When was the last time you felt patriotic joy about America?
I don’t mean a specific appreciation of the Founding Fathers, although that’s always a good thing and an essential part of loving America. I mean a moment where you just looked around and found yourself loving what America is, from its genius political system to its staggering physical beauty, and thanked God for the opportunity to live here.
Between Obama’s crippled economy, Bloombergian buzzkills who want to tell us what we can eat and drink, global warming panic, and liberals wailing that if one person is hungry the USA is a concentration camp, it’s difficult to experience much happiness or pride in our home. It’s even infected pop music, which is supposed to be, although not always, an uplifting art. Miley Cyrus’ desperate, pathetic, and now legendary twerking workout at the MTV Awards proved that. For all its supposed eroticism, it was a painfully joyless thing to watch. It was a long way from Chuck Berry doing the duck walk.
America has always been a place of business and striving, but the country once also had a deep mysticism and humor about it, things that elicited love from both radicals and Republicans. We accepted limits and celebrated the great things about the country. Of course this feeling was very strong during World War II, but it also held on for a couple decades after that. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is like a prayer to the sheer physical beauty of America. John F. Kennedy’s wit and self-confidence provided buoyancy to the entire nation — and his one-liners had none of the self-pitying resentment of Obama. The early hits of Motown constitute a kind of pop music Louvre of joyful exuberance.
There was still a lot of this happiness in the 1980s, when I came of age. Reagan slapped us back to life after the Carter malaise. And no matter what liberal propaganda says, Reagan’s patriotism, his joy about his country, was not some hollow and manipulative effort to simply win votes. Reagan had lived through the Great Depression and World War II. He had read Witness by Whittaker Chambers and subscribed to National Review. His love of America was deep and reasoned, and it radiated out to the rest of the country. Movies like “Back to the Future” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” celebrated American ingenuity and humor. Most of the rap, from De La Soul to Heavy D, was a party that invited everyone to dance. Even “The Breakfast Club,” a film that was considered serious and even edgy at the time of its release, now looks like a model of the concept of a melting pot where diverse personalities find their common humanity, unlike the balkanized grievance groups thriving today.