I’ve been feeling sentimental lately. It started on Memorial Day and has just been getting stronger this week with the controversy surrounding the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Now it’s the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and I feel sad.
What has happened to us? This tiny infant country that skyrocketed to prominence on the backs of such strong leaders of character now appears to be crumbling. Moral decline, political corruption, patriotic apathy…I hurt just thinking about what George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan would say if they were alive.
As a kid, one of my favorite movies was “The Neverending Story.” Being a cowgirl at heart, I loved the horse Artax more than anything else about the show. But I was always frightened by the mysterious, destructive Nothing that was eating away the land of Fantasia. It was a swirling, black thunderstorm that obliterated everything in its path. There was no face to it—no person. It was just an evil force. And that’s the best way I know how to describe the state of our country today. It feels like the Nothing has descended on us, and we’re just sitting here waiting for it.
Americans have been spoiled by good leadership in the past to the point at which they took it for granted. Just as a teenager resents the discipline of good parents, our nation resented honorable authority figures and begged for a “cooler” set of parents that would let them do what they wanted. “It’s freedom!” they cried. “We deserve it. It’s our right!” While that’s true in theory, I think we’ve missed the point.
The way I see it, there are two kinds of freedom: childish freedom and mature freedom. With childish freedom, you demand the ability to live life according to your own terms. Everything is permissible because you’re free to do whatever you like, and you fully believe you’re entitled to it. Consequences don’t matter because it’s freedom, and it’s your right to use and abuse it regardless of what anyone else thinks. They’re free too, right? With childish freedom, anything less than permission to run amok is captivity, and you won’t stand for it.
The second kind of freedom is mature freedom. With mature freedom, you realize that, while you are free, you also have the ability to make choices and to do so with wisdom and understanding. Mature freedom is having the permission to do whatever you want but realizing that you don’t have to do it just to prove a point. You aren’t enslaved to abusing freedom for freedom’s sake. With mature freedom, you can act intentionally while considering what is best for more than just the man or woman in the mirror.
America isn’t free right now. At least not the way I see it. We’re under the influence of some loud voices who are deciding that what is best for everyone is to throw out all of our founding fathers’ standards and ideals in the name of progress. “Times have changed,” they say. That’s true. But some fundamental truths are timeless. Like working hard to make a living. Respecting your fellow countrymen. Accepting your punishment when you’re wrong. Some things never go out of style.
My dad was a soldier in the Army, and he loved his country. He saw the value in fighting to protect this nation and what it stood for. Though I miss him like crazy, part of me is thankful that he passed away 10 years ago so he wouldn’t have to see what is happening today.
I still love America. I still love our men and women in uniform. And if there’s one thing I could say to them all right now it would be to keep fighting. It’s worth it. This country has a great heritage, and our spirit can be restored. It’s not dead. It’s just being refined. Hang in there and don’t give up.
Today, as we celebrate the Greatest Generation, I pray that we can experience a resurgence of the responsibility that made them so great. I pray that childish freedom will give way to mature freedom and that we can move forward to become an even more beautiful and wonderful nation for those who come after us.