Reflections on American Values on Memorial Day

by Jason Stotts

Recently I was thinking about what separated a city like New York from a city like Abu Dabai.  It’s not money, as both cities have lots of money.  It’s not buildings, as both cities have buildings.  It’s not technology, as both cities have technology.  The major difference between the two cities is their values: New York values freedom, while Abu Dhabi values religion; New York is an exemplar of American Values, while Abu Dhabi exhibits Islamic values.  This, to me, makes New York better in every respect, even if it is ever surpassed in size, in number of buildings, or concentrated wealth: these things are not intrinsically valuable and without the underlying American Values, like freedom, they would not be worthwhile.

Freedom and Independence are core American Values.  The problem is that today we are giving them away.  We are letting freedom and independence slip through our fingers, we are forgetting what makes America great and focusing instead on the effects.  We, all of us, are guilty for not fighting for our values as they are eroded from beneath us.

On Memorial Day, we honor soldiers who fought to protect American Values.  This year, I am celebrating my grandparents, who both died since the last Memorial Day.  My grandfather was a World War II fighter-pilot and lived to tell about it.  He was in the Pacific theater when the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan.  He fought and risked his life to protect freedom and American Values from the threat of Statism.  My grandmother worked for the Pentagon during the 50’s, at a time when the world was trying to get back to normal, but new conflicts over ideology were erupting.  Both of my grandparents were passionate Americans and acted to preserve American Values at a time at which they were most under attack.  So, I want to honor my recently deceased grandparents on this Memorial Day and their commitment to Freedom and American Values.

Unfortunately, American Values are under attack again.  This time, however, the threat is much more serious than they faced in either World War.  You see, ideas cannot be killed with bullets.  They cannot be blown up, or burned, or ripped apart.  No matter how many of its adherents you kill, ideas can live on.  American values are under attack now from ideological opponents.  For too long, American Values have been undercut by Altruism, or the philosophy that any individuals life is worth nothing and he can only be good by sacrificing his life for another.  Of course, the most ardent supporter of this in our country is christianity: a religion and set of beliefs, no matter what they profess, that is absolutely anathema to American Values.  Without Freedom, you cannot have Independence.  Without Independence, you cannot have Freedom.  Altruism asks you to give up your Independence and sacrifice yourself to others; to give up your freedom in order to be a slave to those who need you; to forsake American Values for Altruism.  Consider that if Altruism remakes the state in its image, as a weakling whose existence can only be justified by sacrificing itself for others, then Americanism will die.  A person who grovels before the state begging for a hand out has only dependence on the state.  A state made of citizens who can only grovel on their knees will not have freedom or independence: they will have given up their values in order to secure for themselves the short term; they will have given up everything merely for today.

The problem is that American Values are selfish.  American Values are anathema to Altruism, including christianity, and the two cannot coexist.  Thus, for the history of America, we have seen the struggle between selfish American Values and Altruism.  When someone points to what “the founders” said, you really need to specify which ones: some of them were more selfish and rational, while others of them were more altruistic and irrational.  This conflict between American Values and christianity has been going on since the birth of our country.  Fortunately, altruism is a self-destroying and parasitic ideology: it needs the strength of rational people pursuing rational values to survive.  If we want to preserve American Values, then we need to start by shedding christian guilt about this.  We need to be proud of our rationality, our Americanism, and our desire to live.  We must not be ashamed by the fact that Americanism is selfish: our choice is to pursue our rational self-interest or give up our lives for the worst among us.  It is right and moral to pursue our self-interest and try to live the best life we can, to do otherwise is to give up our humanity.

We need to celebrate Americanism and be proud of our values and our lives.  However, before we can celebrate Americanism, we need identify its core values and why they are important.  It’s not hard to find many of the core American Values: “…certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Obviously, we can add to this list Independence (if you’re not sure why, Google what document this phrase comes from).  So, as core American Values, we have: Life, Liberty, Happiness, and Independence.

Life: because each person must have the right to their own life in order to live and life is the foundation of all values.

Liberty: because the right to life is meaningless if we do not have freedom to act to pursue our values.

Happiness: because Happiness, as a rich concept of human flourishing and of a good life, is our ultimate goal.

Independence: because the man without independence must rely on another to live and becomes a parasite and less than human.

It is important to understand that these rights are freedoms to action, not guarantees of success and they do not entail that any other person be made to give up some of their rights to secure the rights of another.  Even if we look no deeper than these rights, we can see that Americanism is the complete opposite of christianity and Altruism.  Americanism says that your life is yours, while Altruism says that your life belongs to those in need.  Americanism says that men should be free to pursue their self-interests, Altruism says that Liberty is unimportant and that men should only be “free” to live for others.  Americanism says that Happiness is the end of ethics and that a good life is worth pursuing, Altruism says that happiness is unimportant and that only sacrifice will make you happy, not in this life that is real, but in the life they wish would exist after they die.  Americanism says that Independence is important so that a man can stand on his own two feet and be proud of what he does, Altruism wants everyone to be parasitic on everyone else so that no one can be proud or happy.

Americanism and Altruism are exact opposites and if we want to secure American Values, we need to fight against Altruism, as ideological enemies are the most dangerous kind.  Today, our enemies are not merely foreign, but the most serious enemies are domestic.  We have a government that seeks only to grow its own influence at the expense of American Values, that is attempting to shackle the best in our country to the worst, to replace rights with entitlements.  The man who is forced to work to support a parasitic other is not free.  The welfare state is Altruistic ideal, but it is poison to American Values and it is killing them.  Our country is slowly dying for lack of intellectual leaders willing to proudly support American Values and it is high time we stood up and said: enough already!

On this Memorial Day, let us remember what America stands for, lest in the future we shall have to remember only the idea that was once America.

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