Each year prior to Thanksgiving I try to express the reasons for my gratitude in print. This year is difficult. The republic I love is facing new and formidable challenges. A hostile minority is so embittered it has adopted the violent approach of the former Brown Shirts. In some circles, civil discourse is impossible. Universities are ostensibly centers for propaganda with naysayers subject to rejection and scorn.
Coddled footfall players have arrogated to themselves the role of moral arbiters. By getting down on one knee during the national anthem, NFL players have insinuated a political agenda into a game that once promoted unity. According to their leaders, if the League agrees with their agenda they will cease and desist. The players argue they are merely asserting their First Amendment rights. But don’t team owners have First Amendment rights as well? And when did the football stadium become the appropriate view for political commentary?
That national anthem represents the defense of Fort M’Henry and the sacrifice of those who refused to succumb to the threats of a British warship in the harbor. Rather than surrender, occupants lost their lives but fell against the flag that remained standing. That determination, that courage in defense of liberty is why Americans stand for the anthem. They salute those in our past who gave so much so that we can live with the blessings of liberty.
Those in our military earn 30k per year protecting disgruntled footballers who earn millions. There is something that mystifies me about this equation. If one harbors anger about conditions in American life, our parks provide an excellent place for speeches; you can run for office, or even write a letter to your local paper. The choice is yours.
When I think about red, white and blue, I recall the soil across the globe soaked with the red blood of young Americans who fought to retain our principles. I remember the white purity of thought for our Founding Fathers who applied the lessons of the Judeo-Christian tradition to forge a new nation, a republic under God. And for every moment of achievement there was a moment of sadness as American mothers buried their children long before their time. Of course they are blue.
Yes, I am angry that so many have lost sight of what was once widely appreciated. Today the Statue of Liberty whose torch lights the road to liberty across the globe has tears running down her cheeks. She, like I, am asking, how could it happen here?
It happened because we forgot to defend our traditions. In the swelter of relativism, we neglected foundational ideas; we overlooked the best of our Western tradition. Now we pay the price.
But it isn’t too late. In the darkness of night, the stars are brightest. It requires recall – the remembrance of romance and achievement. There are blemishes in our history that must be acknowledged, but that isn’t the whole of it.
I am grateful for the chance to make this plea. I am grateful that in this moment of grief, I can find the inner strength to massage the vein of America’s past. I thank God he has placed me in this land of the free where I breathe the air of a man who isn’t obliged to conform. This thanksgiving I will dedicate myself to battle, to engage self-appointed detractors of this nation with another message, that is the message of hope and salvation. When I kneel in prayer thoughts of our ancestors will be recalled; the common soldier at Anzio Beach, the police officer entering the burning World Trade Center, the mother who waves goodbye to a son who volunteered for the Marine Corps. Yes, Thanksgiving means Turkey and Football. It also means giving thanks for all that this country offers.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org
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