“Judah says he can still remember the exact moment, nearly 75 years ago, after 10 months in a concentration camp, when he and his family were put on a train, and told they were going to another camp. Suddenly the train screeched to a halt. A soldier appeared. Judah’s family braced for the worst. Then, his father cried out with joy, “It’s the Americans.”
Today the shrillness will continue. Yes, today the silliness will go on; it has to, for it is hard for people to change course even if they will it. They have too much invested to admit, to even acknowledge that last night was majestic. It was majestic for reasons that most people do not consider, lost as they are in themselves. It was an extraordinary show of civility and democracy, of tradition and love of country. Of honor. A moment when we consider ourselves and the health of our great experiment which we are all powerless to control (and thank God for that) but in which we are obliged by love to participate.
In the entire speech – which I found grand – the most powerful line (quoted above) even brought some mistiness to my eyes. Let me tell you why. It is because THAT story reveals in a few short lines the DNA of America. And there are so many of us who still fight for her. Though the partisan battles rage at home, there are still people far and wide on this troubled earth who say, with relief unto joy, “It’s the Americans!!!”
I know, because that is the world in which I have lived – and for twenty years. Fighting for those who cannot for themselves; righting wrongs which only a great power can address; challenging enemies dark and brutal and evil. And every place I have gone I have met people who repeat to me that line above; from the Congolese civil war of rape and blood and child soldiers to a Venezuela fighting their oppressors with their nails and their smartphones and their feet, marching so much that rivets have been worn in the great roads down which they ceaselessly, fearlessly, tirelessly tread. From the baked alleys of a Timbuktu of violence and jihad to the quiet camps clutching desperately a patch of earth between a jungle and a lake, they all ask me “When will the marines come?” and “When will we be saved from our tormentors (which, so often, is their own government)?” and most often “How can I get to America?” Five African civil wars I have witnessed and worked. Pakistan and the Balkans and Central and South America; political disasters and fraudulent elections and terrible crippling and crushing poverty, and always wherever I go the reaction is the same. “Thank God you have come!” followed quickly, humbly by “Can’t you, perhaps, do more? Can’t you save us?” I sincerely doubt that the Russians or the Chinese or the French or the Cubans are met with this cacophony of hope and expectation. Incidentally, I am not here speaking of myself, lest the haters accuse me of vanity. It is that which I represent wherein to so many is found the idea of salvation and the great hope of rest.
Why do you think we have an immigration problem in the first place? There are no great caravans of progressives marching on the jungle borders of Venezuela, are there?
For long the socialists have been trying to tell you this is not the case. They do so because it is in their self-interest; they do so because they want you to believe that America is reviled. They want you to think we are dangerous for the simple fact that too long we have been allowed to gallop ahead driven by the power of our extraordinary engines of productivity and our miraculous imagination for the possible – and they don’t like that, for it gives them no lever to control. Those who would be our masters need us to slow down, for we are so far ahead of them that is impossible for them to catch up. They must make us doubt ourselves, for in doubt and insecurity power is found. They must highlight our more malevolent demons – and yes there are some, though fewer (oh so many fewer) than in other places (and I’ve visited many) – and seize ‘morality’ for themselves through envy and guilt in order that they can use those to put on us a harness, and clamp over our mouths a muzzle.
But we will not be harnessed and muzzled, for we are not wicked – no, we are not wicked.
What happened last night shows that. Occasionally (too rarely in America, for we are not one to stand on too much pomp) a great pageant shines bright through the partisan mess. And it was that which was majestic about last night. Yes, it was an amazing speech. It highlighted our heroes, it spoke to our better angels, it laid out a future and it inspired us to look to ourselves and our traditions and each other to solve that which ails. But it was more than that – because for one night at least we came together and reminded ourselves that we really are (mostly) fighting for the same things; safer streets and better care and a less war-filled world. That’s what made it grand – there is still more that unites us than divides us (with of course a few outliers – but what would life be without them? And they are powerless too, a fact for which we can be grateful). After eight years of speeches, Ronald Reagan – our great communicator – became best known for his use of the words “It’s morning again in America.” Donald J. Trump will best be known for the simple word that appeared only once in the eighty-minute speech – imagination. “This is the time to re-ignite the American imagination.”
So be proud to be an American! We who fight the darkness in places lost and sad certainly are.
“Our most exciting journeys still await. Our biggest victories are still to come. We have not yet begun to dream. We must choose whether we are defined by our differences — or whether we dare to transcend them. We must choose whether we will squander our inheritance — or whether we will proudly declare that we are Americans. We do the incredible. We defy the impossible. We conquer the unknown. This is the time to re-ignite the American imagination. This is the time to search for the tallest summit, and set our sights on the brightest star.”