Have Faith, Will Travel
One of the more difficult tasks for those who believe in this nation's fundamental health is to overcome depressing encounters with fellow Americans who have given up. "It's all over," they say. "The America you love is gone," they say. "Look around you; there is no way back," they say.
This past Sunday, February 11, the lead editorial of The New York Times, "Between Two Eras," demonstrated to friend and foe that the highest level of journalism is still available from that source, both in style and in substance.
Between President Bush's performance and the latest Clinton scandals, the editors have allotted most of the space to the latter, but not before acknowledging the merits of the former. To be sure, the editors list their many areas of disagreement with the new President. But they do so in a manner in which American journalists used to be known and respected, and which justifies the extent of our press freedom, unprecedented and unparalleled anywhere else.
In reviewing the current state of Clintonhood, The New York Times quotes Indiana Republican Dan Burton, clearly in agreement with his sentiments. On a normal day, the likelihood of such an occurrence is no greater than, say, Mr. or Mrs. Clinton saying something truthful.
But these are not normal days.
We may be witnessing the end of an era during which Democrats, with practically no exception, had adopted the view that owning the White House was more important than... well, actually more important than absolutely anything any of us cares to mention. How else does one explain that a Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan voted not to convict Mr. Clinton? How else does one explain that a Senator Joseph Lieberman trampled upon so much he had held sacred, including aspects of his faith?
And how many New Yorkers voted to send Mrs. Clinton to the United States Senate merely to provide her with a platform for the presidential elections of 2004?
Yet we are looking at Democrats on the House Committee for Government Reform and Oversight sounding no different from their colleagues on the majority side, speaking in fact as American lawmakers are expected to speak. Even the Congressman from Baltimore's inner city, who made a half-hearted attempt to suggest that "former President Clinton was not well served by his advisory staff" as he considered the pardon for Marc Rich, hit his stride with genuine outrage at the sums of money changing hands.
Conservative Republicans tend to see themselves as main carriers of responsibility for preserving America's fundamental principles and laws. Such sentiments must go hand-in-hand with an unshakable faith in those principles and laws.
We must also preserve our unshakable faith in the extraordinary human species we call "American." We come in every manner and shape. Some may shun the drunken bully who staggers out of a tavern. Some may find little in common with the youth wearing ghetto uniform, rocking to rap songs from his boom box instead of listening to a teacher. Others may detest the academic who preaches the philosophy of America's enemies from the safety of his university bastion. But they, like the rest of us, represent this wondrous breed that consistently answers the call of history.
The only long-term peril this nation faces is to be abandoned by its own people. Democrats are beginning to show an awareness of having done just that. But Republicans who lose faith are guilty of the same at the end of the day.
After what seemed like an eternity, we now have a president who believes in being American. He said so in no uncertain terms on Inauguration Day, and every indication is he means what he says. It is up to us to support his efforts, whether or not we agree with every move he makes, or with every appointment he announces.
It is up to us to counter every attempt at dividing us, every classification by which we are made to be something other than simply American. It is up to us to work with everyone who genuinely believes in our shared identity.
Above all, it is up to us never to lose faith in the miracle that happened here between the years 1776 and 1791; the purpose for which so many have given their lives; the opportunity that is truly unlimited - not just as a popular saying, but in reality.
Many believe that, in December of last year, America was "saved by the bell." The truth is, there have always been Americans who simply did what was necessary when the task was upon us.
The task facing the new man in the White House is considerable. And Mr. Bush seems poised to do what's necessary.
So, here it is to those who say, "there's no way back." There is, for sure, a way forward.