Why We Fight, the film series directed by Frank Capra back during a time when Hollywood still believed in American exceptionalism, is a fascinating watch. The reason for this is simple – during World War II we knew who we were, we knew who our enemies were and weren’t afraid to identify them.
These days we, as Americans, have become unsure of ourselves. Besides for the fact that we’re unwilling to identify our enemies, we are no longer sure of who we are as Americans. There has been a move away from the basic American concept that no matter your upbringing, religious or political leanings, race, or sex — that you can achieve success. Even more disturbing is the concept that someone else owes you something – not for working, not for services rendered, but instead simply because they have something that you don’t.
What made the Greatest Generation great wasn’t only that they marched off to war to save the world from the Axis Powers, but that they didn’t expect anything handed to them. They earned everything that came their way. These days, to watch the “occupiers” on television, complaining that their college degrees aren’t earning them top dollar, one would imagine that those of the Greatest Generation would tell them to ‘get real’. The men and women of that generation sacrificed for all of us – many of them without a higher education – for us to be able to take our freedoms for granted.
This Pearl Harbor Day let us take a moment to thank those of the Greatest Generation for not only extinguishing a great evil but for also showing us the selflessness they demonstrated when they worked long and hard hours in jobs they may not have found “satisfying” in order for their children to live a better life. Rather than complain about what we are supposedly ‘owed’, let us rediscover what has historically made us great. Alexis de Toqueville, writing in 1831, coined the phrase “American exceptionalism”, defining it as the ideals of liberty, equality, individualism, the common person free from a ruling class, and private business free from over-regulation.
These ideals, dating back to early America, are the keystones to our greatness. We must shake off the nonsense that we are no longer the America that our grandparents fought for abroad and at home by re-educating ourselves in our history and orienting our compasses accordingly.
It’s time to build on the strong foundation that the Greatest Generation left us. It’s time to rediscover American greatness.