What I am about to consign to this page is nothing short of (civil) sacrilege. It has always been an article of faith in America, both on the right and the left that we are all “proud to be Americans. " Just as nobody wants to be seen as not “supporting the troops, " (there being an enormous range of opinion about precisely what that means), being “proud to be an American" is a phrase that has become universally adopted, because it can, in essence mean all things to all people. Sadly, it has thus become a hollow and meaningless truism.
Lately, I have more and more become ashamed of being an American. My family, on both sides arrived here in the early 20th Century, my grandparents having immigrated as young children from lands of oppression, anti-Semitism and very limited economic mobility. I was taught that this was the greatest country on earth, with incomparable freedoms and unlimited opportunities. This came down to me in all my “civics classes" (what a quaint notion, that!), and I swallowed that doctrine whole, just as if it had been given to Moses at Sinai. I yearn for such an America and although we have never been anywhere near the ideal society that our founding fathers aimed at (the horrendous blemish of slavery, being only the most obvious example of our imperfection), it is very apparent to me that there was a time in which we shared more common values than we do today.
Let me be specific:
I am ashamed to live in a Country which claims to stand for free speech, so long as the speech is “correct, " left-leaning and does not offend anyone (except, of course, politicians, White males and Christians, who are all fair game).
I am ashamed to live in a Country in which Al Sharpton, the “Godfather" of Tawana Brawley and the outrageous fraud that still bears her name, holds himself out (with our tacit consent) as our moral compass. This is a man, many may recall, who could not pay a defamation judgment against him (arising out of that same outrage) because, among other things, he did not “own his suits, " but borrowed them. By the way, have we ever learned from whom he borrowed them? And what the heck is THAT GUY wearing?
I am ashamed to live in a Country which holds itself out as a beacon of freedom and a promoter of worldwide democracy (such that the globe-trotting Jimmy Carter apparently needs to monitor every election held in any country with the most barely detectable nascent democratic movement), but whose leaders and statesmen (including, of course, that very same Jimmy Carter), in a effort to advance parochial political agendas, shamelessly argue for outright surrender to the purveyors of Extremist Muslim terror. There is a war underway, which, to be sure has been prosecuted, at times, with almost stupefying levels of incompetence, but the stakes are, quite simply, nothing less than the survival of Western Civilization. If there is a more important cause to fight for, I am sure that I do not know what it is. I am a Republican to my core, but give me F. D. R. , John Kennedy or Harry Truman any day, over these feckless voices of cynical pacifism, such as Harry Reid, who could not wait to proclaim the Iraq war “lost" just today. How glad I am that Senator Reid was not among the British troops at Dunkirk, or all the allies should have sued for peace with Hitler right there and then!
I am ashamed to live in a Country in which our national icons, who once upon a time had names like Davy Crocket, Betsy Ross, Audie Murphy and Neil Armstrong have been supplanted by such luminaries and important contributors to civilization as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and P. Diddy (or whatever his nom de jour is).
I am ashamed to live in a Country in which “talking heads" wonder how and when society failed poor Cho Seung-Hui, who expressed his rage by launching a hitherto unthinkable bloodbath on the flower of our youth at Virginia Tech. We will NEVER understand what motivates such an individual to such heinous acts. I am interested only in how and when society failed our children, and how we can prevent future carnage in a way that does not kill the ambiance of openness of the college campus by turning it into an armed camp.
I am ashamed, in short, of the fact that this Country does not really seem to stand for anything anymore; that our population seems to have lost interest in anything other than momentary satisfaction and entertainment. Almost 2000 years ago, in his Satire X, the Roman poet Juvenal lamented that the only remaining cares of a Roman populace which had given up its birthright of political freedom had been reduced to panem et circenses (bread and circuses). Apparently, not much has changed. But we know well what happened to the Roman Empire. Have we not learned anything?
There is still much about America which is worthy of our pride: Opportunity continues to abound despite economic globalization, and notwithstanding the non-stop bashing of our Country on the world stage, there continues to be a seemingly endless stampede of immigrants (both legal and illegal) to our borders and our shores. We still live in a relatively free society, though our freedoms have been largely tempered by the P. C. Police, the unfortunate need for heightened levels of intrusive security and the utter loss of privacy caused by the mixed blessing of technology and the advent of e-commerce.
In fact, let me say, in all candor, that I am ashamed to be ashamed. But every day that this nation progressively stands for less and less, and we share fewer and fewer values as a people, we risk becoming nothing more than a cacaphony of 300 Million dissonant and unhearable voices. Nothing could so ill-serve the visionaries that gave us this Country, or shame them, or ourselves, more.
Warren R. Graham Copyright 2007
Warren R. Graham is a New York attorney with the Firm of Cohen Tauber Spievack & Wagner LLP. He is a frequent writer on a variety of topics, including legal matters, political and religious affairs. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of his firm or its members. Additional information on him may be found at either http://www.ctswlaw.com/templates/page3_attorney.asp?docid=667 or http://warrenrgrahamlegal.blogspot.com