Fifty-two years ago
the sights along Route 66
set my little-boy eyes aglow,
while my dad kept his eyes fixed
on the road that was taking us to California.
Neither the first nor the last,
we’d hit the road on a quest
for opportunity out west,
a new chance to take our best
shot at building a better life.
Seemed like that was what
the country was all about:
for an honest day’s work a man got
an honest day’s pay, no doubt—
at least, we never doubted it.
So when the Russians shot
that Sputnik into space
and Eisenhower thought
we Yanks should quicken the pace,
I studied hard at math and science and languages.
Quick after graduation,
I enlisted in Uncle Sam’s forces,
and it was in that situation
that I first began to hear voices
telling me that something was dreadfully wrong.
‘Cause the men who commanded me
seemed more interested in sadism
and sailing in a calm sea
than in fighting communism.
After that, it was all downhill for my illusions.
Vietnam and Nicaragua, Panama and Persian Gulf One
came and went like so many bad dreams,
so many bum projects begun
only to grow worse, it seems—
not even good deals for the guys who got out alive.
And now, nearly sixty, I find that
I am once again a stranger
in my native land, wondering what
it is that makes us see danger
way out there, when it’s always so much closer to home.
Robert Higgs [send him mail] is senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute, editor of The Independent Review, and author of Crisis and Leviathan and the editor of Arms, Politics, and the Economy.