Skip to comments.The Cowardice of America's Elites
Posted on 11/06/2001 5:33:25 AM PST by Stand Watch Listen
My late grandfather, Dr. P. Anthony Mercuri, was the field surgeon in charge of planning and constructing hospitals on the front lines in the European theater during World War II.
Frequently, he would travel beyond the front lines into enemy territory in order to be prepared for the inevitable casualties of war. He was one of the first American soldiers to discover the Nazi concentration camps, and it is told that he was the first American soldier to shake the hand of a Russian soldier at the front lines prior to the fall of Berlin, although the photo-op (and credit) was given to Patton.
Although my grandfather was always rightly proud of his service to his country, he was never boastful or sentimental about the experience. As a doctor committed to saving lives and healing people, one would be hard pressed to find a greater proponent of peace than he.
But after he witnessed the atrocities of the Nazi regime up close, there was never any equivocation about why, or if, the war needed to be fought.
Moreover, even though it kept him away from home (and his new bride) for five long years, there was never a doubt in his mind about paying a debt to one's country to preserve our way of life.
Knowing the example my grandfather set, and having witnessed the attack on the World Trade Center from the window of my home in Lower Manhattan, I am disgusted and horrified by the cowardly and selfish equivocation that I see in some of our country's elites.
The unifying (but unspoken) element throughout all the rationalization and tergiversation seems to be the idea that the United States owes "rights" to virtually anyone who demands them, but cannot demand or expect anything in return.
Take for example the dispute over reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The ACLU and many media elites suggest that requiring the pledge from school children is intolerant and a violation of their "rights."
Ann Curry of NBC even went so far as to suggest that requiring the pledge was tantamount to harassment of the many students and teachers who aren't American citizens.
Thus, according to Ms. Curry's logic, our country shouldn't require a pledge from its citizens, as non-citizens might be offended. The issue of why we might be educating and employing non-citizens unwilling to even pledge allegiance to the flag did not come up for discussion.
This is a perfect example of all that has gone wrong with our country. Years of peace and prosperity have given some people the illusion that their "rights" exist in a vacuum, created by their smug belief in their own intelligence or superiority.
Some lawyers boast that they are litigators first, and Americans second. Some Journalists yearn to prove their neutrality (if not their outright contempt) for the country that provides them with a career.
Some citizens that have never once set foot in their country of "cultural origin" hyphenate their Americanism into an afterthought. We actually debate whether or not our country should teach a common language.
So little has been required of us for so long that many of us have actually begun to believe that our country should be indebted to us, and not the other way around. JFK's famous words have been twisted into "Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for YOU."
Non-citizens demand a free education, free health care, free services, and a voice in the political process. Meanwhile, we are constantly reminded by entities like the ACLU that the "rights" of non-citizens are being violated. The process of immigration has been rationalized into the mere act of crossing our borders.
Crass elites who might not be able to earn a thin dime in another society refer to flag waving as jingoism and compete with each other to see who can show more smug contempt for our society and the "sheep" who support it unfailingly.
We are constantly reminded of the right to dissent, the right to protest, the need for tolerance, the need for diversity, the need for understanding - even understanding an enemy that literally boasts of the desire to see us suffer and die.
While dissent is rationalized as an inherent right of citizen and non-citizen alike, the sacrifice required to keep our society afloat is not often mentioned.
Innocent Americans are incinerated on their way to work, and we are told about suffering in Palestine. Postal workers are poisoned and we are told more people die from the flu. Our military risk their lives behind enemy lines in response to the deaths of thousands of American civilians, yet we are told to worry about a dozen innocent Afghans.
We have been prompted by some to believe that pride in one's country is "intolerance;" that belief in the government is "jingoism;" that selfish concern with oneself over all else is "dissent;" while accepting the propaganda of the enemy is "understanding."
This endless search for shades of gray, or open contempt for the structures of American society is not really the enlightened intellectualism that Ann Curry, or the ACLU, or other dissenters might lead you to believe it is.
In fact, it is simple head-in-the-sand cowardice. Not simply cowardice in the face of war, but a more all-encompassing cowardice that stems from avoiding sacrifice at all costs.
The elites in our society who openly condemn difficult decisions and sacrifice usually do so because they prefer a comfortable life where no real sacrifice is required of them. This is the life that our society has allowed them for a very long time.
The Ann Curry's of the world do not have to worry about a recession taking their job, or their ability to get antibiotics, or a Taliban soldier eviscerating them with a bayonet. Thus, they can afford to concentrate on things like tolerance, and understanding the enemy, and the rights of non-citizens.
Being a "citizen of the world" is attractive because it requires nothing. No loyalty. No sacrifice. No commitment. When the going gets tough, the citizen of the world gets going - to some other corner of the world where smug neutrality is a luxury that can be afforded.
Unfortunately, our country is no longer such a place, no matter how long, or how desperately, many of our elites cling to the ideal.
Americans are dying because America is at war. This is not my "version" of the truth - it is the truth. I know because I have seen it. I have seen the impact when a jumbo-jet strikes an office building and pieces of human bodies fall like rain. I have watched as men and women leapt to their death from burning towers 100 stories in the air.
I have witnessed the incineration of thousands of American citizens attempting to save themselves, or others. I don't need my experience interpreted by media elites, or angry foreigners, or privileged college students or their professors.
As I write this article I look out my living room window at "ground zero" of the WTC attack, and I wonder what the families of those American men and women lost here, and in Washington, DC, and in Pennsylvania, and in New Jersey, and in Florida, and in Afghanistan must think? Do you think they would feel requiring a Pledge of Allegiance is too much to ask?
I miss my grandfather terribly, but in some ways I am glad he is not here to see this. He did not balk or complain when he was asked to sacrifice for his country. He considered it an honor.
Ann Curry calls disdain for the Pledge of Allegiance "tolerance." When I consider the kind of sacrifice my grandfather made for his country, and the kind of sacrifices he witnessed, I can only imagine he would call contempt for the Pledge of Allegiance by another name:
Sterling Rome is assistant to former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite. Copyright 2001, Sterling Rome.
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