A journalism professor once insisted that if the headline were good enough you wouldn’t have to write the rest of the story. Shall we try it? Here goes!
“The World Has Lost America as a Champion of Freedom.”
Our teachers never tried to sell us on American exceptionalism. It wasn’t necessary. It automatically became apparent as we learned things. Things like, for example, the fact that some countries waged war to conquer and enslave, while America waged war to defend and liberate. Some victorious countries annexed their conquests and printed new maps. Victorious America gave conquered nations their freedom back and then set about rebuilding her enemies as well as her allies. The powerful isolationist movement in America vanished when the first Japanese bomb hit Pearl Harbor. America’s entry into the war as the “arsenal of democracy” became the “swing vote” that turned the barbarians’ victory into their defeat.
And when we won that war we reversed the world’s tradition of rape and plunder and picked the shattered world up, dusted it off and gave it open-heart massage and generous Marshall Plan aid. The world had never seen anything like it. I remember being bored studying the good American deeds nobody had ever seen before. America’s humanitarian deeds seemed literally a gift-from-God to Planet Earth, deterring the aggressors, punishing the undeterred aggressors, feeding the hungry and rebuilding the demolished, all the while chasing fire engines around the world on mercy-missions to countries struck by hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and civil wars.
Here’s a nice trivia question: During the Cold War, America sent troops and planes and equipment into a Communist country we were not at war with. Can you name the country and the reason? Of course nobody can! America doesn’t brag about these things. In 1963 a 6.1 earthquake struck the then-Yugoslav (and now Macedonian) city of Skopje, killing thousands. America tried to contact the Yugoslav authorities to offer aid, but things were in such a state of incoherent chaos we just gave up going through normal diplomatic channels and “invaded” Yugoslavia with everything from field hospitals to the kind of sausages popular in that part of the Balkans.
You can take all that history, jam it into moving vans and stash it in the basement of the Smithsonian Institution. Americans used to care, care to the point of risking and giving their lives. The crises are still here. The Americans are still here. The ways and means of mobilizing American might to make things better for friends, strangers and even enemies around the world are still here. But the will, the spirit that used to animate American muscle and guts for good is gone. Two first-hand observations buttress my case.
In 1956 Communist Hungary got tired of being Communist, and the university students marched on Parliament demanding greater personal and national freedom. The hated AVO, Communist secret police, fired from the rooftops. A bullet struck and killed an infant. The Hungarian Freedom Fight was on.
And for 10 glorious days Hungary was in Hungarian hands. Then the Soviets stormed in with 200,000 troops and 2,000 tanks and overwhelmed the Freedom Fighters. But that gave the Hungarian people time enough to tear down the Iron Curtain and stream into Austria and freedom. Over 200,000 Hungarian refugees swarmed into Vienna.
America took the lead. I returned to North Carolina incandescent and aflame with admiration and inspiration for the Hungarians and their bravery, and I volunteered to help resettle Hungarian refugees in North Carolina. We succeeded in accommodating all of the refugees they sent us. We failed to accommodate all of the Americans who wanted to help. I should emphasize that, unlike Cleveland, Pittsburgh and New Jersey, there were virtually no Hungarians in North Carolina to form a base of support. Never mind. We didn’t need it! The people offered housing, food, clothing, medical care, English lessons – name it and it just came! One Greensboro man gave a Hungarian family with two children a house. A house, ownership title and all! My toughest job was cajoling volunteers who simply weren’t needed any more.
That was then.
You see what’s going on, or rather not going on, with needy refugees today. And I’m not talking about hard-to-vet Muslims. I’m talking about Christian refugees from vengeful Muslims, refugees being absolutely cold-shouldered by even the Christian churches of America. And yet Pope Francis visits a Communist dictatorship 90 miles from Key West that has executed thousands of Cubans whose last words before the firing squad were “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”).
The American media loved repeating that Pope Francis had helped Cuba and America “reconnect.” There’ll be no “bravos” from this corner. This “reconnection” was not like mediating a quarrel between Slovenia and Croatia over fishing rights. This reconnection was between the most important democracy on earth and a Communist thug-ocracy with an execution policy that rivals Hitler’s and Stalin’s. Thanks a lot!
And there’s not a ripple of backtalk from Americans with such a rich history of caring about freedom and justice.
Maybe the headline should be here at the end:
“The World Has Lost America as a Champion of Freedom!”
Media wishing to interview Barry Farber, please contact [email protected].