Hon­or­ing our vet­er­ans with a vi­sion Amer­ica needs

The Washington Times Daily - - Life - Cul­ture chal­lenge of the week: Self­ies ver­sus sac­ri­fice RE­BECCA HAGELIN — let’s get Amer­ica back to great

elfies.” You’ve prob­a­bly heard of them. They are the pho­tos that teens (and, too of­ten, young adults) take of them­selves and post far and wide for the ad­mi­ra­tion or amuse­ment of friends. Snap-chat, Face­book and Twit­ter are full of self­ies. Al­though great fun when used in moder­a­tion, they also have be­come clas­sic ex­am­ples of teenage nar­cis­sism, self-ab­sorp­tion and lack of vi­sion — and icons of a na­tion strug­gling to re­mem­ber its great­ness.

Our chil­dren live in a cul­ture that cel­e­brates self-grat­i­fi­ca­tion and scorns sac­ri­fice. It’s a cul­ture that has grad­u­ally lost the vi­sion of great­ness that drove our coun­try for­ward, brought free­dom to cap­tive peo­ples and in­spired our vet­er­ans to give their lives. Even our schools, which spend hours on trendy think­ing and po­lit­i­cal fads, of­ten seem to have for­got­ten the mis­sion of cul­ti­vat­ing great­ness in our chil­dren.

It’s up to us to give our chil­dren some­thing more. One of the en­dur­ing tasks of par­ent­hood — in ev­ery time and cul­ture — is to raise chil­dren who see be­yond their im­me­di­ate self-in­ter­est to the tran­scen­dent re­al­i­ties that call them to live for some­thing be­yond them­selves. To­day is Vet­er­ans Day, when we honor the men and women of our mil­i­tary for their vi­sion of some­thing greater than them­selves: free­dom. We salute them for their ser­vice to oth­ers — not self — in the day-to-day work of keep­ing our coun­try safe. Ev­ery vet­eran — whether hav­ing served in peace­time, faced com­mu­nist guer­ril­las in Viet­nam, or fought the Tal­iban and al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan — knows the re­al­ity of things worth fight­ing for. Be­cause the truth is that it is im­pos­si­ble to serve in Amer­ica’s mil­i­tary with­out a com­mit­ment to some­thing big­ger than one­self. Sol­diers fight for the bud­dies at their sides and to pro­tect our coun­try and the lib­erty en­shrined in our Con­sti­tu­tion — not so they can live another day to post another selfie.

That vi­sion of some­thing larger than self is sadly miss­ing among many of our young folks. But we can change that.

A new book, “Re­bound: Get­ting Amer­ica Back to Great,” writ­ten by Her­itage Foun­da­tion scholar Kim R. Holmes, goes a long way to­ward help­ing Amer­i­cans re­cover a sense of great­ness. I en­cour­age you to pur­chase a copy for that young per­son in your life who may need to shift fo­cus from cell­phone self­ies to a vi­sion of help­ing pre­serve and pro­mote some­thing far more im­por­tant than them­selves — some­thing like the en­dur­ing prom­ise of free­dom. “Re­bound” helps read­ers see, with fresh eyes, what has made Amer­ica great and what we must do to keep it that way.

Mr. Holmes bril­liantly ex­plains the his­tory of Amer­i­can great­ness and how we as a cul­ture have lost our way. In his chap­ter “A Great Deal of Ruin,” for in­stance, he as­tutely il­lus­trates how Steve Jobs’ won­der­ful tech­no­log­i­cal in­ven­tions were birthed in a world­view that re­jected sac­ri­fice, duty and per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity. Al­though th­ese amaz­ing tools can be used to ac­com­plish amaz­ing things, it’s ironic how much of the younger gen­er­a­tion uses them with the same at­ti­tude in which they were cre­ated: a celebration of “self” over all else. Mr. Holmes notes: “Jobs’ ‘all about me’ men­tal­ity was broad­cast­ing a key value of the counter-cul­ture. A decade long known for nar­cis­sism, the 1960’s was also a time of re­bel­lion against the idea that free­dom re­quires self-re­straint. In fact, it es­poused the op­po­site — that the in­di­vid­ual must be rid of tra­di­tional moral con­straints to be truly free. One must be ded­i­cated to one­self first and fore­most. What had been deemed boor­ish be­hav­ior be­fore was now sup­pos­edly a sign of a deeper ‘au­then­tic’ kind of free­dom.”

Our chil­dren must learn the dif­fer­ence be­tween the value of the in­di­vid­ual and the pro­mo­tion of “self”; the cost of free­dom and the trash­ing of virtue; the dan­gers of self-in­dul­gence and the beauty of sac­ri­fice.

The vet­er­ans we honor to­day un­der­stood th­ese truths to the point of fight­ing and even dy­ing for them. They ex­em­plify the great­ness of the Amer­i­can vi­sion as es­tab­lished by our na­tion’s Found­ing Fa­thers.

“Re­bound” helps us re­mem­ber “when our na­tion was at the top of its game cul­tur­ally, eco­nom­i­cally and so­cially, and glob­ally,” to dis­cover what’s gone wrong, and to “see what Amer­i­cans must do to help Amer­ica ‘re­bound’ for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.” Or­der­ing a copy to­day would be a last­ing trib­ute to the many vet­er­ans whose mil­i­tary ser­vice has pro­tected that vi­sion for all of us.

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