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Ever have your credit card denied? A check bounce? A computer tell you your credit is no good? Ever find a lot of charges on your card or phone charges on your bill you don’t recognize? I have, and I’ll bet you have, too.

Twice I’ve been separated from my billfold, along with every card, my driver’s license, even my Social Security card, everything that can identify me – except my face and my white buck shoes – and it’s a terrible sinking feeling.

Remember the Bob Dole commercial in which the elderly lady behind the cash register is demanding to see his ID, and though he’s a well-known presidential candidate, he has to produce it? Then it turns out she’s his mom. It’s really not much of a stretch; in today’s world, your ID is who you are, and you’ve got to prove it.

But what happens when your identity, the evidence of who you are, is stolen? Altered? Corrupted? Perhaps ruined beyond compare?

My old pal Tony Curtis told me a true story about the party he threw in Manhattan, in his swank apartment, soon after he hit it big in movies. He’d been raised Bernie Schwartz in Brooklyn, but he was now becoming famous as Tony Curtis, and he wanted to celebrate with all his old friends and his mom, who was to come in from the old neighborhood. The party was a big success, but his mom didn’t show up. A couple of times Tony called her home number, but no one answered, and he became worried. Later, as he saw his last guest off in the lobby, he spied his mother sitting on a sofa. He ran over and asked, “Mom, where were you? I kept phoning. What happened? Why didn’t you come up?” She answered pitifully, “I forgot your new name. …”

Well, friend, you and I are seeing our beloved America get its identity stolen. If our mothers came looking for it, it’s nearing the point where they wouldn’t be able to find it.

We who can remember believe there really was a time when the rest of the world saw America as the most blessed country on earth, the champion of liberty, ready to help in time of trouble. We were seen as a society guided by distinct Judeo-Christian principles, a society where families stuck together, communities were safe, the economy was strong, houses of worship were filled, leaders set good examples, and kids were unembarrassed to think about growing up to be president.

The renowned French commentator Alexis de Tocqueville said of our young nation: “America is great because America is good. If she ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” He was right. God help us, he was right.

Though the Declaration of Independence enunciated our relationship with a Creator and acknowledged that the very basis of equality, individual worth and liberty itself was that relationship, today we are allowing the likes of atheist Michael Newdow and certain judges who substitute their own political preferences for the clear intents of the Constitution to undermine the foundation of our way of life. There is real risk of their perpetrating identity theft on our country.

It’s as if they, in cahoots with the ACLU, People for the American [sic] Way and other ultraliberal pressure groups, are snatching our debit card of voluntary prayer in schools and public ceremonies, the bank checks of “under God” (where our accounts really are), and perhaps the ID card of “In God We Trust” off our currency. In challenging even the definition of marriage, they put our identity at risk along with the very molecular building blocks of our society.

Imagine. One angry atheist, Madelyn Murray O’Hare, prevailed with our Supreme Court to snatch away the freedom for school kids to pray at the start of the day, though that simple free exercise of religion was guaranteed in the very first amendment to our Constitution! How did we let this happen?

And why are we allowing a single Christmas or Hanukkah display to be removed from public view? The Ten Commandments to be chiseled off any building? School officials or local dissidents to prevent even the mention of God or a general opening prayer to be uttered before a single football game or graduation ceremony?

Why should we shop in a store where the clerks are forbidden to say “Merry Christmas”? Where’s our backbone? Are we so cowed, our visceral sense of identity already so altered, that we don’t notice, don’t care or are just afraid to speak up?

Shakespeare offered, “He who steals my purse steals trash; but he who steals my good name takes that which little enriches him but makes me poor indeed.” Will we, in the final analysis, settle for being known as Ugly Americans, those wimpy dissolute weaklings who can’t even stay married, who abort their young by the millions and who have the highest crime stats in the world? Will our identity be chiefly as the producers and exporters of the filthiest and most decadent “entertainment” since Caligula to the rest of the watching world? Will we be identified as the citizenry who divorced themselves from the very God they used to call on for protection and guidance, and who gave Muslim extremists excuses galore to call us “the great Satan”?

Will we? Or will we gather ourselves while we still can, awaken from our indifference and start using our collective resources to re-establish our national identity – before it is forever lost?

The Bible thunders, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” Our national identity, our good name, is being stolen. We’d better reclaim it while it can still be found in the data banks.

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