Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. An Open Letter to My Children About America

 

My dear kids –

You’re all adults now, and moving on to build your own lives. So often, I think of things I wish I’d told you, and wonder if it’s too late. So allow me the liberty to share some thoughts fitting for the day. It is important that on the Fourth of July, we take a few minutes aside from the parade and fireworks, and even the Weird Al concert, to contemplate just what it is that makes America something worth celebrating.

I love our country so deeply, and I wish I could convey to you how precious it is. I believe in “American exceptionalism.” That’s a term that’s often misunderstood and misrepresented. “American exceptionalism” does not mean that Americans are better or smarter than other people, or that we are the only people in the world with good values, or that we have always lived up to the high ideals of our founding. What is unusual about America is that it was the first country to be based on an idea – the idea that every single person is born free, with the right and responsibility to seek out truth, express and act upon those truths, and pursue happiness in accordance with the dictates of his or her own conscience. Americans are not subjects, but citizens. We are not cogs in some vast collective, working for “the greater good.” We are not slaves, but unique and free individuals. Since its founding, many other countries have emulated the American idea, but that American dream still draws people from around the world who long to live free and pursue happiness in their own way. The rights guaranteed us in our Constitution are meant to ensure that the government will not intrude on that individual freedom.

We talk a lot about freedom of speech, of the press, of religion, of assembly, etc., but I’d like to sum it up this way: The United States of America is, or should be, a safe place for integrity. Yes, I’m coining a new term: freedom of integrity. Integrity means living life as a whole, and being guided by the same values in everything we do. It means not having one set of values in church on Sunday and another one in our business dealings or when chit-chatting with the “cool kids.” It means working out what we believe to be right and true, and then doing our best to live all of our life in terms of those values, especially when it is difficult or even dangerous. Integrity is obviously a virtue – but is it a freedom? Is it a right that needs protecting? I believe it is.

Throughout history and in many parts of the world to the present day, integrity has been a luxury few people could afford. In many countries, saying or writing what’s on your mind, practicing your religion or lack thereof, and living in accordance with the dictates of your conscience are not options. Doing these things can bar you from employment or advancement, or land you in prison or even get you killed. Nathan Sharansky, a dissident who survived the gulags of the Soviet Union, describes the difference between fear societies and free societies. He writes that in fear societies, where dissent is banned, society fractures into three groups: true believers, dissidents, and doublethinkers. True believers and dissidents both speak their minds, although the dissidents likely end up in prison or dead because of it. The vast majority of people, however, fall into the last category, the practitioners of doublethink. That term, borrowed from Orwell, describes the soul-killing contortions one must go through to hide ones true thoughts and beliefs, while presenting a false face to the world and the ever-vigilant enforcers of conformity. It means mouthing the proper pieties, whether in Communist Russia or Nazi Germany or Islamic Iran. It means weeping with the expected level of grief at the funeral of North Korea’s Dear Leader, even if you know he was a monster who killed your whole family. It means always, always living a lie. Outside of the true believers and the few dissidents willing to risk a horrible retribution for themselves and their loved ones, integrity is not an option. For those of us who live in free societies, such a nightmare existence is nearly unimaginable. We are used to speaking our minds and expressing our values openly, sometimes with nearly obnoxious abandon, and it is hard for us to wrap our minds around the level of fear that governs so many lives. But I see reason for alarm. Freedom of integrity is under assault in America.

The United States is not as free a country today as it was when I was young. There are still plenty of opinions thrown around, as we see on Facebook, but there is also a new chill, a careful measuring of words, especially among those with businesses or careers to lose. It seems that there are invisible tripwires everywhere, and social media mobs can turn with terrifying speed on perceived offenders against the latest, and constantly changing, standard of “sensitivity.” Citizens have been driven from their jobs and hounded from polite society. A prominent executive was forced out of his position at a company he helped found, because of a political donation he made years before as a private citizen. Numerous business owners have had their livelihoods taken from them because they declined to apply their creative talents and brand name to an activity which violates their deeply held beliefs. Certain nonprofit groups have been harassed and penalized by the IRS because of their political leanings. And here in Wisconsin, innocent citizens have had their homes invaded at dawn by armed SWAT teams, their families terrorized, their computers and possessions seized, and then have been threatened with jail if they dare to tell anyone what was happening to them – all because they engaged in legal political activity. It seems that acting with integrity is becoming a dangerous thing in America.

At the same time, we see corporations, universities, and public figures falling all over themselves to demonstrate their moral sensitivity and ideological purity, banning words or ideas, and punishing transgressors who pass through the crosshairs of the thought police. I don’t really expect integrity or moral courage from corporations (though it would be nice), but I am terribly concerned for the real human beings who get trampled in their stampede. I cringe to see individuals being forced into sensitivity (ie. reeducation) training or groveling public apologies, reminiscent of Maoist struggle sessions or Soviet show trials. In a truly Orwellian twist, these things are supposedly done in the interest of demonstrating how tolerant and open-minded and sensitive we are. To borrow a term from Canadian writer Kathy Shaidle, it’s all part of the “Tyranny of Nice.” This is the behavior of a fear society, not a free one.

My dear children, I don’t know what kind of America you will inherit. I foresee integrity becoming a rarer and rarer commodity in the coming years. But I know you will try, and fight the good fight! It takes courage to pursue the truth, and even more to stay faithful to it. Truth is often uncomfortable and unfashionable; it often goes against the grain of popular opinion. But as Gandhi wrote, “In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place.” And in the words of Tolstoy, “Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.” You will need courage to stand for what you believe. Don’t fall for the modern fallacy that truth is relative or a matter of opinion or social constructs. There is such a thing as ultimate truth. But here is where you will also need wisdom and humility, because truth is complex, and our own perspectives are so limited. You must be willing, always, to be open to new information and to respect the perspectives of others. They also have the right to freedom of integrity, even when you think they are wrong or unkind or misguided or just plain silly. In fact, especially then, because they will certainly be thinking the same thing about you. For yourselves, always try to seek greater knowledge and understanding, and then to be true and faithful to it, in spite of adversity.

American freedom is more than a cliché or words on a paper. As with so many things, we tend not to really appreciate the value of freedom until we start to lose it. I hope I’m wrong in my fears about where the United States is headed. We’ve passed through bad times before when we’ve forgotten our ideals, but we usually get back on the right track eventually. But that won’t happen if no one remembers the way back, or sees the value of following the right track, or even remembers that such a track existed. I hope you will read the Constitution and study our history, and that you will understand what a precious thing it is to have a free place for integrity. Then make it your goal. I love you, my darlings, and I have faith in you. God bless you, and God bless America.

Love always,

Mom

There are 23 comments.

  1. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    Beautiful, outstanding, eloquent. Thank you, Karen.

    • #1
    • July 3, 2015, at 8:15 PM PST
    • Like
  2. philo Member

    Karen Humiston: I hope you will…study our history

    I recommend that you buy the proper books today – specifically, the paper versions! – for this study and keep them in a safe place until the kids area fully ready to read and understand.

    I believe is was Mr. Sharansky who wrote of periodically getting the “updated” pages in the mail for the family encyclopedia and being “required” to destroy the old. This time around I imagine the acceptable history of the new day will simply be inserted with nightly electronic updates to all of your electronic copies…

    There I go again, letting my paranoid side get the better of me. Please just excuse my rambling above.

    • #2
    • July 3, 2015, at 8:32 PM PST
    • Like
  3. Rodin Member

    The candidate who can articulate their love of country and commitment to liberty as well as Karen gets my vote.

    • #3
    • July 3, 2015, at 8:48 PM PST
    • Like
  4. Karen Humiston Member
    Karen Humiston Post author

    philo:

    Karen Humiston: I hope you will…study our history

    I recommend that you buy the proper books today – specifically, the paper versions! – for this study and keep them in a safe place until the kids area fully ready to read and understand.

    I believe is was Mr. Sharansky who wrote of periodically getting the “updated” pages in the mail for the family encyclopedia and being “required” to destroy the old. This time around I imagine the acceptable history of the new day will simply be inserted with nightly electronic updates to all of your electronic copies…

    Yes, that was exactly my thought when I was rereading that part of his book today. They would be mailed the new, “corrected” pages, with instructions to insert the new ones and burned the old. How much easier that would be today, with the new information simply appearing electronically, and the old truly vanishing down the memory hole. I shouldn’t use the conditional “would be,” of course — it actually happens. We’re not paranoid if they’re really out to get us, right?

    • #4
    • July 3, 2015, at 8:53 PM PST
    • Like
  5. Lucy Pevensie Inactive

    Just perfect. Main feed, don’t you think? I would love to share this with others outside our little community.

    • #5
    • July 4, 2015, at 5:21 AM PST
    • Like
  6. David Foster Member

    Linked at Chicago Boyz

    • #6
    • July 4, 2015, at 6:23 AM PST
    • Like
  7. Merina Smith Inactive

    Amen and glory, glory hallelujah! Let’s galvanize our kids to fight this fight. America is too great to lose.

    • #7
    • July 4, 2015, at 6:38 AM PST
    • Like
  8. carcat74 Member

    Merina, you took the words right off my keyboard! Karen, thank you for a moving and thoughtful post. this definitely needs to go Main Feed!!!

    • #8
    • July 4, 2015, at 7:14 AM PST
    • Like
  9. Western Chauvinist Member

    It’s an extremely SoCon thing to say, so I don’t say it often, but true freedom is the freedom to do the right thing [subtext: by the dictates of one’s God-given conscience.] The way many modern Americans think of freedom is really “license.”

    I think my definition aligns well with your “freedom of integrity.” Unfortunately our kids are taught that there are facts and opinions, and all moral claims are subjective opinions. Without a unifying conception of objective truth (good = God), we’re so fractured in our opinions that society becomes non-functional, even for people whose opinions generally conform to the pc enforcers‘.

    • #9
    • July 4, 2015, at 7:41 AM PST
    • Like
  10. Karen Humiston Member
    Karen Humiston Post author

    Western Chauvinist:It’s an extremely SoCon thing to say, so I don’t say it often, but true freedom is the freedom to do the right thing [subtext: by the dictates of one’s God-given conscience.] The way many modern Americans think of freedom is really “license.”

    Yes! The freedom to do the right thing! One of the most evil things about the Jim Crow laws, aside from the terrible harm to black citizens, was that it required business owners and public officials to go along. They were not allowed to do the right thing, even if they wanted to. Being forced to violate ones conscience that way is a terrible violation of the spirit.

    • #10
    • July 4, 2015, at 7:51 AM PST
    • Like
  11. The Dowager Jojo Member

    That is the best thing I have ever read on Ricochet. Thank you.

    • #11
    • July 4, 2015, at 8:01 AM PST
    • Like
  12. Mike Rapkoch Member

    Fantastic. I’m go to print this and give it to my kids. Very much appreciated.

    • #12
    • July 4, 2015, at 8:13 AM PST
    • Like
  13. Dustoff Inactive

    Karen, your children are lucky as are we. Thanks for your wise insight.

    That which you call “freedom of integrity” (a great phrase) is what underpins and sustains our civil society. Tolerance, charity, decency, even invention and industriousness flow from it. It well defines for me the point of being an American: the freedom to live with integrity. Beautiful!

    The only option for sustaining this freedom it is to speak of it, defend it, and live it.

    • #13
    • July 4, 2015, at 8:37 AM PST
    • Like
  14. Pencilvania Inactive

    Beautiful, Karen, and wholeheartedly agree!

    • #14
    • July 4, 2015, at 8:44 AM PST
    • Like
  15. Jules PA Member

    philo: I recommend that you buy the proper books today – specifically, the paper versions! – for this study and keep them in a safe place until the kids area fully ready to read and understand.

    Great point philo. I don’t think we realize the importance of the PRINTED word. While in some ways technology is our friend, it big ways it is not.

    Thank you for this post Karen.

    • #15
    • July 4, 2015, at 8:57 AM PST
    • Like
  16. drlorentz Member

    Karen Humiston: What is unusual about America is that it was the first country to be based on an idea – the idea that every single person is born free, with the right and responsibility to seek out truth, express and act upon those truths, and pursue happiness in accordance with the dictates of his or her own conscience.

    Well stated, dare I say brilliantly stated – a concise, yet comprehensive, statement of American exceptionalism.

     I’m coining a new term: freedom of integrity. Integrity means living life as a whole, and being guided by the same values in everything we do.

    This is an important concept few understand. Perhaps one has to have experienced totalitarianism at first hand, as Sharansky did, to understand it fully.

    Karen Humiston: I don’t really expect integrity or moral courage from corporations

    And why not? The Left demands it all the time. It’s time for us to demand it also. Most corporations are moral Quislings. I understand the need to make money and answer to shareholders. Why must this result exclusively in acquiescing to the pieties of the Left?

    This is an excellent piece that deserves wide dissemination.

    • #16
    • July 4, 2015, at 9:43 AM PST
    • Like
  17. Manny Member

    You’re children are lucky to have you as their mother. Well done.

    • #17
    • July 4, 2015, at 10:24 AM PST
    • Like
  18. Old Buckeye Member

    Sending to my kids and some others who need to pass it to their kids. You’ve said a lot and very well, Karen.

    • #18
    • July 4, 2015, at 11:43 AM PST
    • Like
  19. Vance Richards Member

    Well done. Of course, my letter would be much shorter. Something along the lines of, “It didn’t always suck this much.”

    • #19
    • July 4, 2015, at 4:33 PM PST
    • Like
  20. Karen Humiston Member
    Karen Humiston Post author

    Vance Richards:Well done. Of course,my letter would be much shorter. Something along the lines of, “It didn’t always suck this much.”

    The trouble is waking the kids up to the fact that things do suck right now. If you look at the exulting on Facebook the past week, you’d think we’d reached the promised land. (Except, of course, for those homophobic religious neanderthals. They’ll be put in their place soon)

    • #20
    • July 4, 2015, at 4:38 PM PST
    • Like
  21. Trink Coolidge

    I humbly add my voice of admiration and agreement to this beautiful love note to your children and your country.

    • #21
    • July 4, 2015, at 5:43 PM PST
    • Like
  22. Charlotte Member

    I wept.

    • #22
    • July 4, 2015, at 6:29 PM PST
    • Like
  23. TG Thatcher
    TG

    This is beautiful, Karen, thank you.

    • #23
    • July 6, 2015, at 2:45 PM PST
    • Like