Obama Versus Ryan
My husband and I watched ‘Saving Private Ryan’ on DVD again last night. We had, of course, seen it before.
When we first saw the movie on the big screen back in 1998, it goes without saying that we were moved and deeply touched by the portrayal of what has been called America’s ‘greatest generation.’ What American wouldn’t be? Yet last night’s viewing was entirely different for us. I am not generally a tearful person, but I was brought to tears more than once during the watching. And my husband had a serious lump in his throat more than once as well. Both of those reactions were absent while sitting together in the theater when we were more than a decade younger than we are today.
After the credits rolled, we attempted to understand why we were so much more deeply affected this time than we were during the previous viewing. Is it because we are fourteen years older and somehow more sensitive? Is it because we were watching the movie in the quiet of our own living room? Is it because the portrayal of that particular portion of our American history is somehow now more personal and meaningful to us than it was more than a decade ago?
The answer, we determined, is none of the above.
The answer is twofold. It lies in (1) our knowledge of the proud and noble history of our country, and (2) our understanding of the degradation of America’s leadership since we sat in that theater more than a decade ago.
On a campaign stint in early 2008, the soon-to-be first lady of the United States declared that ‘for the first time in her adult life’ she is now proud of her country.
On a trip to France in early 2009, at the beginning of his presidency, Barack Obama declared that America has ‘failed to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world’ and has ‘shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive’ towards its European allies.
The same France from which Barack Obama spoke those words provides the location of the entire story of ‘Saving Private Ryan’, the basic plot of which is fiction, but much of the actual footage is not. There is genuine footage of our men landing at Omaha Beach, and genuine footage of some of the land battle as well. Many actual veterans of that campaign were reportedly brought to tears when they saw and heard some of the scenes within the movie, simply because of the realism it portrayed of a portion of their lives that they would prefer to forget. Many World War II veterans are hesitant to voice any memories of the part they played in the war. They simply want to get on with their lives and secure those memories, for as long as they remain living, in a voiceless, yet painfully sacred, corner of their minds.
In the movie, after the D-Day invasion, an army captain leads his squad on a mission to find and bring home Private James Francis Ryan after the death in action of his three brothers. The mission takes them through Nazi occupied territory to make contact with Ryan’s unit, an element of the 101st Airborne Division. Once found, Ryan refuses to leave, and the captain in charge of the operation responds, ‘Is that what they’re supposed to tell your mother when they send her another folded American flag?’ To which Ryan responds,
‘Tell her that when you found me I was here and I was with the only brothers I have left. And that there was no way I was going to desert them.’
Such was the make-up of most Americans serving during World War II – a sense of duty that declared ‘self’ secondary, and God, country and family of primary importance – with universal, human, God-given liberty always an understood and indispensable factor in the overall equation.
The two statements made by the first lady and the president – ‘first time in my adult life I am proud of America’ and America has ‘shown arrogance and been dismissive toward its allies’ – were not slips of the tongue. They were not aberrational statements of opinion from the leader of the free world and his spouse. The anti-American sentiment expressed in their words are borne out everyday in their actions which are seeking (and, sadly, succeeding) in bringing the real America to her knees, and replacing it with a socialist utopia where a ruling elite reigns supreme.
The consistency of his words and actions since that trip to France in 2009 indicate that the leader of the free world has either little or no understanding of American heritage and history, or unbridled contempt for it, presumably because it does not combine well with his elitist-rule vision of the future of America. Neither condition renders him qualified to serve as Commander in Chief or to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Obama spoke his derisive words about America and her relationship with our ‘allies’ fewer than five hundred miles from Normandy, where, sixty-eight years ago, on both Omaha and Utah Beaches, close to seven thousand ‘arrogant’ Americans willingly offered themselves up as casualties of war. Two of our current president’s most trailblazing accomplishments have been (1) abandoning the time-honored tradition of respecting the legacy of his predecessors and (2) consistently showing irreverence for those duty-bound, courageous patriots who sacrificed – sometimes with their lives – to create the most moral and prosperous nation in the history of mankind, and to stand in the crosshairs of tyrants when the liberties of others were threatened.
Years ago I came upon a picture of a section of the Meuse-Argonne American cemetery in France. The cemetery covers more than 130 acres, and beneath each of those little white specks/crosses in the photo lies the body of an ‘arrogant’ American – husbands, fathers, sweethearts, sons, brothers who left home and loved ones to travel to foreign soil in the name of freedom. More than fourteen thousand American World War I dead are buried at Meuse-Argonne. I looked intently at the picture and thought about that. I focused on those little white specks – each one of which represents an ‘arrogant, dismissive’ American to Barack Obama.
France is home to eleven large American military cemeteries. Meuse-Argonne is only one of them. There are also hundreds of thousands of American bodies lying beneath headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Flanders Field, Ardennes, Normandy, Florence, Lorraine, Aisne Marne – in cemeteries throughout Europe (the allies that we ‘dismiss’ and treat with ‘derision’) and in countless unmarked graves in unknown places. All of those bodies embraced the vision of freedom, law and justice that defines the real America – a vision that they wanted the rest of the world to have the freedom to choose as well.
The current American president spent more than twenty years sitting in a pew listening to sermons delivered by a man who believes that God should ‘damn America’. He spent his youth being mentored by men who revile individual liberty and worship the theories of global governance and subjugation of the masses. He has appointed apostles of that creed to most of the major positions in his administration, and his policies have sought to destroy the kind of freedom that hundreds of thousands of Americans fought and died to defend. The men lying beneath those tiny white specks at Meuse-Argonne, and all over Europe, are being declared irrelevant by none other than the president of the country for which they died. Remember our heroes, in spite of your president’s agenda-driven desire that you forget them. They are watching us now from afar, quietly but insistently reminding us of the source and precious value of our liberties, and challenging us to hold those hard-won liberties dear, standing firm against all who would remove them from our grasp. Remember them, both those who have left us and those who are now serving on battlefields far from home, facing the prospect of death with each new dawn. And when you cast your ballot on November 6th, see to it that you are voting for two men who share your reverence for those who have gone before, those who have sacrificed, sometimes beyond our ability to comprehend, to preserve the vision of their Founding Fathers.