.”

“They need to be resupplied with energy, and that energy comes from asking not what your country can do for you, but from what you can do for your country.”

As for Hollywood and its impact, he says: “I’m concerned about the insidious influence of the media’s bad messages that undermine the lessons parents try to instill in their sons and daughters.”

He speaks of a recent conversation he had with a high-ranking network executive, the son of a studio executive born and raised in Los Angeles, who turned down a series proposed by Mr. Ratzenberger that would center around life in a truck stop.

“I kid you not, this guy had never heard of truck stops,” says the actor, whose father was a truck driver. “I should have educated him by pointing out that if New York and Los Angeles were to suddenly disappear one day, all the other American cities would quickly learn to adjust … .

“I have a lot more in common with my gardener that I do with guys like him,” he concludes. “It appalls me that the people who decide what Americans will be watching on the tube have never been to the United States. Not the real United States.

“To them, the real United States is just flyover country. The pollution they produce, market, sell, and show to billions around the world is at its core contemptuous of the country that gave them better lives than nearly 100 percent of everybody who’s ever lived. And they pass that contempt along for everyone to see.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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