“Your graphic of the Flag of this great Nation is unacceptable,” began @ronwilliamswv’s tweet blasting me. “UnAmerican. To be cute, it is depicted as flying upside down? Awful.”
“It’s not meant to be ‘cute’ or ‘unAmerican,’” I tweeted back defensively. “It is meant to show how some view America — as a bad nation unworthy of respect.”
I get where Ron is coming from. As recently as 9/11, his brand of patriotism was fashionable from Hollywood and government to professional sports and major media.
But not now.
Now patriotism is as out of step with the times as shag carpet and wood paneling. Worse, it is deemed hateful, arrogant, racist, xenophobic and oh so many other unsavory things.
America is on trial. Will the next statue to fall, metaphorically if not literally, be that of Lady Liberty herself? A lynch mob gathers at her feet to punish her for her sins, past and present, real and imagined. This mob is not, as one might suppose, led by the likes of Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong Un. Nor is it led by ISIS and the Ayatollah. Rather, this mob consists of home-grown groups with names like Black Lives Matter, Antifa, or those who fall under the broad banner of “Alt-Right.”
Fringe elements all, these groups see themselves as social justice personified, but are, in fact, the embodiment of anarchy, violence, and the politics of hateful reaction. They are competing visions for America that are literally fighting it out in our streets. But what, precisely, is the end game here? What kind of country would these people give us?
White supremacists, shouting “sieg heil” in Charlottesville, want a Mein Kampf America. They are what my son — a Yale Law School grad of recent vintage and, therefore, one who is very familiar with radicalism — calls “the non-Religious Right, who are really just another manifestation of the Left.” Wherever one puts them on the political spectrum, they are dangerous.
Meanwhile, the Left in its current manifestation deems the idea of “American Exceptionalism” as not only dead, but offensive. If their tactics are any indicator, they want to burn this country to the ground Ferguson-style. Like all revolutionaries, they are intoxicated by their own power and the belief that they can erase the societal chalkboard and recreate America ex nihilo. This was precisely the sort of radicalism that Edmund Burke rightly warned would lead to the Reign of Terror.
So there are the options: one faction that wants to burn the American flag, another that wants to hang a swastika next to it.
But what about people like my Twitter acquaintance Ron? What about your average, law-abiding Americans who love their country and the principles that have served to make her — once, if not now — great?
America teeters on a precipice. Watching events unfold daily, my thoughts are full of all that we stand to lose if we allow hate groups to hijack this country in the manner of the French or Russian Revolutions.
A little perspective might be in order here.
My work requires a lot of international travel. I have been on six continents and no fewer than thirty countries. In fact, just last week I returned from a three-month stint in Europe. Over the years, it has been my privilege to see and experience a lot. I have enjoyed five-star hotels in Europe’s most beautiful cities and five-star hospitality in the Third World. I have ridden camels with Bedouins in the Middle East and rubbed elbows with hardline communists in the old East Bloc. I have watched football with soldiers on a NATO nuclear base and marveled at the sublime skill of the Bolshoi ballet in Moscow.
In all that time, I have yet to be in a country where at least some of the people I met didn’t ask me for help in obtaining visas to the United States. And this leads to the question:
In what country’s image would these modern-day Jacobins and Brown Shirts re-create America?
It seems we have forgotten — for those who ever knew it in the first place — what the rest of the world is like. I mean, if we remembered it, surely, we wouldn’t abuse the freedoms we enjoy quite so badly. Surely, we would recognize how fragile freedom really is.
So, to provide that missing perspective, I thought it might be interesting to do what French political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville did in 1831 — but in reverse. That is, rather than traveling across America to search out the source of her strength as Tocqueville did, go, instead, around the world to see how America really stacks-up
against those countries that would serve as a model for the America some wish to create.
To that end, my youngest son, Zachary, and I will, in the manner of the classic Jules Verne novel, go around the world in 80 days. Yes, literally. We will hit six continents and 23 countries. Along the way, we will explore the question of national greatness:
Is it merely an accident of history and exploitation of the weak as the Left would have it or are some cultures inherently superior to others by virtue of their religion and political philosophy? Do reasonable people around the world really hate America or are they unsettled by our current identity crisis? Is Europe’s open borders policy bringing cultural enrichment or the gradual overthrow of Western civilization? Is America exceptional in ways that matter and should she remain so, or should America — the last holdout in the West against globalism, militant secularism, and the climate change panic — tap out and become a socialist democracy like those of Europe?
An expedition like this promises to reveal a great many things, not the least of which is all that we risk losing — and what we risk becoming — if we join a Western world hell-bent on suicide.
America is on trial. What should the verdict be? Follow the expedition here and find out.