Guest Column: Defending America

“Americans are the friendliest people you will encounter, but they have few friends,” writes Dinesh D’Souza in his best-selling book What’s So Great About America. There’s a lot of truth in that. The growth of anti-American-ism, and in particular anti-Bushism, in Europe is frightening and, for me, incomprehensible. For the past six months I have lived in Washington, D.C. It has been a profoundly revealing time for me. Before I came here from my native England, I was apathetic about America—I didn’t hate Americans, but I wasn’t overly enthusiastic either. Now, however, having tasted what this great nation has to offer, I return to Europe with a reluctance I had not expected. In fact I dread returning to the woolly-minded, dictator-coddling, morally bankrupt, decadent continent. And I return determined to defend the nation that is, rightly, our best friend.

America has had an impact on me personally, politically, and spiritually. On the most personal level, I have encountered more generosity, helpfulness, kindness, hospitality, warmth, and sincere friendship in America than I have ever seen in Europe, including Great Britain. I give just one example, but it is one of many. In my first week here, I had a meeting at the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom. I met with a senior official whom I had never met before. He inquired about how I was settling in and whether he could help in any way, personally or professionally. He had such a kind manner that I boldly asked him for advice on finding furniture. The next thing I knew, he drove me to a furniture store, waited for me to do my shopping, and then drove me back across town to my new apartment to unload the goods. He gave up a whole evening after work to do this. I tried to imagine his equivalent in the Foreign Office or the European Commission doing this for a total stranger. I couldn’t see it happening.

On a political level, America has struck me as a nation founded on a simple but profound belief in human life, liberty, and dignity. The Declaration of Independence clearly states that the source of all our rights is “our Creator.” It has not always lived up to this in practice but—at least in its rhetoric—it’s willing consistently to champion the cause of freedom. The liberation of Iraq and the capture of Saddam Hussein are testimony to this. So, too, is the U.S. Congress’s almost unanimous vote to impose some of the toughest economic sanctions possible on the dictators of Burma, who are brutally oppressing their people. Meanwhile, the European Union sits by, refusing to impose sanctions on Burma, hamstrung by the threatened vetoes of Germany and Italy, paralyzed by bureaucracy, apathy, and narrow short-term commercial interests.

The number of openly Christian politicians in the United States is encouraging. Of course, there are some who flaunt their faith for political gain. But many are sincere. And the number of conservative Christian politicians who pursue international justice issues—consistently and persistently—is inspiring. Men like Senators Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum, along with Congressmen Frank Wolf, Chris Smith, and Joseph Pitts, to name a few, have dedicated their political careers to the defense of liberty. We need more people like them in our own party and parliament.

On a spiritual level, there’s an openness to and respect for Christianity that is completely contrary to the atmosphere in Britain and the rest of Europe. On the street where I lived there’s a church on almost every third or fourth block. People shamelessly read their Bibles on the buses and preach in the open air. Outside Union Station, a man daily sings hymns through a microphone. Above the speaker’s chair in the House of Representatives hang the words, “In God we trust.” And the president can still end his messages to the nation with “God bless America.” In Britain, on the other hand, it is not “done” to talk about religion in public—Alistair Campbell famously told a journalist who wanted to talk to Tony Blair about his faith, “We don’t do God.”

Of course, America is no utopia. There are many things wrong with the place. It is a land of extremes. Many, though by no means all, seem to fall into clear-cut categories: the super-fit and the obese; the highly intelligent and the profoundly ignorant; the extremely generous and the extremely selfish; the puritanical and the immoral; the ultraconservative and the extremely liberal. It is a land of Pat Robertson and Gene Robinson, the gay-basher and the gay bishop. It is a land where championing liberty sits alongside stripping terrorist suspects of their legal rights in Guantanamo Bay. It is a land of obscenely materialistic mega-churches built with megabucks, led by ego-driven televangelists, and a land of poor black churches alive with the joy of the Lord. It is all these things—but not only these things.

For all its faults, America is not just a great nation but a good nation. While there are aspects of American society that are immoral, at its heart it has good foundations. And while some Americans may have strayed from those foundations—the defense of freedom and the love of God—many have not. Europe, however, has willfully eroded its own foundations, as shown in the Godless European Constitution now being debated. There is a growing divide between America and Europe, as Europe sinks into arrogant decadence, secularism, apathy, and appeasement.

Britain is not immune from the European moral decline, but it has not yet gone all the way. Tony Blair’s allegiance to America, and the leadership he demonstrated during the war in Iraq, show that he at least has not forgotten our values. He is right to try as much as possible to bridge the Euro-American gap and to work with our European partners. But if it comes to the crunch, we should know who our true friends are. It is reassuring to know that the balance of military might in the world is in the hands of a nation that, by and large, will use that might to free people, not to oppress them. Why do the protestors devote so much energy to demonstrating against Bush and not against the dictators of the world? Next time the demonstrators are out on the streets in London shouting anti-American slogans, I plan to go out and stand opposite them holding a placard with a contrary message: that America is a good nation we should be glad to call our best friend.

Benedict Rogers

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Benedict Rogers is a journalist and human-rights activist working with Christian Solidarity Worldwide (www.csw.org.uk). He has co-authored a book with Joseph D'Souza: "On the Side of Angels: Without Justice, There Can Be No Mission."

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