I was sitting at lunch with a colleague a few weeks back, and he mentioned that he did not understand the general media hubbub over Michelle Obama's unpatriotic statements.
"So she said that she hadn't been proud of America in her adult life," he said. "So what?"
I answered that many Americans, rightly, were offended at the idea that a prospective First Lady of the United States was not proud of her country. "If you don't believe this is the best country on earth, don't live here," I said.
"That's 'love it or leave it,'" he answered. "I don't have to love everything about this country."
"That's right, you don't," I stated. "But if you don't believe in the essential goodness of America's founding principles -- if you don't believe that those principles constitute the greatest set of essential values ever instituted on a national scale -- then you don't belong here."
He was insulted. The typical liberal talking point states that patriotism is jingoism because America's founding principles are so much claptrap -- that modern values trump those old-fashioned ideas. But that should be an automatic disqualifier for political victory in this country. Disavowing the thoughts underlying the Declaration of Independence and Constitution is a tragic surrender to nihilism, a surrender to the barbarism of the French Revolution.Liberals often ask for a definition of American values.
Let's begin with what such values are not. They are not the "evolving standards of decency" of Justice Anthony Kennedy. And they are certainly not the vague prescriptions of Barack Obama, who preaches unity but never explains precisely which Americans values are supposed to unify us.
They are the values held in common by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. They are the values shared by James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. Here are some of those values:
Free enterprise allows every American the opportunity to succeed. Encroachment on free enterprise by government violates the basic right to pursuit of happiness.
Freedom of political speech is a vital component for a functioning republic. Such freedom must not be disturbed by complaints about fairness or whining about the "tenor" of modern campaigning. The hurly-burly of politics allows truth to rise to the surface.
Traditional moral values must be the basis of the republic. Freedom without any societal moral compass leaves the nation adrift in a relativistic sea. The same sea that swamps traditional morality sinks the ship of state.
The left disagrees with these values. Free enterprise is to be opposed in order to rectify inequality. Free speech is to be contained to quash the extremism of political discourse. Traditional morality is intolerant and therefore to be jettisoned. And defending American values demonstrates bigoted ethnocentrism.
There are certain countries in which the founding philosophy is deeply flawed. America is not one of them. There are certain countries for which patriotism should be a sin. America is not one of them. American history, in all of its most glorious permutations, represents the outgrowth of our founding philosophy. Only by accepting the greatness of America's founding philosophy can we hope to ensure that freedom flourishes at home and around the globe.