Why the West must cut the apolo­gies

Judeo-Chris­tian cul­ture gave birth to the lib­erty the world craves

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Joseph D’Souza Joseph D’Souza is the mod­er­at­ing bishop of the Good Shep­herd Church and As­so­ci­ated Min­istries of In­dia. He is pres­i­dent of the All In­dia Chris­tian Coun­cil and is the founder and in­ter­na­tional pres­i­dent of the Dalit Free­dom Net­work.

In early July, Pres­i­dent Trump de­liv­ered what many be­lieve was his best speech to date. Speak­ing at Krasin­ski Square in War­saw, Poland, Mr. Trump gave an un­abashed defense of the cul­tural val­ues that have made Western civ­i­liza­tion great.

“We re­ward bril­liance. We strive for ex­cel­lence, and cher­ish in­spir­ing works of art that honor God. We trea­sure the rule of law and pro­tect the right to free speech and free ex­pres­sion,” said the pres­i­dent.

“We em­power women as pil­lars of our so­ci­ety and of our suc­cess. We put faith and fam­ily, not gov­ern­ment and bu­reau­cracy, at the cen­ter of our lives . ... And above all, we value the dig­nity of ev­ery hu­man life, pro­tect the rights of ev­ery per­son, and share the hope of ev­ery soul to live in free­dom. That is who we are. Those are the price­less ties that bind us to­gether as na­tions, as al­lies, and as a civ­i­liza­tion.”

The West’s true en­e­mies, Mr. Trump said, are those who “threaten over time to un­der­mine these val­ues and to erase the bonds of cul­ture, faith and tra­di­tion that make us who we are.”

Mr. Trump’s speech got such high marks on pub­lic polls that even Democrats gave it a pass­ing score. Yet, as ex­pected, the crit­ics emerged.

The ed­i­tors at the Na­tional Re­view pointed out how a writer at Vox thought the speech “was rhetoric ripped from the man­i­festos of the ‘alt-right.’ ” To an­other writer at The At­lantic, “the speech traf­ficked in ‘racial and re­li­gious para­noia.’”

In a PBS NewsHour in­ter­view, a for­mer Obama Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil staff mem­ber de­scribed the speech as “a dark view of a clash of civ­i­liza­tions.” She even braved to say that “some peo­ple are won­der­ing how we in the U.S. un­der Pres­i­dent Trump are defin­ing [the] West.”

These crit­ics form the fa­mil­iar cho­rus that says the pres­i­dent of the United States’ role when­ever he goes over­seas is to apol­o­gize for the West’s cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal her­itage. Al­lud­ing to the West’s Judeo-Chris­tian her­itage or men­tion­ing “God” — which Mr. Trump did 10 times in War­saw — is tan­ta­mount to re­li­gious big­otry.

While it is noble to ac­cept a cul­ture’s his­tor­i­cal fail­ures, for­get­ting the best as­pects of one’s cul­ture and al­low­ing them to be de­stroyed is un­for­giv­able.

Sure, a so­ci­ety should al­ways own its fail­ures, es­pe­cially when it comes to its record of hu­man rights. Ger­many would be re­miss if it ever for­got the black mark of the Holo­caust, just as the United States would un­doubt­edly in­cur global shame if it ever ob­vi­ated the his­tory of black slav­ery. Yet rec­og­niz­ing one’s weak­nesses doesn’t mean re­ject­ing the val­ues that have made a cul­ture great.

These crit­ics ig­nore the fact that so many of the cul­tural val­ues that have made the West — es­pe­cially Amer­ica — free and pros­per­ous came from a broad-based Judeo-Chris­tian spir­i­tual ide­ol­ogy. A prime ex­am­ple is how the Great Awak­en­ing planted the ideas of in­di­vid­u­al­ism and au­ton­omy that in­spired and pre­pared the Amer­i­can colonies for revo­lu­tion.

As Mr. Trump noted, a na­tion’s break­down hap­pens when peo­ple for­get the fac­tors that build a cul­ture and al­low ex­trem­ists to re­de­fine a peo­ple’s iden­tity. This phe­nom­e­non is tak­ing place even within my own In­dian cul­ture.

For mil­len­nia, In­dia has prided it­self as the home of an enor­mous host of cul­tures, lan­guages and peo­ple groups. From the great an­cient Harap­pan civ­i­liza­tion to the Indo-Aryan en­try into the north, the indige­nous cul­tures born out of the the first African mi­gra­tions and the Dra­vid­ian her­itage alive in the tongues spo­ken in the south, In­dia from its in­cep­tion has found strength in di­ver­sity and tol­er­ance for dif­fer­ence of tra­di­tion and be­lief. In­dia is home to all the ma­jor re­li­gions of the world. Now, voices from far-right el­e­ments are at­tempt­ing to re­de­fine In­dia as if it were a ho­moge­nous cul­ture. The re­cent cow ban and the con­tentious de­bate over the Aryan en­try are but the most re­cent ex­am­ples of their ef­forts.

It is each na­tion’s job to re­mem­ber the val­ues that have made its peo­ple great and to stand con­fi­dently against those who try to say oth­er­wise. As Mr. Trump said to the Pol­ish peo­ple, “Our cit­i­zens did not win free­dom to­gether, did not sur­vive hor­rors to­gether, did not face down evil to­gether, only to lose our free­dom to a lack of pride and con­fi­dence in our val­ues.”

De­spite its many past mis­takes, the West is still a very at­trac­tive place to live in the world. Mil­lions queue up to find some way to im­mi­grate to Western na­tions each year. Even po­lit­i­cal dis­si­dents end up find­ing refuge in the West. It isn’t just be­cause they’re seek­ing a bet­ter eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment, but be­cause they’re seek­ing a cul­ture that pro­motes equal op­por­tu­nity, fiercely pro­tects in­di­vid­ual free­dom and ex­pres­sion and cher­ishes the rule of law.

The West should never apol­o­gize for this.

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