In early March, I headed down to the mountains of western North Carolina for a reunion with my siblings and their spouses. The weekend weather was beautiful, and as my Honda rolled south through the Shenandoah Valley, a drive I’ve made countless times, I was struck by the beauty of the hills and fields. The rest of the weekend, we gathered in a pleasant motel in Maggie Valley, dined in three nice restaurants, spent hours catching up on our children and grandchildren, and polished up the festivities with a Saturday evening supper at a brother’s house in nearby Waynesville.
About halfway through this get-together, I had an early morning epiphany that some readers may find sentimental or silly: The thought occurred to me how fortunate we are to live in this country. Except for the taxes on our room, meals, and gas, the government was nowhere to be seen. My Raleigh brother organized the reunion and selected the motel, and we ate whenever and whatever we wanted. We hiked around Waynesville, bought some things to take home, and talked politics and culture without having to look over our shoulder for government spies. We are Americans and so free to do as we pleased.
During World War II, movie director Frank Capra enlisted in the Army, and at the command of General George C. Marshall, Capra put out seven films under the general title Why We Fight. Capra loved America, as may be seen in such movies as It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and though some today label these wartime films as propaganda, they nonetheless served as vivid reminders to civilians and to those in uniform of the stakes involved in this battle against the Nazis. In his autobiography, The Name Above the Title, Capra summed up some of his filmmaking philosophy that pertains particularly to Americans today:
“Someone should keep reminding Mr. Average Man that he was born free, divine, strong; uncrushable by fate, society, or hell itself; and that he is a child of God, equal heir to all the bounties of God; and that goodness is riches, kindness is power, and freedom is glory. Above all, every man is born with an inner capacity to take him as far as his imagination can dream or envision—providing he is free to dream and envision.”
That last sentence contains the essence of the American Dream. Our country is a land of opportunity and dreams. As our founding document tells us, Americans “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Opportunity is downstream from these God-given rights.
In the Why We Fight films and in several of his other movies, Capra sought to put a face on these rights. He understood, for instance, that soldiers may fight for liberty and for their country but will die for the folks back home and for their comrades in arms.
Most of us are built this same way. The mother who protests the critical race theory taught in her fifth-grader’s classroom is defending the innocence of her child. The restaurant owner who battled against the government COVID lockdowns fought for liberty, yes, but stood his ground first and foremost because of his employees and their families. Julie Kelly, the journalist and senior contributor to American Greatness who has spent the last two years exposing the lies about the Jan. 6 “insurrection,” is a brave fighter for freedom, but she is also driven in this personal crusade in part by knowing the names and faces of the political prisoners unlawfully detained by our government for so many months.
Those are but three instances out of millions as to why so many Americans are concerned about keeping their liberties in this age of big government and Big Brother. We may value “liberty and justice for all” in the abstract, but those principles and others become living realities when applied to those men, women, and children we love and treasure.
When we are tempted to give up on America, as some I know have, or to keep silent when confronted by government dictates and overreach, we can gain the courage and stamina to battle on by remembering the faces of our children and grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, and all those who will come after us. They deserve the same opportunities and freedoms that we’ve enjoyed.
They are why we fight.
Image credit: Picryl-DVIDS, PDM 1.0