The new year approaches and, like many others, I consider what lies ahead, the promises and the challenges. What kind of world, or more precisely, what kind of America will we bequeath our children?
The threats from terrorists and rogue, tyrannical dictatorships are real and formidable, but I'm confident we'll overcome them because we have a realistic president who recognizes the threats and is committed to eliminating them. And, the American people are behind him.
The greater threat comes from within, not from domestic terrorists or criminals, but from our own ignorance, complacency and licentiousness. There have always been those in our midst devoted to overturning everything America stands for, but until fairly recently, they didn't have a firm foothold in our institutions and culture.
While we must vigorously fight the war against terrorism and confront all other enemies we encounter, it is the war of ideas that poses the greatest risk to our children's freedom. If we continue to sit this war out, we'll lose it more quickly than we can imagine.
The war of ideas involves two contrasting visions of America. One was recently articulated by columnist George Will on a fascinating three-hour C-SPAN interview with Brian Lamb. Will emphasized that America is "a nation dedicated to a proposition," likely referring to Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg formulation that this country was based on a shared promise to enforce the belief that all men are created equal and entitled to equal rights.
We are not a particular race of people united by a common ethnic heritage, but a collection of all different races, colors and ethnicities bonded by a social compact that ensures we are all equals before God and under the law. It is not our diversity that we should celebrate, but our unity. As Will wrote in an earlier column on the subject, "we are a nation defined by our unum, not our pluribus." That's one vision.
The other vision is that which fails to appreciate our country as a melting pot. It sees no benefit in promoting a unique American culture, much less encouraging others to blend into it. It sees nothing sacred in America's proposition and even rejects it. Ultimately, it is inherently hostile to America's founding ideals because it regards as sinful any preference for certain ideas over others.
All ideas, according to this intellectual nihilism, are equal. America's secret, it holds, is its refusal to favor certain ideas above others -- all ideas are of equal weight in a nation that elevates a distorted concept of tolerance to a godly virtue.
I view this alternative vision as dangerous because it fails to honor our essential "dedication to the proposition." It is no accident that America is the greatest and freest nation in the history of the world. And it's certainly not because we were founded with the absurd notion that no ideas are superior to others.
It's not our so-called diversity that has made us great, but a system of government sculpted around the affirmation that all men of all backgrounds are sinners. In order for men to sustain their liberty, they must be willing to accept reasonable limitations on it and temper it with personal responsibility.
The bedrock of our freedom is not representative government -- people can vote themselves a dictatorship anytime they want -- but limitations on government institutionally guaranteed by a Constitution undergirded by moral absolutes.
I fear that those subscribing to the alternative vision of America believe that freedom is the natural state of man and that little sacrifice is required to preserve it. Man, left to his own devices, will inevitably enslave himself. He always has. And we are in the process of doing that in this country by forgetting these elemental truths. Our sinful pride is causing us to abandon our heritage by lulling us into the seductive notion that we can handle freedom without restraints or responsibility.
Our children's future will depend on whether our society will have the courage to make moral choices, including the willingness to declare that the American system -- despite the nostrums of political correctness and multiculturalism -- is superior to all others ever tried on the planet. It will depend, in short, on their rededication to "the proposition."