As someone who was born in America in 1946, the first year of the “baby boom,” I grew up in a neighborhood in Houston, Texas, where almost all fathers (and some mothers) had served in one of the branches of the American military at some point. World War II.
In fact, the streets in my neighborhood are World War II themed, with names like Ardennes, Bastogne, Calais, Dunkirk, Eisenhower, Forestal, Guadalcanal, etc.
In elementary school, we asked, “What is your father?” at least as much as, “What does your father do?” My father served in the US Navy (1940-1945) and was in several major battles in the Pacific (including after his ship sunk off Guadalcanal in August 1942).
I grew up in a very patriotic America where we are proud of our country and truly believe that we are a bastion for liberty and freedom. We are taught about the great heritage of freedom and liberty in school, in church, and at home. We are aware that we are engaged in a great struggle with Soviet Communism to protect liberty and freedom for ourselves and for freedom-loving people around the world.
Our country responded with enthusiasm and enthusiasm when our new president, John F. Kennedy declared:
“…the same revolutionary belief that our forefathers fought for is still at issue around the world—the belief that human rights come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.
We should not forget today that we are the heirs of the first revolution. Let the word be from this time and place, to friends and foes alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a harsh and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or allow the gradual undoing of the human rights that this nation has always committed to, and that we are committed to today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any difficulty, support any friend, oppose any enemy, to ensure the survival and success of independence.
This is all we promise—and more. “
–John F. Kennedy, Presidential Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961
And we as a nation believe that. Our hearts are stirred by our young and energetic president and his eloquent expression of American purpose. I doubt anyone who heard JFK’s speech on that cold January day will ever forget it.
No, it turns out that we are willing to pay some price, meet some difficulty, support some friends, against some enemies, to guarantee “the safety and success of independence”.
However, JFK had captured the spirit of the nation, the heartbeat of the American people.
JFK spoke for many of us when he declared, “the faith, the devotion we bring to this cause will light our country and all who serve it – and the light from that fire can truly light the world.”
Then in 1980, presidential candidate and then President Ronald Reagan proclaimed that America was the “new Jerusalem,” the “shining city” on the hill, the light of the way for the old world, referring to our Puritan heritage.
President Reagan inspired Americans to believe in themselves and their destiny again (after the malaise of Vietnam and Watergate) and led America and its allies to victory in the Cold War. He, like many other Americans, saw America as a cause as well as a country—and that cause was freedom. Americans see the values of religious freedom, freedom of speech, and the freedom to choose our own leaders, not just as American values, but as universal values. And they believe that when these people want freedom America must help them achieve freedom, just as France helped us in our Revolution.
The worldwide impact of the American ideal was demonstrated by the American flags raised over the Berlin Wall when the wall came down in 1989. Likewise, the brave demonstrators in Tiananmen Square who protested in 1989 featured students in Red China flying American flags and carrying Statue of Liberty replica.
When Madeleine Albright visited the native Czechoslovakia as Secretary of State, she spoke of how many people came forward waving American flags. She noticed that they were the old 48-star flag (as opposed to the 50-state group now). When he asked about this, he said that these were the flags given by the American liberation forces in 1945 and that people had saved them during the Communist regime, keeping them as symbols of the freedom they wanted.
When the brave Iranians came out on the streets in the first month of the Obama administration in 2009, they waved American flags and their protest signs in English, as many signs in Tiananmen Square were, appealing to us for support and help.
As the late humorist PJ O’Rourke observed, “The two things you find at every US Embassy are a protest and a line of people applying for US passports.”
Why do people all over the world want to be here? The simple answer is that the American public has more freedom than anywhere else on the planet.
I, for one, mourn the loss of this national understanding of our precious heritage as Americans. I believe we should be friends of freedom in the world and we should support those who want this freedom for themselves.
I fear that the “wokism” that has helped to shape our schools and colleges has robbed at least a generation of Americans of a true understanding of our heritage and our obligation to take up that cause and carry it forward here and around the world.
Partly as a result, totalitarianism is on the rise around the world.
As the light of America as a friend of freedom flickers, we find there are MAJOR demonstrations against the totalitarian regime in the three main epicenters of the enemies of freedom in the world: China, Iran, and Russia.
Tens of thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets to protest against the Ayatollahs of Muslim totalitarianism in their country.
In Russia, more and more Russians are protesting their country’s invasion of Ukraine. In China, literally millions of Chinese citizens are protesting the world’s most oppressive surveillance state, Red China.
And what is our government doing? What is our media doing? Are they shining a harsh publicity light on this ideal of freedom? I long for the day when Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley report on the situation trapped behind the Iron Curtain and encourage American support for the oppressed.
Perhaps the most shameful event today is Apple Corporation’s apparent complicity in the suppression of the Chinese Communist Party. Apple has complied with the Communist government’s request to shut down the “Drop Cloud” function that allows Apple phone users to communicate directly, making it harder for protesters to communicate with each other without being monitored by the Chinese government.
Back during the Clinton administration, it was argued that we should engage with the Chinese Communists and bring China into the world family of nations. The theory is that when that happens, China will be influenced by the West and will become a more democratic nation.
Unfortunately, it seems that instead of affecting China, Red China has affected us. The Chinese have a conscious policy of what they call “beheading,” where you “buy” and/or bribe the ruling class, thereby neutralizing their opposition to Chinese influence in their country. We saw China succeed in silencing our NBA team and movie industry and now they are targeting Apple for nefarious purposes. It’s past time to wake up, smell the coffee, and fight back against Chinese infiltration.
A reporter for Iran’s state-controlled Press TV criticized US soccer team captain Tyler Adams and asked him how he felt about representing a country that “has a lot of discrimination against Black people.” Adams, who was described in the media as “mixed race,” replied, “there is discrimination everywhere you go…in the US, we continue to make progress every day… Amen. What a very “American” thing to say.
And our love for country is never blind. Back when Ronald Reagan gave a very influential speech in 1983 to the National Association of Evangelicals (the “evil empire” speech) he talked about the basis of religion and the foundation for freedom. However, he also acknowledged that America has “an evil legacy that we have to deal with,” referencing slavery, racism, and anti-Semitism. I know this because I was there and heard the “Great Communicator” deliver that speech.
Has America lost its way? The answer to that question is up to us. I chose no. How about you?
Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 to July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also been the Executive Editor and columnist of The Christian Post since 2011.
Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Mind Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.
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