29 May A Memorial Day Essay from 14 Years Ago
From the collection of essays in Brushfires of Freedom 2009-2016, available for purchase here.
Memorial Day – 2009
We had the privilege of participating this Memorial Day in a “Welcome Home” event for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Over a thousand patriotic Americans showed up at the airport in a totally voluntary display of gratitude for the service of America’s armed forces. Several aspects of the gathering give us hope.
1. The crowd of greeters spanned all ages—from Brownies and Girl Scout troops to the most senior citizens—and all economic levels and all races. Maybe 50 of the greeters were actually there to welcome home a family member; the rest shared only the common bond of love of freedom and gratitude to those who put their lives on the line to provide it for us. Not a dry eye anywhere.
2. The returning members of the military were and are without doubt America’s finest. Again, men and women spanning ages from the youngest of the enlisted to those on the verge of retirement, and obviously coming from all walks of life and every race and ethnicity. These are people who understand the difference between good and evil; who know that America is in fact a force for good in the world. This is real intelligence. These people are not fooled by appeasement in whatever form it takes.
We’d venture the guess that this crowd was as near to unanimous as any crowd could be in opposition to the radical leftist agenda being pursued by the current administration. Not because the crowd was comprised of members of any one political party—we’d guess Republicans, Democrats, Independents and ‘moderates’ were in attendance—but because a very simple thing happens when people have an honest love for America and freedom, a humble sense of where it comes from, a recognition that there is a difference between good and evil, and confidence that America is on the side of good: there is a God-given and God-supported ability to NOT be fooled by lies and liars. Which brings us to an important point…
Margaret Thatcher is reported to have said “the facts of life are conservative”. In blasting the socialist thinking of her day, she warned against:
- the illusion that government can be a universal provider, and yet society still stay free and prosperous
- the illusion that every loss can be covered by a subsidy
- the illusion that we can break the link between reward and effort, and still get the effort
Seems to us that Margaret Thatcher was articulating basic truths which every one of the American founders would wholeheartedly subscribe to. These truths emerge from the Judeo-Christian tradition and worldview; and we at Brushfires reduce them to the single phrase individual freedom and responsibility under God.
The important point is that truth is always true. Whether it goes in and out of favor with particular generations of people in particular geographic locations doesn’t change truth. Where truth is out of favor, you will find more discord and injustice and animosity, but it won’t be because truth changed. It will be because the people’s understanding and practice of truth has declined.
Think of it this way. A compassionate, ‘post-modern’ intellectual at a prominent university may pronounce that it would be better for everyone if we could all just grow into the concept that 2+2=5. There would be more for everybody, and people would have their minds freed from the rigidity of the old 2+2=4. Fellow intellectuals—professors and students–could quickly be enlisted and persuaded to this new, less restrictive view of mathematics. Initially, they would receive a few blank stares from those who know that 2+2=4, but those people are close-minded. They are not ‘the future’. A self-satisfied sense that ‘we are the ones we’ve been waiting for’ propels the new believers.
Lo and behold, members of media find the new movement exciting and unconventional and filled with the energy of youthful followers. They recognize the need for tolerance and proclaim ‘who are we to judge whether 2+2=4 or 2+2=5?’ Perhaps the old answer is just a cultural artifact of a less enlightened people; worse yet, maybe it was just a fiction created by people of the same gender and skin color (for example, white men).
Soon a poll is released which shows unmistakably among those surveyed an increasing acceptance of the idea that 2+2=5 could be a right answer and should be treated with equal respect as 2+2=4. Within days the cover story on Time, Newsweek and the final, pre-bankruptcy editions of The New York Times announces ‘we are all new mathematicians now’.
Well, guess what? Two plus two is not five; never has been five; and never will be five. And if you start with two plus two equals five, you will never get a right answer in any mathematical calculation you pursue from that point forward, whether you are in pedestrian arithmetic or quantum physics. It doesn’t matter if polls say every other person except you believes that 2+2=5; it isn’t. They are wrong and you are right. And eventually, the discord that follows from the faulty premise will collapse the entire subject matter into confusion and chaos.
Man (referring generically to male and female) is individual. God made man free. This is the 2+2=4 proposition of humankind. America is not a place or a people so much as the name for the concept of government built on this proposition. Any form of human government that steps in with a view that men and women should be viewed in collectivist terms and should be subservient to an elitist government that knows better than they what can or should be done with their lives and the choices they make, is taking a 2+2=5 approach to the progress of humankind.
Time, Newsweek and The New York Times may publish a poll saying the people like the new approach; they may solemnly proclaim ‘who are we to judge which theory of government is better’; they may find so-called statesmen to espouse the possibility that the majority of the people like some of the benefits of 2+2=5; and they may tell everyone that the professor who espouses this theory deserves to be listened to. Still, doesn’t matter. Two + two equals four.
So on this Memorial Day, it is great to find the spirit of America alive at a Welcome Home celebration for active-duty soldiers. For the greeters and the ‘greetees’, there is no question as to what two plus two is. There never will be.
Americans are waking up anew to the foundational principle of individual freedom and responsibility under God. The principle hasn’t changed and will never be superseded by any ‘post-modern’ or ancient theory. Brushfires of freedom will continue to stir in the hearts and minds of men and women in America and around the world, drawing them back to this foundational principle. As with mathematics, we’ll find that when we get the basics right, we’ll get to the right answers no matter what level we find the latest problem.
Here’s to optimism for America on this Memorial Day!
May 25, 2009