The race is on, the claws are out, and the Presidential contenders have suited up. On every level, the emphasis is on economic recovery. In fact, there is such a strong emphasis on generating jobs and dollars that I fear every other issue facing our country has been shoved behind giant dollar signs. Believe it or not, there are other issues percolating beneath the surface that the very fabric of our nation is threatened.
We talk a lot in America today about diversity and inclusion. As we become more and more aware of the various ethnic groups that have settled within our borders, we see many proud demonstrations celebrating various heritages. America is a melting pot – always has been. With great zeal, we seek to define our individuality through our cultural, ethnic, religious or racial heritage. We forget that demanding to be seen as unique can work against us when we demand inclusion with the masses.
If you’re a native born American, your family most likely came to these shores from somewhere else. It is in melding those diverse backgrounds that we have forged a spirit, a philosophy, a courage that is distinctly American. Like a piece of crystal created from many broken pieces melted into one, we are a people of many peoples come together for a common purpose: the freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.
We have a shared heritage that impacts current events. Those current events include mounting a strong defense against those who would harm us. Yet it is in the area of defense that our country continues to be divided. We have come to approach every aspect of life as though it’s a winner-take-all sporting event rather than an opportunity to work together to find solutions that may not have us all turning cartwheels, but that we can live with. Some want to beat the swords into plowshares and completely ignore our need to protect not only our borders, but our nation’s interests on a global scale.
We often consider that “national defense” is restricted to our armed forces. Mounting a strong defense is more than rolling out the most effective stealth bomber, most nimble jet fighter, or swiftest nuclear submarine to fight our enemies wherever they appear. A strong national defense goes far beyond the people elected or appointed to serve in the White House, the Congress, or the courts.
Our national defense is the responsibility of every man, woman and child living in the United States of America and its territories. We cannot adequately defend the Constitution or the founding principles of this country if we are engaged in constant societal battles over race, ethnicity, creed, color, or religion. If we are going to choose to call this country our home, it is our responsibility to embrace being, first, that we are proud Americans.
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”.
We can never be equal if we are constantly battling over our right to celebrate our country of origin rather than embracing and holding aloft for the world to see the fact that we are – by birth or adoption – Americans. Be proud of our ancestral roots, throw their uniqueness into the melting pot from which American spirit was born and continues to thrive, but remember – above all- that we are Americans. If we want to maintain the freedoms that allow us to speak, worship, bear arms, assemble, and, in general, live in pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we need to staunchly defend the American way of life.
In his 1858 bid for the Illinois Senate, Abraham Lincoln quoted from the Book of Luke when he said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Our people must stand united against the societal and political divisions that endanger the very foundations on which this country was formed.
We must lay aside our divisions as we seek common ground in order to dispel the detractors threatening the very foundations on which this country stands. Remember that you couldn’t purchase an American flag for weeks following September 11th. They flew from every house and waved from every automobile.
Must we wait for another disaster to spur us to stand united once more? With prayer and subscription to the broader definition of national defense, we will be far wiser this time.
We are, first and foremost, Americans. We must stand together to protect ourselves and our way of life – even the freedom to complain about things that don’t work. If we lose sight of that fact, we lose everything.
Helen Person is a Winder resident and columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.