“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” – Ronald Reagan
Last month my wife and I took a cruise into the Western Caribbean. It has been many years since we were able to embark on such a vacation. It was a welcome respite from the daily routine. This trip was a bit different than others. This excursion was experienced through the lens of political research that I have accumulated in large doses over the past few years.
Our stops included Mexico, Belize, and Honduras. Each country is troubled to one extent or another politically and they all come across as similar. There are the wealthy and the working poor. There is very little evidence of what Americans would consider a middle class. They are generally populated by humble, decent hardworking people doing their best to survive. Sometimes against difficult odds. We made many friends on our excursions ashore. One, in particular, stands out.
In Playa Del Carmen, on the Yucatan Peninsula, we had time to linger after viewing the Tulum ruins before a shuttle took us back to the ship. Unlike the corporate-owned shops that greeted us at most stops, these little stores were local and family-owned. As my wife and I lingered in one particularly interesting shop, the rather observant forty-something owner struck up a conversation in English. After a few pleasantries he observed I was not the typical consumer obsessed tourist and we spoke of more weighty matters.
“You have a nice business here “, I commented at one point. “Are you able to prosper or do the cartels interfere with your commerce?” He smiled wryly and said “They do not bother us too much here. It is much worse in other places”. We then conversed about the state of our governments and leaders. He was very concerned about the deterioration and increasing corruption of Mexico, noting there were some areas that were completely ruled by criminal elements. I noted that we are experiencing widening corruption in America and that our concerns continue to increase also.
He nodded in agreeable understanding and then said something that remains on my mind. “If America goes, we all go”. I was stopped in my tracks by the impact of his insight. As I pondered his words, it struck me just how important America and our role in the world still is. America may very well be freedom’s last stand.
What would a world look like if America went away? Would the totalitarian model that China is building, with its “benevolent” compliance to all state mandates through social credit take the forefront? Or would something worse and even more oppressive rush to fill the void that is now occupied by American global power?
For all of our flaws, American constitutionalism is still the banner under which most world citizens measure the standard of liberty. America is as much an ideal to them as it is a sovereign nation. I was recently touched by the protestors in Hong Kong flying the U.S. flag and singing the Star-Spangled Banner. To the good citizens there, the standard of freedom to which they aspire is clear and represented by the ideals of our republic.
Yet, internally, we argue over the merits of America. The Progressives among us declare that America was never great, that we are somehow a racist, oppressive country. Those are standards I have never known to linger for long in this nation. They demand the old America be torn down and replaced by their leftist, statist utopia. I have always seen America and Americans as decent, liberty-loving people with hearts as big as Alaska. Somehow, we have always eventually figured out how to do the right thing. The adults in the room recognize the responsibilities that accompany freedom and need not be told what to do. Others want to see that paradigm fade into history.
Many Americans hold fast to the freedoms and prosperity that others in the world clamor for. Yet we are somehow watching those hard-fought liberties slip through our fingers thank to an insidious, progressive erosion of our most cherished values. Can we stop this continual degradation of time-tested principle before it is too late? Can we return to the truth of our own founding and revive the transcendent idea that is America? They seem to know all about that ideal in Hong Kong. And in a humble, little shop in Playa Del Carmen. I hope we can remember who we really are, and not take the privileges of freedom for granted.