Thursday, January 20, 2005


"America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time."

- George W. Bush – January 20, 2005

I didn’t have the chance to watch any of the inaugural events today. I’ve now had the opportunity to read the transcript of the President’s address and found the rhetoric elevating.

Almost everyone I know understands how I feel about America’s global responsibilities. Yesterday morning, though, I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in some time at the grocery store who I found was not aware of my thinking.

We began our brief conversation by asking each other if we had heard anything from the foreign exchange students we had hosted last year. My friend, who hosted a young student from Ukraine, told me that she had not heard anything since the political upheaval there. She relayed that one of the young student’s teachers here in Emporia had gotten a note from her in which Iryna said that she was hoping to go to Kiev to be part of the protest movement against those who were trying to steal democracy from the people of Ukraine. What I heard next surprised me. My friend said that she tried to get word to Iryna to stay away from the things that were going on, that at sixteen she was too young to be involved in something “like that.” I, in turn, surprised my friend when I replied, “Oh, I would have taken her to Kiev if I were there. I would never want to stifle her idealism. Why would we even tell her about democracy and freedom if we didn’t expect them to have a deep desire to live out the principles we were teaching them while they were here.”

I really feel that way. In fact I’m surprised when Americans I know, living in freedom, think that ignoring tyranny to gain what seems to be security is a responsible course of action.

We discussed this for a few more minutes and then she asked, “Are you as depressed about this election outcome as I am?” I told her I wasn’t and she looked stunned. “You didn’t vote for John Kerry?” I told her that I hadn’t and she looked even more stunned.

One thing led to another and inevitably the issue of Iraq was raised. She said we should never have gone there to begin with, that the events going on over there had nothing at all to do with us. I asked her whether she really felt that way. I got no response. Then I asked what, to me, would be the most pertinent questions if I were living under tyranny – “Who will help me? Who is willing to risk on my behalf?” I got no answer to that question, but got a statement in return. “We’ve got no business trying to build a democracy there. There’s a clash of cultures and they will never respond to it. They’re not capable of it. They want the types of governments they have, it’s as simple as that.” Now I was stunned. I asked her if she really believed what she was saying. I tried to remind her that many “wise and enlightened” people said the same things about Germany and Japan in 1945. The Germans and Japanese, it was believed, were too militaristic to embrace democracy.

She then seemed to change subjects. “Look at Vietnam; it was a miserable failure.” Her words brought back memories of the fall of Saigon. It brought back memories of my service there. It brought back memories of over twenty five million people that we abandoned to communist tyranny. When I told her how I felt she responded, “Oh the people of Vietnam are just fine now.” This time her response brought raw emotion from my gut. “I really can’t believe what you’re saying. Do you honestly believe that the people of Vietnam are better off under communist tyranny than they would have been if we had stayed the course and helped them win their freedom?”

I don’t believe I got too far with her. I see that I’m a minority, a democrat who believes that we need to oppose tyranny in this world.

This evening I’ve listened to a few of the talking heads and I’m hearing a lot of what I heard in the grocery store the yesterday.

It seems that the commentary they’re giving tonight is part of a hangover from their displeasure with the election result. I believe they’re letting their visceral hatred for George Bush cloud their judgment.

The President said today nothing more than what Democratic presidents and millions of other democrats have always held as principles Americans have been willing to give their lives for. In January of 1941, for example, Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke to the American congress about “the four freedoms.” Read the words and see if you find their parallels in the words the President spoke today:

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want -- which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear -- which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor-- anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

To that new order we oppose the greater conception -- the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.
Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change -- in a perpetual peaceful revolution -- a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions -- without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.

This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.

To that high concept there can be no end save victory.”

President Roosevelt’s words were delivered to the American congress in January. Eleven months later those words and the declaration of principles he outlined were to be tested by fire.

When I was eighteen years old the words of John F. Kennedy, a democrat, made my heart swell with pride and a willingness to support the principle of liberty he outlined so eloquently. I can even now feel the tears that warmed my face then. The words stirred me to the core:

“We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

I wonder what our contemporary talking heads would say if those words had been spoken today. Over-reach? American arrogance? Nothing more than a grand sermon?

That’s some of what I’m hearing today. I’m hearing it from the talking heads and I’m hearing it from fellow democrats.

Me? I don’t see things that way. I believe the words George W. Bush spoke today were an extension of American ideals and principles long held sacred by my political party. Look for yourself, be honest, and you’ll see what I mean:

“We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.”

“We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner "Freedom Now" - they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.”

And for me all of this goes even deeper. The principles outlined by Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and now George Bush are also articles of faith :

1 Peter 2:15-17 (New King James Version)

“15For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men-- 16as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”

I will never abandon those principles. I could never abandon the faith that has embraced me and the nation that I have embraced to visceral political hatred. I could never look tyranny in the face from the safety of my homeland and say that those living under it are “just fine.” Never!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Years ago, I left the Democratic Party when its leadership drop-kicked Mr. Jefferson and his principles out the back door and turned to Old World collectivism and shallow humanism. The Republicans do not make appeals to 'groups' like the Demos do; they appeal only to Individuals. Groups are merely verbal conveniences not Reality! Old World politics relies in every extreme on 'diplomacy' and compromise. Such fairy-tale viepoints brought on World War II based on humanistic definitions of human value and other inaccurate estimates of human futures. Human nature, as defined by the Creator, describes free-will, liberty, and choice, as an internal endowment of every human being - regardless of political clime or station. The natural consequent for successful and fulfilling life for such a creature requires an environment of Freedom and opportunity. A goldfish, by nature, must be in water. Earth's Choicemaker (Psalm 25:12) must dwell in Freedom. Any other priority is false and misleading toward struggle and suffering. If the Demo Party rejects the Jeffersonian accurate and appropriate premise of human nature, they will rightly never win another national or local election. Nor should they. Amen

a Choicemaker
Joel 3:14