It is 2019: a time of great civil unrest as people clash on topics such as abortion, the Black Lives Matter movement, affirmative action, gender equality and the LGBT+ movement.
We as a nation have become divided not by our differing beliefs, but by our ignorance. We hear but fail to listen.
Riots are breaking out in the streets, and new social movements have grown from peaceful protests to violent mobs.
Current controversies over Trump and Ukraine and abortion and gun laws have glued our eyes to our screens as we peruse our favorite news networks for new political drama.
Yes, all the issues I mentioned above are important. Yes, these issues shape our society, our beliefs, our culture.
But in a country where people burn their own flag and wish they could live somewhere else, we have created a bulging rift right through the heart of America.
I’d like to make clear that I am not saying our country is perfect; we are far from it.
We the people have forgotten what it means to be an American.
We have forgotten the heroic actions of our soldiers on D-Day.
We have forgotten the great deeds of brave men who suffered through the merciless horrors of Vietnam and Korea.
We have forgotten the men and women who served in the blistering heat of the Middle East to protect us.
We have forgotten that America is about freedom and democracy, which were once incipient, unrealistic ideas cradled in the hearts and minds of a few hopeful people with a dream.
What will we tell our children about our nation? Will we tell them that we are a nation of division and hate? Will we tell them about the death of the American Dream?
The sad reality is that we erect walls to protect ourselves from outside forces while xenophobes hide behind the cover of our borders.
It is not a foreign power that threatens our nation; it is our own people.
When we lose sight of what it means to be an American, that is when we truly lose our power.
The greatest weapon that our nation possesses is not our nuclear arsenal or our incredible variety of missiles, bombs, guns, rockets, ships, planes or soldiers.
It is our spirit. It is the persistence we display as we fight through adversity. It is the fact that we never give up, no matter what threats attempt to belittle us.
America serves as a role model to the rest of the world not because of our wealth or militaristic triumphs, but because of our core beliefs and ideologies.
Ronald Reagan shared his thoughts on patriotism during his Farewell Address to the Nation in 1989. He discusses the importance of patriotism and what being an American is all about:
“ … are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? … We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed … a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions.”
He believes, as Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and John Adams did, that being an American and preserving our liberties requires that citizens are educated on our history and purpose.
We always appear so shocked when a foreigner does better on an American history exam than a natural-born U.S. citizen.
Reagan warned us many years ago of the consequences this would bring:
“If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I’m warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.”
Our country is in a tug-of-war with itself, and there are only two possible outcomes. We could have a divided nation pulling equally on both sides of the rope, canceling out any chance of movement or progress.
Or we could join together on one side of the rope and realize, when we see nobody pulling at the opposite end, that when we stick together, nobody can stand against us.