This entry was originally published on Memorial Day in 2006 and then again in 2007 and again in 2008. I think it shall be an annual tribute to those who have sacrificed for our country. Happy Memorial Day!
I’ve always had a measure of old-fashioned American patriotism, and I was actually quite shocked when I realized citizens of other nations don’t necessarily share such sentiments about their own nations. But the summer of 1994 was the first time I remember feeling a strong sense of pride at my national heritage and the principles upon which our nation was founded. I was in a small suburb of West Berlin, just a brief walk from where the Berlin wall once stood. I opened up the Berliner Zeitung to find a full page spread thanking the American miitary as they prepared to withdraw from the American quadrant. America’s military presence had been continuous and visible since 1945, but we had never treated Germany like an occupied country. The harrassment, violence and even rape suffered by East Germans at the hands of the Soviet Union was unheard of in the American sector. Heartfelt memories of the Berlin airlift were shared. My friend’s parents told me of their fear when the Soviet Union first closed off Berlin. And tears welled in their eyes as they told of the arrival of the first packages. As America, an occupying military force, prepared its withdrawal, the people of Berlin thanked us for establishing and preserving their own liberty.
We are a nation founded on the guiding principle that “...all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” our national symbols are symbols of liberty–the liberty tree, the statue of liberty, the liberty bell and the Declaration of Independence. We have long been a beacon of liberty to the world, proclaiming:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Freedom and liberty are part of our national heritage. They have deep roots predating European Christianity which were strengthened by the spread of the gospel through Europe and transplanted to our own shores. Here, the concept of Christian self-government guided many as they prepared to fight for independence, and later began to set up our government characterized by liberty for the people and limits against the powers of the state. The greatest threat to these institutions and to our own liberty are not coming from our foreign enemies nor even from the few within our borders who would seek to do us harm. Our strength is not in our history, nor in our symbols and certainly not in our military. Our strength is in our character. In our ability to reason. In our ability to take responsibility for our own actions and for the plight of our neighbors. It is in our ability to govern ourselves through Christ and not look to the state for solutions. As we raise our children, we must remember that we are primarily educating them for liberty.