A week ago, we Americans were those great people again. We gathered near TV’s, computers, and radios to watch for news of people we’ve never seen but we know we love. The terrorist attacks on Paris brought us together and for one of history’s moments, we were One Nation again. We were under God and indivisible and we remembered the lofty aspirations that are liberty and justice.
The tragedy may have happened across the ocean, but it didn’t feel like it. It was like an attack on a childhood crush. America has enjoyed a sweet romance with Paris all her life. We pine for the City of Lights and hang pictures of quaint Parisian streets on our walls next to wistful black-and-whites of the Eiffel Tower. The French love our muscle and they call on us in times of distress. Where were we this time?
We were staying the course. Our leadership, our benefactors of weakness, have chosen to continue a quiet strategy of weakly symbolic targeted attacks on this enemy that moves with dark stealth across the globe. Monday morning our president spoke and somehow this unifying tragedy turned into an argument among spoiled siblings. It’s what death brings to a family that has forgotten how much they love each other. But this isn’t about the deaths of our French friends, rather it is about the death of our convictions.
Our president addressed his nation that hungered for leadership and he spoke with regrettable division. He took a defensive tone when we looked for sympathies. He called this mass killing a “setback” and laid out a plan to offer safe harbor to people we are not sure we can trust. He did not reassure us. Instead he condemned us for questioning. While he didn’t say it, he told us that we cannot trust him to tend to our own hurting nation. When he told us that, he took away the most basic necessity of civility: security.
Perhaps this is not the worst thing, even though it is uncomfortable. We enjoyed decades of security an in that time, we became complacent. It was our complacency that let evil become so pervasive that we can no longer afford charity. Today we have been forced to focus on survival, meaning that we have to put our needs above those of others because our leadership will not. In this new reality, we no longer have a wealth of security, values, and material goods to generously share. When leadership refused to acknowledge an evil threat, when he called it a setback and put the feelings of murderers over those of the victims, we lost more than our footing. We lost our way.
We can no longer afford charity because we cannot trust our benefactor. The larger problem may be that we can no longer afford charity because we have become dependent on a benefactor. To ask the American for charity right now is to ask revolution’s orphans for a crust of bread.
Complacency is a most devious foe. It is time that we remember when we are united, we stand strong. We may even be impenetrable of spirit, a spirit that fears no evil because her eyes are fixed on that which is good and not that which would lead her to ruin.