The damp chill of the long and rainy night had worked its way deep into the ship. Young children clung to their parents for warmth, who in turn slept on bags filled with their family’s earthly belongings. Outside, the thick fog that clung to the ocean waves all night loosened its icy grip in the morning hours in the last of the drizzling rain. Escaping the cramped and dark spaces below deck, three figures walked onto the deck wrapped in layers of worn clothes and long coats.
The father stooped and picked up his young daughter in his arms then fell into step beside his elderly father. They picked their way along the length of the ship, talking quietly about home, their journey, and what’s to become of them. At the bow of the ship, the three joined the growing press of people peering westward through the misty distance toward a hazy and irregular horizon. The city skyline rose out of the sea, a dark and ominous shape.
The young girl pointed at the glint of gold in the middle of the harbor and watched in thoughtful silence as the statue of a crowned woman holding a golden torch high in the air grew steadily on the horizon. She looked up at her grandfather and the tears streaming down his cheeks. She whispered to her father, “Pa-pa, who is that lady?”
He smiled and replied, “She is America, my angel.”
“If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to.
This is the last stand on earth.”
America’s relationship with the rest of the world will always be as much a product of our often tumultuous political climate as it is the practical realities of the chaotic world beyond our borders. The Founding Fathers understood that the forms and customs of their young nation were changing, even as they were being founded, and hoped the future generations would keep the virtues (liberalism, rationalism, and faith) of the old world while abandoning its vices (tyranny, prejudice, and superstition).
While our track record in this regard has been spotty, especially recently, the experiment and evolution of Americanism continues. The fundamental truth of our national identity is as true today as it was one and two hundred years ago: America is just as much about what you bring to her as what she brings to you. As Americans, we must embrace this even as we try to maintain a cultural homeostasis that continues to pursue a better more liberal, rational, and faithful society.
Tyranny, whether it pretend to be benevolent welfare state or openly malevolent dictatorship, remains the greatest threat to our experiment in self government. Prejudice, whether it be in the name of nationalism or openly ethnocentric nativism, is the greatest threat to our experiment in rationalism. And superstition, whether it ape a justified defensiveness or devolves into open religious bigotry, is the greatest threat to our experiment in philosophical pluralism.
America must remain free.
Liberty is For The Win!