Politics & Policy

July 4, 2015 — The Right Time to Be an American

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There is little question that millions of conservatives are entering the July 4 holiday feeling that their country is indeed in the middle of President Obama’s long-promised fundamental transformation — a transformation into a weak, bankrupt, and corrupt nation more focused on leftist social change and identity politics than economic dynamism and individual liberty. And there’s certainly cause for concern.

Are we weak? Not really, but the present administration has chosen weakness while our resurgent Islamist enemies cobble together the most potent jihadist army in modern history. How bizarre that the media are even now trumpeting President Obama’s alleged political resurgence, at the very moment when ISIS has demonstrated that it can reach deep into France, Tunisia, Kuwait, and Egypt.

Are we bankrupt? Potentially. No one seriously disputes that our unfunded liabilities are simply staggering, yet the Left labels conservatives who propose entitlement reform as just the kind of heartless jerks who’ll throw Grandma off the cliff.

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Are we corrupt? Ask Lois Lerner. Ask Wisconsin’s John Chisholm, the architect of pre-dawn raids on conservative families guilty of nothing more than working for conservative fiscal reform in a state facing devastating budgetary shortfalls. Ask Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner who simply chooses which laws apply to her and disregards the rest.

Christian conservatives feel that the culture is slipping away. The Supreme Court protects abortion on demand while it redefines the family so dramatically that even core First Amendment freedoms are on the “wrong side of history.” The church faces the most culturally and legally uncertain decade in living memory.

In other words, if you love this country, this is a great time to be an American — right at a cultural, economic, and strategic hinge. We should want to be here in its time of need.

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Every nation experiences periods of stability and periods of change, times of stasis and times of crisis. America has faced its share of existential military threats, from the burning White House in the War of 1812, to the crisis point on Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg, and to the 20th-century challenges from Fascist and Communist superpowers. We’ve faced (and are facing) deep cultural challenges as well: knitting back together a nation torn by Civil War, overcoming Jim Crow and segregation, and now we might be succumbing to the social devastation of the sexual revolution.

It’s common for our fellow citizens to sometimes feel aimless, to lack purpose for their lives. Yet no American patriot should lack purpose today.

It’s common for our fellow citizens to sometimes feel aimless, to lack purpose for their lives. Yet no American patriot should lack purpose today. In an era when our kids are seen as the vanguard of the Left’s social revolution, it’s a patriotic act to raise children to understand and respect the Constitution, to comprehend the great truths of American history, and to acquire the psychological toughness that will help them endure the stigma and scorn of the Left.

In an era when the Left seeks to drive social conservatives not just from the campus and pop culture (where we cling by our fingernails) but also from the marketplace and — finally — from our own churches, the simple act of openly and fearlessly living out your faith and values is a patriotic act.

In an era when too many liberals seek to appropriate charity — care and concern for the “least of these” — for the state, it’s a patriotic and deeply loving act to reach out and lift up friends and neighbors in need. While there are well-meaning bureaucrats in the vast welfare-industrial complex, there is no substitute for the unique, individual impact of Americans in relationship with one another, mentoring and supporting those who need help the most.

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And it remains a deeply patriotic and meaningful act to enlist in the military, to train to defeat enemies abroad — even if this president is unwilling to effectively confront our foes. Reality has a way of ultimately dictating foreign policy, and we need men and women who are prepared for the days ahead.

Even as we see the significance of patriotism in the way in which we live our everyday lives, we need to abandon the idea that there’s a cultural or political shortcut — that the right combination of events or the right politician will turn the tide. Cultures change as a result of the persistent effort of millions, not because of the glorious leadership of one individual — not even Barack Obama, The One.

What will fix our nation in its time of cultural decline, strategic weakness, and economic uncertainty?

I’m constantly asked, “What’s the solution?” What will fix our nation in its time of cultural decline, strategic weakness, and economic uncertainty? The answer isn’t to be found in any politician, in any judge, or in any single event. The answer is in unglamorous daily resolve — the determination to advocate for and, most important, live our deeply American commitments to life and liberty while protecting the right of others to do so as well.

#related#I remember speaking years ago with a friend — this was shortly after the Cold War, when America was the “hyperpower” and enjoying an extended economic boom — who said, “I wish I lived in meaningful times.” I knew what he meant. America was far from perfect, of course, but this was the “end of history,” and the good guys had just won. It was time to enjoy the fruits of victory. I was grateful for peace, but sometimes it felt like peace without significance.

It turns out that history didn’t end. America had more crossroads to face. I’m just thankful to be here, now, to do what little I can to nudge us down the right path. Happy Fourth. May you renew your commitment to the nation you love.

— David French is an attorney, a staff writer at National Review, and veteran of the Iraq War. 


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