Have you ever felt you needed a break from the heated political exchanges on social media, the destructive Antifa demonstration coverage, and the endless political coverage of partisanship coming out of Washington? With 90 percent negative news and a dwindling supply of puppy or kitty videos to bring a smile to your face, we crave something positive, fun, patriotic, and faith inspiring.
Enticed into scheduling a 4-day vacation in Branson, Missouri, my wife and I weren't sure what to expect. We traveled light and wondered whether the positive gossip we'd heard about the area was true.
There seemed to be an almost endless supply of shows and entertainment options, so we planned early. We had tickets to cover the gamut-a comedian, a Christian musical, a 50's music tribute, Irish tenors, a country western tribute, and Celtic women.
This certainly wasn't California! Branson has created its own culture that just draws you in. Every show took time to honor the military in the audience and thanked them for securing the freedoms we treasure. It's no wonder, Branson is one of the most popular military reunion destinations in America. Veterans are applauded, respected, and welcomed. You join in and see the support's impact on the veterans and those who love them.
The patriotism is evident with flags for sale, flags flying throughout the city, and flag patches on hats and T-shirts. When audiences were asked to join in singing "The Star Spangled Banner" or "America the Beautiful," they belted them out with gusto. It made you proud to be with crowds that valued being American. We were celebrating freedom over the 4th of July holiday in the best country in the world. Yes, people in Branson aren't afraid to say that, because they believe that it's true.
As we drove from the Springfield MO Airport to Branson, you couldn't miss the impact of faith on the people who live there. There are small churches, big churches, and darn right massive church campuses throughout the route. You read about the Bible Belt, but in Missouri you see its presence. You see people comfortable visibly praying before meals in McDonald's. Faith is celebrated. Doors are opened for you. People are quick to help.
There is a pervading attitude of fun that you can't help but notice. People are smiling. They're courteous. People are friendly and ready to laugh. Laughter and smiling are both contagious, and we caught it!
Our first show was at Yakov Smirnoff's theater. In the '80s, Yakov road the Cold War tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States to stardom as that "Russian comedian." Even today he weaves a steady stream of humor about the America he experienced as a poor Russian immigrant to an appreciative crowd. His payoff line-"What a country!"-worked over and over again as we laughed together about ourselves and our country.
He'd describe how careful you had to be as a comedian in Russia: "If you said, 'Take my wife, please,' when you got home, she was gone! In Russia, they also have free speech, but in America you get a bonus-you have freedom after you speak!"
But the recent calls for "democratic socialism" by many democratic candidates concerns him. Socialism was why he left the Soviet Union; it doesn't work. Yes, healthcare is free, but you get what you pay for. He might want to turn his tagline into a warning-"America! What a country...if you can keep it!" That was Ben Franklin's warning at the founding of our republic. It is a serious warning for us today!
Yakov pulled no punches in leveling his humor against socialism:
Two socialists are talking to one another. One said: "If you had two houses would you give me one?"
The other one replied, "Of course you're my fellow socialist, of course I give you one.
If you had two cars, would you give me one?"
His friend said, "Of course, why even ask. That's what we socialists are supposed to do. We share things."
The other asked, "OK, if you had two chickens, would you give me one?"
"Because I have two chickens!"
When it's not your property at risk, it's easy to celebrate socialism and sharing their property. But when it means sharing your possessions, no way! He continued: "We were told that Adam and Eve were socialists because they had nothing to wear, they had no roof over their heads, they had to share one apple between two people, and they were told they live in paradise."
Living in socialism is not paradise, but visiting Branson and the faith and patriotism it inspires comes pretty close. Give it a try, and you just may catch the spirit. I wish the same thing could be said about every city in America.