A few realizations hit like a ton of bricks. Then try as you might, there’s no going back to before you understood.

Spending a couple days with Stephen Kiernan, award-winning journalist and author of Authentic Patriotism: Restoring America’s Founding Ideals through Selfless Action (paperback release was just last week) was both personally delightful and a little unsettling in its conscience-pricking moments.

Turns out America’s new favorite pastime of screaming obscenities at each other from our easy chairs isn’t exactly what our founders had in mind when they kicked around that audacious notion of self-governance.

Turns out when we took that bold step to kick the king to the curb, we signed on the dotted line for a little more than slapping a “Go America” bumper sticker on the minivan. Without the king, someone was going to have to show up to get the work of America done.

Keyboard warriors manning the blog-thread front of America take note: Turns out that’s us.

America’s founding generation made enduring personal sacrifice to make sure the work of their new country was done (read examples here, here and here).

Kiernan’s challenge to us – to spend even just three hours a week doing the work of America, the things that need doing right in front of us – chafes in what it could accomplish if we all signed on, juxtaposed against what a tiny request he’s made and our utter failure to accomplish it. My utter failure to accomplish it.

“When America’s down, you invest in her” according to the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan. This is what she told her son as she clicked the “buy” order the day the stock market re-opened – and was sure to plunge steeply – after 9/11.

Stephen told us that with all the national energy poured into the abortion debate, we’ve barely moved the needle on the number of abortions in America, even as there are examples out there of breathtaking success in how you do reduce abortion rates. We’re tragically way too busy hurling objects to and fro to bother to just get it done.

Apply the very same principle to every flavor of problems Americans face with food on the table, roofs over heads, illness and medical care, and you’ve got where we are now – lost in Oz with a pretty oddball cast of characters marching us around (think Congress).

Dorothy: Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?
Glinda: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn’t you tell her before?
Glinda: Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.

America’s true center, our founding ideals – our Kansas – is simply a click of the ruby slippers away.

But first we have to get off the couch.

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Stephen P. Kiernan’s Authentic Patriotism is full of inspirational examples of people who did. Reading it wouldn’t be a bad start. Or check out the authentic patriots he’s posted online.