Tuesday, December 22, 2015
One Physician’s America
This will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.
I’ve been reading One Man’s America: A Journalist’s Search for the Heart of America, a 1997 book by Henry Grunwald, a Jewish immigrant from Vienna who made it big by running all the publications of Time, Inc. His book is a hymn to the ever-turbulent, ever-changing land of America.
America is turbulent and changing. As President Obama recently commented in a ceremony celebrating 25 immigrants becoming American citizens.
“The truth is, being an American is hard. Being part of a democratic government is hard. Being a citizen is hard. It is a challenge. It’s supposed to be. There’s no respite from our ideals. All of us are called to live up to our expectations for ourselves — not just when it’s convenient, but when it’s inconvenient. When it’s tough. When we’re afraid.”
These days, we are afraid of ISIS and what it portends for America. Fear not, says the president, we have ISIS contained. Why shouldn’t we be? ISIS says it seeks to wipe us off the face of the Earth.
Anyway, Obama’s comments got me to thinking about what America is all about.
As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt reminded us in speech before Congress in 1941. America is about freedom – freedom from fear, freedom to worship God in any way we please, freedom from want, and freedom of speech and expression.
How are we doing?
Well, we’re not free of the freedom of fear. ISIS has us running scared. And we don’t seem to have a strategy to destroy their hateful ideology, for fear that it might result in American casualties. We seem to hve forgotten that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Bravery requires sacrifice, and we have not yet faced up to that fact.
We’re still free to worship. One of the fastest growing religions in America is Islam. Muslim mosques dot our landscape. A few of these mosques are breeding sites for radical Islamics. We ought to feel free to visit mosques to see what their imams have to say, but not to close them down or to permanently prevent other Muslims from migrating here.
We’re not doing so well on the freedom from want front. If you use federal criteria, poverty is at high levels. The disability, food stamp, welfare, and Medicaid rolls are growing. More than 70 million Americans are on Medicaid, and it is expanding at a rate of 11.7% a year, far above 2.0% GDP growth.
Freedom of speech and expression? Not so good. Something insidious called political correctness has crept into our culture. As George Orwell predicted in 1984, the thought police are at work and Big Brother is watching you. It’s hard to say anything without being labeled a right wing bigot or a left-wing spigot. Instead of straight talk, we’re getting warmed over euphemisms
But be of good cheer! This is Christmas! This is America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. We are still free, and we shall overcome any loss of those freedoms.