Jewish World Review Jan. 2, 2003 / 28 Teves, 5763
The new year approaches and, like many others,
I consider what lies ahead - the promises and
the challenges. What kind of world, or more
precisely, what kind of America will we
bequeath to our children?
The threats from terrorists and rogue, tyrannical
dictatorships are real and formidable, but I'm
confident we'll overcome them because we have
a realistic president who recognizes the threats
and is committed to eliminating them. And, the
American people are behind him.
The greater threat comes from within, not from
domestic terrorists or criminals, but from our
own ignorance, complacency and
licentiousness. There have always been those in
our midst devoted to overturning everything
America stands for, but until fairly recently,
they didn't have a firm foothold in our
institutions and culture.
While we must vigorously fight the war against
terrorism and confront all other enemies we
encounter, it is the war of ideas that poses the
greatest risk to our children's freedom. If we
continue to sit this war out, we'll lose it more
quickly than we can imagine.
The war of ideas involves two contrasting
visions of America. One was recently articulated
by columnist George Will on a fascinating
three-hour C-SPAN interview with Brian Lamb.
Will emphasized that America is "a nation
dedicated to a proposition," likely referring to
Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg formulation that
this country was based on a shared promise to
enforce the belief that all men are created equal
and entitled to equal rights.
We are not a particular race of people united by
a common ethnic heritage, but a collection of all
different races, colors and ethnicities bonded by
a social compact that ensures we are all equals
before G-d and under the law. It is not our
diversity that we should celebrate, but our
unity. As Will wrote in an earlier column on the
subject, "we are a nation defined by our unum,
not our pluribus." That's one vision.
The other vision is that which fails to appreciate
our country as a melting pot. It sees no benefit
in promoting a unique American culture, much
less encouraging others to blend into it. It sees
nothing sacred in America's proposition and
even rejects it. Ultimately, it is inherently hostile
to America's founding ideals because it regards
as sinful any preference for certain ideas over
All ideas, according to this intellectual nihilism,
are equal. America's secret, it holds, is its refusal
to favor certain ideas above others - all ideas
are of equal weight in a nation that elevates a
distorted concept of tolerance to a godly virtue.
I view this alternative vision as dangerous
because it fails to honor our essential
"dedication to the proposition." It is no accident
that America is the greatest and freest nation in
the history of the world. And it's certainly not
because we were founded with the absurd
notion that no ideas are superior to others.
It's not our so-called diversity that has made us
great, but a system of government sculpted
around the affirmation that all men of all
backgrounds are sinners. In order for men to
sustain their liberty, they must be willing to
accept reasonable limitations on it and temper it
with personal responsibility.
The bedrock of our freedom is not
representative government - people can vote
themselves a dictatorship anytime they want -
but limitations on government institutionally
guaranteed by a Constitution undergirded by
I fear that those subscribing to the alternative
vision of America believe that freedom is the
natural state of man and that little sacrifice is
required to preserve it. Man, left to his own
devices, will inevitably enslave himself. He
always has. And we are in the process of doing
that in this country by forgetting these elemental
truths. Our sinful pride is causing us to
abandon our heritage by lulling us into the
seductive notion that we can handle freedom
without restraints or responsibility.
Our children's future will depend on whether
our society will have the courage to make moral
choices, including the willingness to declare
that the American system - despite the
nostrums of political correctness and
multiculturalism - is superior to all others ever
tried on the planet. It will depend, in short, on
their rededication to "the proposition."
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David Limbaugh, a columnist and attorney practicing in Cape
Girardeau, Mo., is the author of the just-released
exposť about corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice
Department, "Absolute Power." Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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