"Patriots are those who love America enough to wish to see her as a model to mankind," said Adlai Stevenson, who ran for and lost the presidency twice, and served as our ambassador to the United Nations during the Cold War.
America is, without doubt, the most dominant nation and culture of our times. What happens here affects the lives of people all over the world. Our movies, television, music, and lifestyle are seen and heard all over the world. News of what happens here is news everywhere else in the world.
I have never been one of those people who think America is right all the time. In the 1960s, I marched for civil rights for black Americans and in the 1970s I marched to end the Vietnam War. I have opposed the Bush administration's immigration policies, its education policies, its failure to end the government's continuing grabbing of more and more property, and some of its environmental policies.
That said, I have never lost sight of the fact that, for all its failings, this is still the single, lone beacon of freedom in the world. Proof of that can be seen in how many foreigners yearn to come here and enjoy our legacy of liberty and the opportunity to enjoy personal success.
I say this because I have just finished reading a book by Mark Hertsgaard, "The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World." If ever a book was published with a succession of bad intentions toward this nation, at the worst possible time, it is this one. While giving a nod to our virtues, the book is one, long screed about what America is doing wrong.
Hertsgaard criticizes Americans for not realizing "how poor most other people in the world are." I think he's wrong. We do know how poor they are and, for those who do not go beyond this, they wonder why.
The reason is that in most nations around the world, despite the enormous natural resources they may have, they are led by dictators and other forms of despotism that plunder their nation's wealth while doing nothing to build its infrastructure and encouraging their business and industrial community to prosper. Instead, bribery and corruption is the rule, destroying opportunity at every turn.
At one point, the author acknowledges, "It took the United States just a century and a quarter after its founding in 1776 to become the largest economy in the world," but he does not seem to understand why. The answer is freedom. In that period, Americans were not burdened with a huge federal government that regulates every aspect of the economy and our personal lives. Americans were not so harshly taxed that nearly one half of every dollar we earn is taken for redistribution programs at the local, state and federal
"Relatively few of those I have met seem to resent America's wealth," notes the author without understanding that everyone instinctively understands that individual work should yield a measure of personal wealth. Instead, he blames America for our high rate of consumption, despite the fact that energy unused is energy wasted. Nor does he understand that capitalism is based on risk as well as reward.
The number of business ventures that fail each year in America is astonishing. As far as the author is concerned, America is "an environmental renegade." This is ironic because, being a wealthy nation, we gave birth to the entire environmental movement, spawning laws to clean the air, the water, and even protect so-called endangered species. The entire notion of putting aside huge areas of land as protected national forests for both public and private use began here in America.
As we learned from the recent United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the intent of environmentalists is to keep poor countries poor and deprive vast populations throughout the world of the benefits of electricity, which is vital to growth.
America, says the author, is seen by foreigners as "a trigger-happy bully that is both out for itself and full of itself." Tell that to the Afghans now free of the Taliban, which would not permit them to see a movie or visit a barbershop to have their beards trimmed or a beauty salon where their women can get their hair styled. Women in Afghanistan were, like those in Saudi Arabia, not permitted to leave their homes without a male relative as an escort. Throughout the world of Islam, those pushing for its reform are often its women.
Hertsgaard criticizes "our self-serving definition of terrorism." Tell that to the families of those killed in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or the families of those who died on the USS Cole. Instead, his blindness is seen in his repeat of the lie that the Israelis attacked Palestinian refuge camps in April 2002, not to defend themselves against a succession of murder-suicides in their streets, but as an act of terrorism. Apparently, to
this author and other liberals, self-defense against terrorism is indefensible.
Whatever lies ahead in Iraq and elsewhere in the world is pure self-defense. As the insanity of the global Jihad spreads, more nations will come to understand why America is girding up to fight and they, too, will join that fight.
America will lead that fight because we are the only nation that can; the only nation with the will and the power to do so. Islam is not, nor ever was, a religion of peace. It was spread by the sword and it lives by the sword. It teaches hatred of the non-believer and it does not even protect its own believers against the assaults of its evil core of men who yearn for a world that never was and must never be.
America has always been about freedom. Despite our flawed history - slavery, our treatment of American Indians, our failure to initially grant suffrage to women, our internment of Japanese-American citizens during WWII - we have fought hard to correct these failures. We fought those who would enslave other nations and then we helped rebuild the nations of our former enemies. Our soldiers, sailors, and airmen are stationed in more than a hundred nations throughout the world to insure that the enemies of freedom will not succeed.
I suggest this is not a time for bashing America. This is a time to recognize and celebrate our commitment to freedom and, like our Founding Fathers, that we pledge our lives, our property, and our sacred honor to advance freedom throughout the world.