As I watched a robust display of fireworks at an early Independence Day celebration, I felt a familiar catch in my throat. I thought about what was at the root of it and wondered whether the young people around me were feeling it, too.
For me, the sensation was familiar. As a little girl, I remember my father, in his crisp blue uniform, headed out the door on any morning of his 22-year U.S. Air Force career. Even the way he stood in that uniform communicated that what he did each day was nothing so mundane as a “job.” He was serving a country he loved.
I recall the swell of pride in my chest as I watched my older brother, a strong, handsome, newly-enlisted young Marine, marching in stunning precision with hundreds of others in flawless “Dress Blues,” ready to lay down their lives for their country should the world require it.
Of course, those early feelings of awe were the naive, superficial patriotism of a child. As I later came to understand, men can serve even an evil regime with admirable devotion, and brave, disciplined soldiers can fight and die for nefarious causes.
But as I learned more about my country and its people, I realized that America warranted my esteem. While far from perfect, our country was uniquely brilliant at its conception. It consisted of a limited government and a pious, hard-working people striving toward virtue.
We are a nation whose birth certificate – the Declaration of Independence we celebrate this week – committed us to self-evident truths and God-given unalienable rights; whose people committed themselves to thrive upon liberty and practice private charity; and whose Constitution carefully limited the federal government to specific, enumerated powers.
This grand “American experiment” has not failed, but maybe we are failing it.
How pious, virtuous and industrious are we today, as a people? How is the federal government complying with the limitations on its powers? How many high school or college students can identify the purpose of government, or explain the difference between the roles of the federal government and the states?
According to a study by the Williams Group cited in a 2015 Money magazine article, 70 percent of wealthy families lose their wealth by the second generation, and 90 percent by the third. The reason is simple: The wealthy generations somehow fail to impart to their offspring the value of money and how to steward it. I believe we are seeing this same phenomenon today in the realm of citizenship and patriotism.Over the course of decades and centuries since our nation’s founding, we have become soft and lazy in our civic duties. Sure, we may follow some of the big political news and vote on Election Day. But are we evaluating our government’s actions by the rule of law set forth in the Constitution? When we examine and discuss new policy proposals, is our first question how the proposal will affect us personally, or is it whether the proposal is a constitutionally proper use of government power? Are we promoting liberty and then using our freedom for virtuous ends?
Those of us who really love America and all our flag represents should reflect on those questions this week of Independence Day. Our nation’s illustrious history cannot sustain a real and lasting patriotism forever. We must move beyond superficial displays and emotional song lyrics, and apply some tough love to our long-neglected nation. Here are some immediate steps to take:
- Commit yourself first and foremost to the God who endowed us with unalienable rights and who defines Truth and Justice.
- Champion the integrity of marriage and the family – especially your own. Strong families make strong nations.
- Reread the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Remember that the purpose of government is to protect the rights of the people and administer justice (not to redistribute wealth or provide for its citizens’ needs and wants) and that the federal government is limited to those powers specifically named in the Constitution.
- Support only public policies that adhere to these precepts.
- Vote only for candidates who demonstrate an understanding of and commitment to these principles.
- Practice and promote private charity.
- Promote the use of the Constitution’s own mechanism (in Article V) for making needed clarifications or adjustments to the Constitution and restoring the delicate balance of power it prescribes. Learn more at www.conventionofstates.com.
Let’s make America’s present and future – not just her past – worthy of the well-founded admiration and honor that characterize true patriotism.
The following was written by Rita Dunaway, the National Legislative Strategist for the Convention of States Project. It was originally published on WND.com.
Image Credit: The U.S. Army on Flickr