Tag Archives: patriotism

It’s Not Just Cloth. It’s an Ideal.

Topaz20190920_0026The flag pictured here flies over the site of Topaz, the detention camp where thousands of Japanese-Americans were held during World War II for no reason except their ethnicity. The fact that this camp existed is a reminder that our republic is not perfect. Topaz is one of the shameful mistakes in United States history.

Topaz name on fence

Artistry in rusty barbed wire gives a name to the barren site behind the fence.

And yet it is also a reminder that we can and should strive to do better. We cannot erase mistakes, even though we might try. After the war, almost everything was removed at this site except concrete foundations—and yet it is still here, in the memories and in the lives of families who were affected. We can never fully repay victims of injustices in our history for all that they suffered. We must resolve with them that this kind of suffering will not happen again.

Our national experiment in self-government is still young. It was not founded on rule by a familial dynasty, or some oligarchy. It was founded on rule by us—“We, the people”—and so it can still grow as we do. We need to see our country not as a nation that is mature, settled, or fading, but as a country that is still young and vital. We will still have vigorous, sometimes heated, debates about which way to go. In these debates, we must look for the light instead of heat. We are more likely to find that light in the middle of the spectrum rather than in passion or coldness at the extremes.

We need to remember that no single political party holds the key to all wisdom, and that Americans who disagree with us are not the enemy. Our enemies are those who want the American experiment to fail, who tell us we have no right to exist, who try to undermine our freedoms because freedom is a threat to their domination of people in their own countries.

Some years ago, I was strolling up a street in Rome when I saw my flag—the Stars and Stripes—rising above the trees. After a couple of weeks out of the country, I was thrilled to see it. I raised my camera and took a picture. Within seconds, an Italian policeman was at my side asking why I was taking pictures. I explained as best I could. Then, as he let me move on, I saw that the flag was flying over the U. S. embassy. In front of the building, more armed police officers were stationed behind a sandbag barrier, prepared to respond in case of attack. And I remembered that throughout the world, there are people who want to attack what our flag stands for.

It seems commonplace these days to protest injustice in our country by dishonoring its flag. But the flag still represents an ideal for me, one I learned to accept as a child: “. . . one nation, under God, indivisible.” I have watched the changes in world affairs for three-quarters of a century now. I have lived in other countries and had the privilege of traveling on six continents. And still it seems to me that the country represented by that red, white, and blue flag offers the world’s best hope for equality and justice. It’s not perfect. It may never be perfect. But it holds hope for moving in that direction.

So instead of taking a knee, how about extending a hand? I’ll give you mine. Maybe we can work together to solve some of the problems you see. Our work might be hard. We might have to learn a lot more about each other. We each might have to accept that some of our own views need to be altered.

27 Plaza4 25Au06But I’m not giving up on that “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.” If we truly commit to being one nation and try to treat each other as a Heavenly Father would want His children to treat each other, we can do it.

Not seeing that ideal yet? Hang in there. Our experiment is still young.



“One Nation under God”

COB1 2My08The two words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance when I was a boy in elementary school. My very patriotic mother made sure I had an opportunity to know that pledge before I started school, and I can still remember learning to recite the pledge with those new words in the third or fourth grade.

No one objected at the time. Everyone seemed to agree that the addition was a good idea.

It’s hard to imagine that such a change would be accepted now. I am surprised that in this era of secularism in government, the Pledge of Allegiance has not faced serious legal challenges.

It seems to me that we commonly say it incorrectly: “. . . one nation . . . under God . . . indivisible . . . .” When we separate nation and under God and indivisible, we are missing the point of those added words. If we are not a nation under God, then we will not be a nation indivisible. Only by following the moral guidance of a loving Heavenly Father can we be secure as a country and people.

We mortals each tend to look out for our own good. But this nation rises to greatness when we as individuals band together to work toward a common cause. The strength of the United States has come from individual willingness to bind ourselves to principles of morality and integrity. Greatness has come from a recognition that we are all children of the same Eternal Father, no matter what faith we espouse or what meetinghouse we attend.

We may not agree in all our thoughts, but if we want to remain free, we must be one in protecting the right to worship according to our own conscience. Each of us may enjoy this God-given right so long as we do not infringe on another’s right to pursue life in liberty. I believe that the United States was set up by divine providence to be a land where this freedom would exist.

In the Old Testament (Ezekiel 34:23), God said He would set one shepherd over His people. In the New Testament (John 10:16), Jesus Christ taught that there should be “one fold, and one shepherd.” In a modern volume of scripture, He taught: “. . . be one; and if ye are not one, ye are not mine” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:27).

Nvoo My17_02935We become better as a nation by becoming better individuals. If we divide ourselves from God and His teachings by ignoring Him, we will not be strong enough to stand alone.

Religions in general seem to agree that we ought to treat each other as children of the God who created us. What I know of Islam suggests that in its true form it protects the rights of all believers in God our Father. I cannot believe in a god who would teach his children to hate and slaughter each other to honor him. That is the kind of teaching we would expect from the enemy of God. Anyone who tries to deprive others of liberty or life in the name of Allah or Jesus Christ or Jehovah is hijacking religion to serve his own prejudices and sadistic, criminal lust for power. Mixing hate and slaughter with religion is taking the name of God in vain.

Three times now I have left this post for further review as I tried to refine and focus its central message, which is this: If we want to maintain our freedom, we must honor and obey the God who gave us law to govern us. I pray that our sacred right to worship Him according to conscience may continue to be respected. I fear it could be eroded away because of those who are unable to acknowledge a power higher than themselves.

If that right to worship is ever lost, may God have mercy on those of us in this country who believe. We will have no effective defense, moral or physical, but to pray for safety and hope for the best.




Echoes of the McCarthy Era

As I write this, I’m listening to one of my favorite folk albums, by a group called The Weavers. I’ve loved their music since I discovered this CD in a music store a few years ago. Only after I bought it did I realize they were the group that recorded one of my favorite songs when I was a little boy. I used to sing along at the top of my voice to their rendition of “On Top of Old Smokey” on an old 78 record.

After I found this CD, I wondered whatever had happened to The Weavers. I, for one, enjoyed the American folk music boom of the late 1950s and1960s. I had several favorite groups, but I couldn’t remember The Weavers being part of that scene. I wondered why.

It turned out, as I read a little about them, that they apparently were victims of McCarthyism or of unchecked root-out-the-Reds fervor in the heyday of the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Somehow they were tainted, and that effectively ended their musical careers.

List them among the victims of extremism in thought.

A memorial display honors veterans who gave their lives.

A memorial display honors veterans who gave their lives.

Do not misunderstand what I say here. I consider myself a patriot. I have loved the United States of America from my earliest childhood. I still cry when I sing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” or “America the Beautiful.” In an era when my country is attacked and demonized throughout much of the world, I am deeply grateful when I hold the passport that specifies where I had the privilege of being born.

As a teen and young adult, I was deeply concerned about the influence of communism in the world. I won a high-school oratory competition with an anti-communist speech. I truly believe there were evil and sinister people among the communist/socialist leaders of the world who needed to be stopped or held in check.

But much foolishness was propagated and evil done in the name of fighting communism. This includes the destruction of lives and careers of people who were tainted because of the great Red Scare.

I am worried because I see the same thing happening today as the pendulum of popular thought has swung in the opposite direction from what was acceptable in society in my youth. I see political correctness as the McCarthyism of our times.

As much as I admired the late Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona for his principles, I never could completely buy into his assertion that “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.” Sorry, senator, but extremism is almost always the wrong response to a problem in society. It leads to an “us versus them” mentality, a willingness to categorize others in the harshest of judgments, and a willingness to punish those who do not agree with philosophies currently acceptable to the majority. That was the case during the McCarthy era, when a person could be ruined by expressing thoughts that someone else might conceivably describe as socialist or sympathetic to communism. And it is the case now, when someone can be attacked or ruined for expressing thoughts that do not seem sympathetic to “reproductive rights” or favorable toward gay marriage. Even corporations and institutions must not seem lukewarm toward these causes; they must express support or be publicly punished and ridiculed. Never mind the sincerely held beliefs of those who may disagree. There are those who would willingly punish or ostracize anyone who believes that the unborn child has rights, or that marriage is an institution established by God that men and women have no right to redefine.

Self-righteous “patriots” used labeling during the McCarthy era to categorize people who disagreed with them—“communist fellow traveler,” “pinko,” “socialist symp.” (This may seem funny if you watch an old episode of M*A*S*H in which Frank Burns is made to look like an idiot, but believe me, there was nothing humorous about it in the 1950s.) The same kind of labeling is used today to pigeonhole and sometimes demonize people who do not agree with some things that have become acceptable in society. These people may be called “anti-feminists,” “homophobes,” “haters.” This makes it so easy and convenient to dismiss them as people and to judge their beliefs as unworthy of consideration.

I do not feel that I am an enemy to women because I believe that a child conceived without coercion is not simply a “fetus,” or mere tissue, but a person with a right to live. If the woman who conceived the child does not want it or cannot keep it, there are other solutions besides abortion. I believe that marriage is a divine institution established by God so that one of His daughters and one of His sons can join together to progress in this life and to bring more of His daughters and sons to live on earth if they can. Believing this does not make me hate anyone who sees things differently.

But well-known people I admire—notably, actors and other public figures—take positions on these sensitive issues that not only express disagreement, but seem to ridicule and advocate ostracism or punishment for those who do not accept conventional wisdom. Many of these people who use the public forum to attack or criticize the beliefs of others are too young to remember what McCarthyism did to Hollywood and to politics in its heyday. I wish they could.

I fear that some of them would be quite willing to build intellectual and philosophical ghettos for those who disagree with them.

I fear for liberty when people can be punished, even in subtle social ways, for simply holding beliefs that do not conform to those of the majority. Extremism in defense of “liberty” is always a vice if it leads to suppression of thought or to punishment of those who do not accept the philosophy of the majority.