Terry McLaughlin: Is America worth dying for?
By the time one is ready to apply for Medicare, the road of life in the rear-view mirror appears a lot longer than the road ahead. Pondering one’s own mortality can help put the world in perspective as we consider those things that make our lives worth living. Are these the same things that are worth dying for?
If asked to name just one thing worth living for, I wager that most people would say love, and we are surrounded by many examples of love — romantic love, love of parents, siblings and children. Families themselves are an exercise in self-denial and sacrifice for those we love. Another form of love can be found in our love of friends, neighbors, country and humankind itself.
Honor is another example of love that is linked to the concept of dignity and integrity. We all hunger to live as honorable people willing to speak for what we know to be right and true. It is vital to honor our convictions, even if there is a cost for doing so.
What are we willing to die for? Parents are ferocious guardians of their offspring. In extreme heroic cases, Jewish mothers and fathers saved their children by them giving away to Christian families during the Holocaust, knowing they themselves would be marching to their own deaths.
Yet we are living in a time when the importance of the nuclear family is being minimized and even denigrated. Our very language is being manipulated. Words like “birthing parent” are supplanting terms such as mother or father. Only a biological female can conceive and carry a child in their womb, yet we are expected to pretend otherwise, as science and biology are being ignored in favor of political correctness.
The notion of dying for a friend may seem remote, but history is filled with stories of soldiers who put themselves in harm’s way to save their comrades.
Many people, from our founders to our soldiers, have paid an enormous price to create the wonderment that is America, sacrificing their wealth, their status, and their lives for honor and country. How much are we willing to sacrifice for honor or country today?
In the past year, we have witnessed the removal of statues honoring people of vital importance to the American story; the emergence of critical race theory in public school curriculum that seeks to divide the peoples of this nation into victims and oppressors; politicians and media pundits condemning America as suffering from systemic racism, from which there is no possible atonement or reconciliation.
Even our nation’s founding documents housed in the National Archives are now being officially touted as examples of “structural racism.”
In a report commissioned by The National Archives task force on racism released in June, claims are made that the Rotunda, which houses the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, is itself an example of structural racism, and that the founding fathers and other white, historically impactful Americans are portrayed too positively.
The task force claims that structural racism “unequivocally impacts” the historical records themselves. Among other things, the report calls for “trigger warnings” to be put in place to “forewarn audiences of content that may cause intense physiological and psychological symptoms.”
If we were to believe all of the rhetoric in the public arena today, we would have to believe that the United States of America was, is, and forever will be an irredeemably flawed and heartless country. Would you be willing to die for a nation like that?
It should not require courage to say that the person who suffered the pain of labor and delivery is a mother. It should not require courage to say that America is an exceptional nation that has sought to overcome its failures unlike any other country in history. It should not require courage to say that all life, no matter how poor, infirm, unborn, or disabled, is a precious gift.
But if today’s culture requires courage to state these truths, then we must be courageous. We cannot muffle our beliefs to avoid being the targets of contempt. Mouthing lies we know to be untrue is toxic to our very core. We are responsible for our personal honor — the kind of honor that comes from living with integrity in a world that would have us betray our convictions.
Today we find ourselves smothered in sweet slogans such as “hate has no home here,” which are so often used as cudgels in a culture war filled with more poison and hate than honesty and love.
Rather than focusing inward, true and authentic love turns us away from ourselves. It expands our world beyond the tiny sphere which is “self.” And, importantly, it is anchored in truth — the truth about human beings and human nature and what the fullness of human existence looks like, realities that are deeply rewarding and fulfilling, even if sometimes inconvenient or burdensome.
So what do we love more than life? God? Country? Children? Integrity? Truth? To answer that question with honest conviction is an act which may someday redeem us from a culture that can no longer imagine anything worth dying for.
And if there is nothing worth dying for, in the long run is there really anything worth living for?
Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at email@example.com.
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“You’ve heard me say this before: Every acre can and will burn someday in this state” — Cal Fire Director Thom Porter.