Many years ago, my Dad told me that if a man lived long enough he’d get to see just about everything. (He also told me that nothing good happens after midnight, another solid observation I blithely ignored until I became a father myself.) I find that those of us of a certain age, who remember words like pride, faith, and patriotism as taught to us to be duties rather than punchlines, think a lot about our fathers these days.
What would they make of this post-patriotic world that seems to be so much more interested in virtue-signaling than genuine virtue? What would they think of young people, many of whom have known little of real economic privation or the prospects of war, desperately trying to tear down—literally and figuratively—a system that made such a happy circumstance so commonplace?
My parents were prototypical Democrats, born in the midst of the Great Depression to working-class Catholic immigrants. They were both the first in their families to go to college and by some divine providence became public school teachers. In their day, there were (to paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald) no endless second acts in American lives, especially for those who were not to the manner born. A central tenet of their faith was the belief that one’s blessings were never to be taken for granted, but rather things to be nurtured, cared for, and appreciated.
Simply being born in America by some quirk of fate was forever to be considered one of those blessings. Being asked to serve your country was part of the social contract that allowed you to enjoy its great bounty. Both of them having lost parents when they were in their teens, my parents had an innate understanding that life was precious and that we, as human beings, knew not the time nor the hour when we might leave this mortal coil.
All of this is not to say that they were unaware of how difficult life could be or that there were injustices and inequities in our country. Still, they saw those failings as a result of the imperfection of man rather than any systemic problem with a country built upon the bedrock belief that all men were created equal, that we were all endowed by our Creator with certain natural rights.
That America did not always live up to the high standards set forth at its birth did not render its growth, success, and place in the world invalid or illegitimate. No, those failings made it human and therefore forever a work in progress. Having taught thousands of high school kids over 30-year careers, my parents were well aware of humanity’s foibles and weaknesses. But like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, they were ready as teachers and parents to celebrate progress, rejoice in what was today, and to reject the temptation to brood over past insults and injuries.
One can think of few features of modern life more antithetical to the teachings of Christ than today’s cancel culture in which any sin—past or present, real or imagined—gives license to an often faceless and anonymous mob to ruin the life of a fellow imperfect human being.
Even more sad and frightening in a country that always, at the very least, tolerated a diversity of viewpoints, is the idea that certain thoughts themselves could be considered sins if they did not hew to the orthodoxy of an increasingly disconnected and overeducated elite.
Perhaps it is not particularly surprising that those who place so little value on the life of a completely innocent unborn child would so carelessly destroy the life of any hopelessly flawed adult.
While other cultures and faiths might tolerate or even celebrate the concept of vindication, ours believes in turning the other cheek. This not only recognizes God himself as the ultimate arbiter of redemption but also allows and encourages human progress. It is difficult to move forward when one seeks an eye for an eye. Any concept of forgiveness or mercy is totally absent from the cancel culture today.
As a Catholic proud of his faith, I am sometimes asked why I support President Trump. I did not find that question difficult to answer four years ago and I find it even less difficult to answer today. In short, I would much rather deal with someone who unapologetically tells me what he thinks even if it might offend me than someone so afraid to offend others that his beliefs are hidden or in some cases nonexistent.
The president’s staunch and unyielding defense of what has made America great is more imperative today than ever before. To turn our backs on our shared history and accomplishments would be tantamount to a senseless cultural suicide that would hurt the most vulnerable among us.
Let’s remember, President Trump has embraced and signed prison reform legislation that extends second chances to Americans who have made mistakes. To the extent the president’s political opponents have manufactured so many of his alleged sins for four years, perhaps all people of faith and goodwill should extend him the same courtesy.