America: Her finest hour is yet to come

They gave us the chance. Now let’s take it.

Did they die in vain?

As America remembers her honored dead this Memorial Day weekend – those who died in uniform defending our great cause of liberty – many hearts are troubled about what we have come to.  The idea of liberty on which our nation was founded seems to hang in tatters.  The genius of our forefathers in giving us a government that was to be limited, constitutional, and federal appears all but extinguished.  The indispensable ingredient of liberty, an independent people of good character, seems at times to be disappearing into a sorrowful sunset.

But I would like to suggest a few things about these discouraging fears.  First, I think the fear about the American people is overblown, because it is overhyped.  All we ever hear is bad news about the people.  Interestingly, however, in spite of our worsening economic situation and sense of political misdirection, America is still rumbling along:  her people still working and producing, still bearing children and raising them in families, still buying homes, still worshipping God as we see fit, and still paying taxes.  In spite of our mind-boggling, unparsable federal debt, there are thousands of safe, peaceful communities across America, in which the people live in diligence and hope.

The answer to why the nation continues to function lies with the people.  Government regulation does impose an increasingly onerous burden on us, of course.  Besides shutting down productivity entirely, in some cases, regulation makes everything cost more than it would otherwise, from our labor to real estate, and from automobiles to the price of milk, bread, and gasoline.  For several decades, debt was a relief valve for the rising cost of regulation, which eats away at the value of what we earn with productive work.  Now the regime of debt has largely shut down.

But Americans aren’t rioting in the streets over this.  We are tightening our belts, in order to get ourselves right with the future.  Don’t overlook the significance of this.  For every kid in the Occupy movement, there are hundreds his age finding whatever jobs are available and working hard, learning to be reliable employees and team players – and paying bills, saving money, and looking to what they can do about their own futures.  These young people, alongside their elders, are holding society together, with discipline and quiet, unheralded daily courage.

Don’t give up on Americans.  And don’t give up on liberty.  Regarding liberty, here is a lesson to commit to heart:  heavy-handed, dictatorial government never comes to take away the bad in people and their lives.  It comes to take away the good.

It is a fallacy of modern ignorance to think that no one had the idea, before about 1850, to make his fellows better by regulating and taxing them.  If that could be done, we would have been perfected long ago.  Governments have made that their rallying cry from the beginning of recorded history; overregulation and onerous taxation are always about “improving” the people and their conditions.  But what they actually do is sap the people’s initiative, productive instinct, and desire to live well, and do well by their fellow men, through knowing God.  No overweening government has ever ended up governing a hopeful, honest, productive people.

The good news is that America is the world’s example of what can be achieved by people who are not beholden to a god-like government.  America is not paralyzed today by the character of our people, the scarceness of our resources, or the terrors of our future.  America is paralyzed because our once-small government has grown on principles that are unworthy of us: invidious principles of despair, anger, resentment, and fear.  Because we are law-abiding and peaceable, our governments – too often vengeful and narrow-minded – hold us back.

Ronald Reagan said it repeatedly, and said it best:  Government is the problem.  I am not afraid of what the American people will do if we regain the liberties that are rightly ours.  I eagerly await the explosion of creativity and prosperity that will ensue.  We can produce, pay down, and manage our way out of the $100-trillion “entitlements bomb,” without penalizing the vulnerable.  And we do not have to be poor for generations in order to deal with it; in fact, we can’t be.  It won’t work.  We will deal with it only by regaining the prosperity and wealth that lie beyond the obstacles of the overregulatory state.  We can’t do this by staying on our current course, but if we change course, we will prove that history is not a death sentence for liberty.

Is Mitt Romney the person to lead us toward a different future?  I think he would give us a hiatus from the perils with which we are now on a collision course.  A president who would allow government to retain its current size and scope is not the reformer we will ultimately need; but the breathing space Romney could give us is indispensable.

I believe more and more Americans are seeing what those with wise foresight predicted as much as a century ago:  that when we give government greater power, someone will come along and use it in ways we did not intend.  Perhaps our slide into overweening statism has been necessary to teach a lesson to those who haven’t bothered to learn from history.  But there’s more good news in this regard:  we can learn the lesson and move forward.  Nothing compels us to spend time on backward-looking self-flagellation.  Lessons, yes.  Regret, no.

The beauty of restoring the unique American idea in our politics and common beliefs is that it inherently means moving forward.  In the last 80 years, America has been moving in fits and starts into the world’s past.  Over-governance and an institutionalized lack of confidence in the people are the past, as old as the pyramids but not nearly as interesting.  Any fool can proclaim – and often has – that the folks around him need more governing; history is largely an account of what happens next.  There is no impulse more common or banal than seeking to regulate and tax our fellows for “their own good.”

But the American idea is unique in setting explicit boundaries on that impulse.  Moving toward the American idea is always moving away from men’s overgoverned past and toward a better future.

A minority of American colonists was committed to the fight for independence – but they prevailed.  I don’t believe that the segment of today’s committed Americans is any smaller.  The only thing that can stop America from beating the odds now, as she has always done, is a loss of will by those who believe in her.

If history were a death sentence, America would never have been born.  If the past dictated the future, the light of liberty would have been shrouded in darkness some time ago; we who walk the land today would not even remember what it used to look like.

But we do.  Our nation did come into being; we not only ended slavery but we healed and thrived after our civil war; and as we survey the feckless wreckage of overgovernment strewn around us today, we can see that it is not the product of liberty, but of its opposite.  We can see the truth, and we have the great privilege of still being able to act on it.

Do not fear that Americans can’t do well with less government.  Something military officers learn early, if they are wise, is that you don’t control men: you believe in them.  And when you do, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.  The heroes who lie in our cemeteries, with the small flags waving bravely over them on Memorial Day, knew that.

I believe they did not die in vain.  Their spirit is with us now, carried in the hearts of those who knew and loved them, and the generations that have followed.  I believe we will honor them in the best way possible. We will beat the odds – again; we will give history something new to think about – again; and we will not sink in the mire but right ourselves, and trundle on toward firm ground and a bright future.

No nation has ever done this – but then, no other nation has been the United States of America.  When we do it, in peace, and for the world to see, it will indeed be our finest hour – and all the war dead whom we honor and thank today will be standing at our shoulders.

Let freedom ring.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.

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15 thoughts on “America: Her finest hour is yet to come”

  1. I agree that we shouldn’t give up on America and expect that you meant well in writing this essay and hope that in later years, you’ll have acquired the wisdom to understand why it was so disappointing.

    May we all see better days together and honor the memories of those of us who, despite their differences, fought and died together for all of us.

    1. What a pathetically narcissistic comment: ‘I, the All-Knowing, happen to agree with your sentiment, and hope that you will acquire the wisdom to understand my misgivings about the way you expressed it’ – while failing to convey said misgivings.

      [I’m sorry to taint this thread with negativity, but you have already broken that ice.] If you differ on an idea, say what it is, rather than dripping with sarcasm about someone’s presumed lack of wisdom. Wisdom begins by minimizing oneself and maximizing regard for the truth that we share.

      1. you’ve caught most everything that I wished to convey and I would add strikingly inappropriate in its divisiveness.

      2. Dear DumbOx,

        I wouldn’t put too much stock in Froggy’s maunderings. Like his avatar (, his object is to goad, not enlighten. A master of the Lofty Unspecific, he lets the reader divine his intent, causing responses which ensure another occasion to goad again. One can also learn this from his alternate pen name, mikefoxtrot. Mr. MF is well named. But his gibes are a waste of time.


        P.S. Hmm, DumbOx… You wouldn’t be kin to Thomas Aquinas, perchance???

        1. You are right to infer the handle is an homage -Tomaso d’Aquino has guided my life – but I claim no closer kinship than the “0” (zero) I use to spell “0x” – a way of paying tribute to that pivotal figure without presuming to approach him. When we say that all of Western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato, we really acknowledge the role of Aquinas in joining the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian streams into the powerful river of Western civilization.

  2. Alas, I do not share your optimism in the people as a whole. Granted, we have a minority of our young generation who are the equal of any generation of Americans. But we also have what appears to be a majority exemplified by the President’s fictional Julia — permanently attached to the federal teat and unable to think that survival in life could come from any other source. The minority of strong, intelligent young patriots (from my observation, they are concentrated heavily in the military) may not be able to counter the dependency culture that our politicians have developed to fuel their elections.

    And, yes, both parties are at fault. When was the last time a politician told a constitutent, “No, I won’t help you with that. It’s not a proper role for government.”?

    Nevertheless, have a blessed Memorial Day and thank you for standing for our freedom.

  3. Oh the delicious gormless irony when you say that fear for our great nation is “overhyped”.

    You and your ilk are the ones who’ve been doing all the overblown hyping and over-hyping. It’s what you people do. In fact, you do little else. The prophet of pessimism.

    America is on the move again. Thankfully, we are a positive and optimistic people. We have weathered the Bush crash and the war-on-a-lie. You lot can wallow in the shallow end of the pool where you belong with the birthers, whingers, self-pitying self-proclaimed victims, and all the other weirdos.

    You are so misunderstood. Trust me, I feel your pain.

    However, the rest of us have moved on.

  4. I remember something from mid February 1975. It haunts me; the feeling still drains all energy and hope from my core. My father was gravely ill. The cancer had begun to deposit growing fatty tumors throughout his spinal column, and neck. One caused a full collapse of his medial nerve on his left side, so his left shoulder was atrophied and manifestly weak. He was left handed so he couldn’t write, do most routine daily personal tasks, nor could he use his crutches; his left leg having been amputated above the knee a year earlier in a futile attempt to stem the spread of the cancer.

    I was one month shy of my 16th birthday, and the cry for help was weak and strained. It was also deeply embarrassed for the service necessary (I will grant that dignity to him for not describing it.) I had routinely wrapped his stump, helped him put on his artificial leg, helped him remove it, carry it upstairs and down but he had always been able to operate beyond that without assistance from anyone except my mother. This event shattered that. After I got him fixed up, he put his arms around my shoulders and I carried him to his bed. I was so shocked; he must have weighed less than 130. I was in good shape, having completed a soccer season, and moved him with relative ease.

    As I put him on the bed, and he looked into my eyes as I straightened up, he was going to say “thanks- or apologize or something, “ but he said nothing. I heard a sigh, his eyes focused on mine, and that drain happened; the draw of a vacuum draining all energy, hope, and dignity. I saw something that I have not seen since. I saw, as I looked into my father’s eyes; recognition, revelation, and reality. Then I saw those eyes focus past mine, like a camera lens opened wide in one sweeping motion. He was gone, though his body would continue on for a month or so. He interacted with my mother and uncle. He smiled at my sister and talked to her lightly. There was none of the fire, or promise, just passivity. Sadly, he never said anything more to me – nothing.

    About a month later, while confined to a hospital bed, on oxygen because the tumors were filling his lungs, he finally angrily mentioned my weight, and said something about failing. His doctor took me to the Walter Reed Dining room/cafeteria to talk to me for a few. He wanted me to know that what my father had said, he didn’t mean, his was jealous, angry, and hurt that he would not be there to finish his job of being a father. He had seen it many times in wards with dying combat veterans.
    It took some of the sting away, but not the long term pain, because that pain came from that day in February 1975, when I saw my father’s life end in my arms.

    My father died of liposarcoma, an Agent Orange induced cancer, probably caused by a serious but untreated bamboo shard wound in his left leg. He was one of those vets who gave their lives later. There are many like him, and my sister and I remember him on Memorial Day for that.

    He was 39½ years old. I wish he could see my wonderful sons, my lovely vivacious daughter, and my wife (of nearing 25 years on June 27th). I want him to know that I did pretty well. I fought, struggled, failed, retried, and succeeded beyond anything that I could have imagined. There are many sons and daughters who feel as I do, and also know that even though our guardian angels are gone from our presence, they still watch over us.

    God Bless the men and now many women who have given their lives in the service of this nation. That is never in vain, regardless of whether or not the government of his nation survives. They gave their lives for US; free men do not fight for governments and wealth. They fight for family and liberty.

    There will be a different path for the United States over the next century. What it is will unfold before us. The history will be written by our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
    Regards on this Decoration Day,

  5. OK, OK, so you ARE indeed the Optimist Conservative. I am glad for you, madam, and enjoy the fact that there are some who, like you, still feel this way in the face of our shortcomings.

    Now, then…

    I was having coffee and watching the news this morning and I got angrier and angrier as I listened to the anchors and pundits banter about wishing each other and everybody else a “happy Memorial Day”. Also, they were quick to wish each other and their viewers the enjoyment of the long weekend and all the Bar BQs that were taking place. One even talked sadly about how the Southeastern Tropical Depression had “ruined” the celebration for many and how the beaches in North Florida were, GASP!, empty…!

    I have never understood the nation’s penchant for turning this day of recognition into a happy holiday instead. Actually, I believe that it is anything but that and, to the contrary of what it has become, that it is a holiday in which the nation should be wearing black and spending its “free” time pondering the loss of so many that gave of themselves and died in defense of the values and traditions that we so cavalierly take for granted now and which we often willingly give up in exchange for the freebies that abound in our gilded national cage.

    I don’t “celebrate” Memorial Day and, therefore, I cannot wish any of you a Happy Memorial Day. I don’t think that Memorial Day is a happy event. But, what I do wish is that every one of us comes to realize that unless we are very, very careful, all those deaths and all those sacrifices might well have been for naught and that, if that ever comes to pass, it will be a sad story indeed.

    How many more will die for political expediency or because of political cowardice is something that none of us will ever be able to guess at. Our political herd’s attitude is such that we can only hope that they don’t continue to outdo themselves in these regards.

    And how many times will these same Washington denizens waste the soldier’s blood only to eventually back down and gain nothing? None of which, mind you, detracts one iota from the soldier’s courage, honor and dedication because it only does that to the nation as a whole in spite of its soldier’s sacrifice.

    Our soldiers do not deserve the civilian leadership that they serve. And, our civilian leadership certainly does not deserve the soldiers that serve it.


  6. “Our soldiers do not deserve the civilian leadership that they serve. And, our civilian leadership certainly does not deserve the soldiers that serve it.”

    True. However it is also true that; our soldiers emerge out of the civilian population that elects that leadership and that, a not insignificant portion of that civilian population no more deserves those soldiers than the leadership does…

    America, more than any other nation, represents the truest cross section of humanity and a population which has had the fortuitous circumstance of living in the greatest state of liberty ever achieved.

    As such, it represents humanity at its current best, clearly a work in progress…

    It is little appreciated that freedom is a two edged sword; we all are at liberty to make bad as well as good decisions and choices. Since the depression of the 30’s and the fear it generated, we have made more than a few bad decisions, seeking to insulate ourselves from the vicissitudes of misfortune.

    Liberty, with its right to “the pursuit of happiness”, also implies the right to remain a child refusing to grow up, ‘Playboy’ is just one of many cultural markers of that phenomena and its no coincidence that its emergence into prominence coincided with the baby boomers.

    Liberty however does not cancel out the consequences of choices and actions taken. To the degree that each generation accepts the reality, responsibility and accountability of adulthood, to that degree will that generation be worthy of the sacrifices that its military makes upon its behalf.

  7. Amen – For the most part. As an 82 year young veteran of the Korean War, I saw what chaos is by involvement and came away – discouraged. But then I saw first hand the apathy of my friends and neighbors who did not care that there was “another” war and worse, did not care enough to realize that for the first time in our history, we left the bodies of our citizen soldiers to rot in a foreign land. I remembered and so, when the patriots posing as Congressional representatives of “We, the people..” joined those who once again were committed to war, I offered my protests – in vain.

    I should have been dismayed but then I took another look at our Constitution that has guided us successfully for so many years and observed the genius minds we have nurtured as a by-product of its wisdom, I am merely amazed

    But now is the time to lay aside our petty bickering and each one, choose to do more for our nation today than was done yesterday and our critics will soon realize, their voices will have been silenced.

    It is up to you and I..

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