No one needs to be reminded of the Jeremiah Wright sermon where he urges God to damn America. It was jarring back then in the 2008 timeframe, especially knowing President Obama had been his congregant. But at least back then people had the sense to say that the sermon was incendiary and Obama sought to further distance himself from Wright. Now it feels like we are surrounded by people who have been sitting under Wright’s preaching for years and few are willing to dissent with the appropriate force.
You may be flooded with social media posts from friends urging you to read this or that leftist article about how racist America is, the latest piece of cutting edge critical race theory literature, and friends trying to outdo one another in their pursuit of shedding their “whiteness”. (Quite an obviously racist mission, by the way.) Political commentators, colleagues, academics, and writers either outright cheer on the destruction of monuments and private property, or they downplay the meaning of it all. “Don’t you care about black lives? Don’t people matter more than statues depicting that very white and very bad man?” they jeer.
“Well, as a matter of fact,” you think to yourself, “not only do black lives matter, in my own life they are precious and needed.” They are your neighbors, your doctors, your pastors, they join you for cook-outs and birthday parties, you worship with them every Sunday. You have spent hours marching in parades to end abortion, which disproportionately takes the lives of black babies, and you have spent hours volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center bearing the burden of anguished young mothers with rich melanin skin.
But, without knowing anything about you, people are defining you by your complexion, making assumptions about your life, your “privilege”, and demanding you publicly confess. Confess what? Well, whatever you have thought or didn’t think about race, confess that the words you use to talk about race aren’t the “right words” and the books you haven’t read that are the only books you must read show your ignorance, and if you disagree with them or those books, it must be your “white fragility” on display. It’s the system you hold up, you see, the system of “white supremacy.”
And while your friends and colleagues and all of the companies with their advertisements in your inbox are judging you, you’re distressed by the mob’s destruction of the public memorials: Columbus, Washington, Lincoln, Grant, and Roosevelt. The civil disruption, which began with the death of George Floyd in police custody made you uneasy at first. And now with the lawlessness going on for weeks, you’ve gone from uneasy to downright scared. You examine your own heart and wonder “am I crazy? I’m not racist. Am I racist for thinking I’m not racist? I love America. I love American heroes. Am I racist for loving America and American heroes?” No, no you are not. And others are feeling as bullied as you are.
This wave of anti-Americanism has been brewing in elite institutions and has swept up many young people, some with real frustrations over excessive police harassment and force, some looking for an outlet to release frustration and despair after months of pandemic lock-down and economic devastation. But the engine, those with the finances and ideological obsession driving this thing, those are the literal children and brain-children of America’s liberal elite. Their anti-West, anti-American fervor seems religious because it is.
Your discouragement might be turning into a real, deep sense of grief, perhaps especially if you have children. What America will they inherit? Your discouragement is understandable. But it’s time to chip up. There is work to be done, so channel that grief into determined, cheerful action.
How can one person change something so big and challenging for the better?
Be unabashedly patriotic and recommit to teaching your children (or grandchildren) the great gift of our shared national heritage. You don’t have to explain everything and maybe even though you intuitively know why the country is great and worth defending you don’t feel equipped to explain it, but you are sufficiently equipped right now to get started.
You can affirm today “this country is wonderful. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t.” You can say that over and over again. Do not expect their schools to teach them that with confidence and without equivocation; expect that they will not. But joyfully tell them this land of liberty is a great gift, still a land of wild opportunity for all who would seize it, forever young and boisterous, and good. Read the great American and Western classics and order them for your personal library before the Woke Army cancels them. Watch some old American Westerns and lots of John Wayne.
Tell them that when this nation has failed, even in the most grievous ways, it is because we did not live up to the principles of our Declaration of Independence, not because our principles are flawed.
Tell them that though we appreciate the greatness of our country’s recognition of those principles, timeless and true, and the efforts of imperfect but noble men – many of them devout Christians or influenced by them – to see those principles put into practice, our expectations for our nation are tempered by the reality that no nation will display justice perfectly this side of heaven. Only God is perfectly just. And it is because of this country and its Declaration and Constitution that our laws protect our right to worship God openly and according to our conscience, a natural right not protected in the vast majority of countries across the planet and throughout history.
Cultivate a sense of great gratitude for this country and those who serve it at great personal risk and cost. When you see men and women in military uniform, or those older veterans with their pins and veterans hats, thank them for their service. Thank our law enforcement officers, an increasingly beleaguered but vitally necessary bunch.
Make sure you let your elected representatives know what you’re thinking. Don’t let chaos, bullying, physical destruction and violence win the day. This is still a nation of laws and not of mobs of men. Demand it stays that way. Tell your elected leaders to cede no ground. Through debate and deliberation, citizens might together agree to make changes to flags or other symbols and laws, but they must do it willingly and not for fear of physical pain or punishment.
We might not have the traditional parades and other patriotic celebrations this year because of the pandemic, but you can celebrate at home with flags, red, white, blue clothes, and traditional American cook-out food. Invite the neighbors. Invite the delivery man.
Delight in your family and community and boldly have a very happy Independence Day.