LOS ANGELES, May 26, 2014 — As America honors our fallen heroes, exaggerated rumors of America’s decline persist. While our government attempts to render America one among many equal nations, that idea faces one major roadblock.
America is populated by Americans, and patriotism among Americans is as strong as ever. Our way of life remains unique and exceptional, and most people inhabiting this country still deeply love it. Patriotism comes in some bizarre forms, yet when the dust settles, love of country is strong here.
The beginning of Memorial Day weekend had me in New Orleans, Louisiana. The word most associated with Bourbon Street is “debauchery,” not patriotism. Friday night in the French quarter was no exception. Alcohol was consumed voraciously. Multi-colored beads were flashed along with occasional body parts in exchange for those beads. Women in tight miniskirts rode the mechanical bull as the “Bourbon Cowboy” country bar disc jockey played Big and Rich’s “Save a horse, ride a cowboy.” One bar employee added to the fun by removing some women from the bull by spraying them with a fog machine.
Then between two and three in the morning, with the party still going strong, the pace changed. The dj grabbed the microphone and announced to everybody that partiers were allowed to have their decadent nights because our soldiers sacrificed. He asked everybody to join him in the pledge of allegiance.
People put down their beers. They stopped their conversations. Ladies thrown off the bull adjusted their skirts to their original lengths. On Bourbon Street, with chaos outside, inside there was unison. People of all races and nationalities saluted the American flag. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Everybody cheered, and then returned to the revelry.
Only four hours later, with no sleep for almost 24 hours, a Delta Airlines flight had me and other revelers traveling from New Orleans to Los Angeles. As the wheels touched down, exhausted individuals wanted nothing more than to exit the plane. Yet a very short delay yielded no complaints.
The flight attendant announced that two passengers were military men in uniform just coming home from serving their mission. People were asked to stay in their seats so the two men could deplane first. One Army man and one Navy man exited as the other passengers offered several loud ovations. These tired people found the energy to cheer others who had endured much more than a night in New Orleans.
This is who we are as a people. After 9/11, Boston Red Sox fans held up signs saying “Boston loves New York” and cheered the Yankees in the World series. After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, it was the Yankees playing the Red Sox anthem, “Sweet Caroline.”
Yet while there are plenty of daily skirmishes in sports, politics, and business, those disagreements are the sign of a healthy nation. When it matters most, Americans come together. They do it not because of government platitudes, but because of the innate character of its people that makes this nation so exceptional.
America is the greatest successful experiment in government in the history of world civilization. Many people think that this is because of the finest soldiers in the greatest military the world has ever known. Our soldiers deserve every bit of praise they receive, but that is only part of the story. It is the civilians and their appreciation for those soldiers that gives our sodiers the moral authority to do their jobs with honor, dignity, and pride.
They defend us, and they need in return our respect. With rare exceptions, most of us love and revere them.
On this Memorial Day, as hot dogs are consumed and flags fly high, from Ellis Island in New York to the beaches of Los Angeles, from Wall Street to Wilshire Blvd., Americans honor freedom. When it comes to loving America, Bourbon Street is Main Street.
May God bless those who gave their lives so the rest of us could be free. May God bless those who still love this nation enough to take time out of their days and nights to honor and salute our soldiers and the flag they fought for.