By Alan Caruba
Sometimes I fear America has become the Paris Hilton of the world, forever in the media, an incredibly wealthy, pretty creature that often appears to be vacuous, in need of an occasional spanking, and yet fascinating for reasons that defy an easy explanation. Whatever the nation does, however, it does from a set of values and a cultural heritage that sets it apart from every other nation on earth.
These values of freedom and individual liberty need to be taught in our schools, spoken of around the dinner table, and in all the institutions of the nation as a constant reminder why America is such an economic dynamo, a source of endless innovation, and a place where one can literally travel from coast to coast and consistently be greeted with courtesy and warmth by complete strangers.
Writers are, by nature, people who love the written word and turn to it for answers. Let’s look at some thoughts that celebrate freedom and liberty in a world where it exists only for a lucky few of the six billion people who share our planet.
In his book, “The Case for Democracy”, Natan Sharansky who defied the might of the Soviet Union, later emigrated to Israel, and has become a figure of international renown, poses the question “Is freedom for everyone?”
After examining the challenges to freedom, particularly in the Middle East, he concludes that, “My source of confidence that freedom truly is for everyone is not only that democracy has spread around the world, allowing so many different cultures and peoples to enjoy its bounty, my confidence also comes from living in a world of fear, studying it, and fighting it…There is a universal desire among all peoples not to live in fear. Indeed, given a choice, the vast majority of people will always prefer a free society to a fear society.”
There is much concern and debate over the role of the United States, frequently called the only superpower in the world when it comes to engaging in conflicts far from our shores. Historically, however, Americans have been reluctant to engage in foreign wars.
The subject was widely debated after World War I when Woodrow Wilson proposed that the U.S. join the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations. Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge opposed membership, but in a speech on August 12, 1919 he said, “We must set aside all this empty talk about isolation. Nobody expects to isolate the United States or to make it a hermit nation, which is a sheer absurdity.
“But there is a wide difference between taking a suitable part and bearing a due responsibility in world affairs and plunging the United States into every controversy and conflict on the face of the globe.” Lodge went on to say, “I will go as far as anyone in world service, but the first step to world service is the maintenance of the United States.”
This was an argument for the absolute necessity of national sovereignty; the right of the nation to protect its borders, determine the makeup of its population, and consider its interests before entering into agreements with other nations. The Senate voted against membership in the League of Nations, an institution that proved incapable of defeating the totalitarian ambitions of Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and of a Japan which sought hegemony in the Far East.
Generations can and do forget the legacy of those who fought and died to protect and preserve our freedom and liberty. America was unusually fortunate in the company of men who fought the Revolution that achieved our independence and then took up the job of creating a government that would maintain it. George Washington’s farewell address after serving two terms as President offered some advice present candidates for that high office and every voter should keep in mind. Washington witnessed the first evidence of partisanship, the divisions of opinion regarding how the nation should be governed.
He warned, “They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of the party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community, and, according to the alternative triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common councils and modified by mutual interests.”
Such felicitous use of the language, in fact, describes the divisions within our society today as parties and groups seek to impose legislative bans or mandates or as others advocate laws based on seriously flawed and even fraudulent science.
These “factions” may believe they have the best interests of the nation at stake, but the vast majority of voters reject their initiatives, knowing they will harm the economy, threaten our sovereignty, and degrade the Constitution by virtue of too much federal control over vast swaths of our national life such as our education and health care systems.
America, for all its faults, remains a beacon of freedom and democracy to the world. We have assumed a sacred trust by virtue of the oldest living Constitution in the world. In 1990 when Vaclav Havel assumed the presidency of a Czechoslovakia, a nation that had lived under both Nazi and Soviet domination before attaining independence, this former prisoner of Communism, told his fellow citizens the following.
“You may ask what kind of republic I dream of. Let me reply: I dream of a republic that is independent, free, and democratic; a republic with economic prosperity, yet social justice; a humane republic that serves the individual and therefore hopes that the individual will serve it in turn; a republic of well-rounded people, because without such people, it is impossible to solve any of our problems, whether they be human, economic, ecological, social, or political.”
America is a republic composed of separate republics, its states. Our Constitution clearly delineates and limits the powers of the federal government and allocates others to the states. The further we move from that formulation, the greater the power that is ceded to the federal government, the more we endanger the true power of governance that resides in the people.
All around the world, people will look to America as it celebrates the Fourth of July, its day of independence. In the dawn of the twenty-first century, we must not be distracted from the new enemy of freedom and democracy, the Islamofascists who openly seek to kill us and to kill the American dream; a dream that continues to inspire millions in far-off places.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, “Warning Signs”, posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center, www.anxietycenter.com. His book, “Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy”, is published by Merril Press.
© Alan Caruba, July 2007