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First they came for the communists, but I was not a communist, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the socialists and the trade unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
– Pastor Martin Niemoeller.

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Watering Down Our Heritage - Monday, February 28, 2011 at 00:03


Watering Down Our Heritage

David C. Stolinsky, MD
Feb. 28, 2011

Back in the Jurassic Era when I was young, we learned “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in school, and I often heard it on the radio on national holidays. We learned two verses, the first and the fifth. The words of the fifth verse made a deep impression on me:

As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.

It implanted in my youthful mind the idea that fighting for freedom sometimes requires actually fighting for freedom, which includes the possibility of dying for freedom. But now, I rarely hear this inspiring hymn on national holidays. And on the rare occasions I do hear it, the words are a bit different:

As he died to make men holy, let us live to make men free. (Emphasis added.)

If this were an isolated incident, the alteration of one word would be trivial. But this is hardly an isolated incident. The de-Americanization of America has been going on since the 1960s − in schools, in universities, in films.

Many high-school and university students are assigned “A People’s History of the United States,” written from the leftist perspective that America has done more bad than good in the world. Europe still subjugated to Nazi brutality? Asia still under the boot of Japanese militarists? To the author, that would be better than a powerful America. True, students could read “A Patriot’s History of the United States,” but they will do so on their own time − leftist teachers or professors would never assign it. And if students attempt to voice conservative opinions, they risk being ridiculed and marked down.

Then we have the many high schools and universities that have kicked out ROTC and military recruiters. The excuse is “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but anti-military bias preceded that rule − and still persists now that the rule has been revoked. Even worse, veterans, even wounded veterans, are insulted by campus leftists. And don’t forget that San Francisco refused the free gift of the battleship USS Iowa as a museum. The ship had carried President Roosevelt and helped to defeat Nazi and Japanese tyranny, but it was “too warlike.” Too warlike, or too American?

There are many ways to describe the decline of a great nation. For example, one could mention that around 1970, the number of lawyers in America exceeded the number of physicians, and the lines have been diverging ever since. When people can no longer be trusted to stick to business agreements − or to marriages − we suspect we are in trouble. And when people are more interested in suing one another than in staying healthy, we know we are.

Don’t forget the “living Constitution,” beloved by leftist law professors and judges. The Constitution doesn’t mean what its authors intended, or what the text plainly states. No, it must be interpreted according to evolving “norms” and even foreign law. This is nothing but a license for judges to do as they please. The “living Constitution” could be called the “Schiavo Constitution.” Like Terri, it is being slowly starved to death by those who claim to have its best interests at heart.

And then we have the moronic and meaningless Presidents Day, instead of Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays. Instead of days to remember our leaders of the past and to consider what made them great, we have a three-day weekend. I believe the day Congress established Presidents Day was a sad day for America.

I don’t know the exact date on which that one word was altered in the “Battle Hymn,” but I believe that on that day, the future of freedom became more uncertain, and the path of our civilization took a downward turn.

But, you object, what am I, a worshipper of death? Far from it. I spent my professional career trying my best to keep people alive. And I agree with General Patton that the duty of a soldier is not to die for his country, but to make the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

On the contrary, if our enemies suspect that we no longer value freedom highly, more people will die. The four Americans murdered by Somali pirates on the high seas are a sign of things to come. If raggedy pirates in small boats have no fear of American retaliation, how will more powerful enemies act? Regarding the pirates, a Pentagon spokesman stated, They'll be detained until the Justice Department makes a determination about possible prosecution.” Wrong.

The correct response would be to sink the boats and the mother ship with the pirates on it − and if piracy continues, to bomb their bases into rubble. Projecting an image of weakness is a sure way to increase violence. Wanting the world to love us is a sure way to make the world disrespect us − which is in fact happening.

If we hope to hold onto our freedom − or onto anything else that we value highly − we must be willing to fight for it, and, if necessary, to die for it. Does this make me a bloodthirsty warmonger? Hardly. Consider the words of Dr. King:

If a man hasn't discovered something he will die for, he isn't fit to live.

I might not go quite that far, but I agree with the sentiment. Oddly, as I was writing these words, the image of overcooked spaghetti came to mind. Its gooey, mushy consistency makes it unappetizing, even disgusting. Instead of a nourishing, energizing meal that can sustain us, we have a bland, tasteless mess that deserves to be thrown in the garbage. A de-Americanized America will be like that.

Must leftist pacifism seep into every aspect of life, including the education of children − and even a hymn dating back to the Civil War? “Arms are for hugging” and “War is not the answer” make brainless bumper stickers, but they make really abysmal guidelines for educating the children on whom our future depends, for rewriting the lyrics of an uplifting hymn − or for living in a free country.

As Wayne LaPierre reminds us:

Freedom is never an achieved state. Like electricity, we’ve got to keep generating it, or the lights go out.

We confronted the evil of slavery. Then we confronted the evils of Nazism and communism. We did so with our spirits buoyed by a magnificent hymn. Now we confront the evil of extremist Islam. By our actions, we will determine whether our descendants will live under the Constitution or under Sharia.

I believe that there is no third alternative. I believe that leftism is not an alternative. If the downfall of Europe proves anything, it is that secular leftism is unstable and cannot maintain itself, much less withstand an onslaught by fanatics. The more leftists push us to resemble Europe, the more I ask: Why emulate a failing system? Why weaken us when we are under attack?

I am no hero. The wall of my den holds diplomas and honorable discharge certificates, but no display of medals. Still, at least I know enough to object when the inspiring words of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” are subtly altered. Our enemies are willing, even eager, to die for their cause. We must be willing to die for ours. And we must stop removing sources of inspiration, whether they are majestic lyrics of a hymn, or knowledge of our history and our Constitution.

Watering down our heritage is to the spirit what watering down soup is to the body. Eventually there will not be enough left to sustain us. If you doubt this, look at Europe. Post-Christian, post-national “citizens of the world” may sound attractive in classroom discussions, but they are unable to maintain themselves, much less to withstand an assault by fanatic, chauvinistic believers.

And then the lights will really go out.

Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: