|Does our Star Spangled Banner|
still represent the values for
which it once proudly waved?
Independence Day can’t get here soon enough. The United States needs a patriotic booster shot. Lee Greenwood’s ”Proud to Be an American” might be suffering from embarrassment. We need to soak up some “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” and other festive marches, and stirring fireworks shows. It’s time to get good ole American bounce back in our step.
I’ve long considered myself a patriot. I attribute that in part to having been born on July 4, while my dad was serving in the U.S. Army. Yep, I’m one of those born on the Fourth of July Yankee doodle dandies – although my degree of “dandiness” is up for debate.
To this day spotting an American flag waving in the breeze makes me smile. On football Saturdays I bleed Scarlet and Gray, but all other days I’m a red, white and blueblood. Annually on Independence Day I’ve been all-in. Flag T-shirts, patriotic concerts, pyrotechnics, the whole shebang – and boom. Not only because it’s my birthday (I won’t tell how many I’ve had), but because I’ve always felt the United States was unique, unlike any other nation in history.
But lately American pride has taken a beating. Kind of like an American flag I spotted many years ago, unfurled in the front yard of a private residence in Ohio. It was flying in shreds. “Old Glory” had known better days at that home. Being the stalwart patriot I was even then, I photographed the tattered banner and published the image in the local newspaper I was editing. The caption suggested no flag should be displayed in such condition. (The homeowner, while unnamed, still was not pleased with such attention.)
I’m thinking the image of our nation finds itself in similar tatters these days. It’s not just attitudes toward the United States around the world. It’s the values, the culture of our country – what it was, and what it’s become. I’m a traditionalist, and while I appreciate the great strides we’ve made in overcoming racism and discrimination of many kinds, we’ve forgotten the distinctions between rights and privileges, liberty and license, freedom and foolishness.
This wondrous “land of opportunity” is turning into the “land of entitlement.” The grit and determination that forged our national work ethic have taken a hit, disintegrating into belief that people “deserve” certain income regardless of respective levels of responsibility, initiative and authority. Burger flippers are demanding almost as much compensation as nurses and teachers.
Political and ideological divides besetting the U.S.A. threaten to make us more “untied” than “United.” Factions insist there’s only one way these days -- “our way.” Rather than a citizenry pulling together to secure and safeguard common ground, everyone nurses agendas, intent on foisting them on everyone else.
Historical revisionists will howl and argue to the contrary, but faith was vital to the fabric of our nation for most of its existence. Today, faith has become anathema for many people despite having benefited from principles and values championed by our Judeo-Christian heritage.
Recently I was reminded of a statement credited to historian Alexander Tyler, although others attribute it to Alexander Fraser Tytler. Who knows? But it’s worth reading nevertheless:
"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations, from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage."
Hopefully the United States can escape this dismal cycle. But in any event, it heartens me to know that although I swell with American pride without apology, my true citizenry lies elsewhere. The Bible offers these perspectives:
“We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope” (1 Chronicles 29:15).
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world…” (1 Peter 2:11).