by John Wilder
Soldiers heading towards Omaha Beach.
When I was in grade school the teachers spoke of the Constitution with reverence. As second graders, we listened as the teacher told the story of how it was written and the freedoms it guaranteed us and the responsibilities that it demanded of us. My grade school teachers were all married women, and they loved America. It was a small town, and the teachers had grown up in the area. Some of them had taught their own children and their own grandchildren in the same school where the chalkboard dust, lead paint dust, water from lead-soldered pipes, and asbestos floor tiles soaked into my skin daily. Even the early reader books were taped together with yellowing cellophane tape at the bindings, and most of the books had been printed decades before. I got to See Spot Run like legions of boys before me, running my fingers over the same dog-eared pages that had been read for years, young mouths quietly sounding out the words.
And these boys before me, who had sat in the same desks, drew beginning math on the same blackboards, pulling chalk from the same worn, wooden tray that I did, got paddled in the same principal’s office that I did. They had traveled the world to strange places that their teachers never named when they opened the geography books during the time they spent in second grade. These were places with foreign names like Guadalcanal. Bastogne. Chosin Reservoir. Da Nang.
One of these boys in particular, a blonde haired young Ranger, was barely eighteen when he was shot climbing the cliffs at Pointe Du Hoc on the sixth of June, 1944. His sister was a friend of my father. As a young boy that Ranger sat in that same room, learning the same math decades before I was born. He sat in that same classroom just a few short years before he was buried in Normandy in late spring at the age of 18. No member of his family could afford to visit his grave until over fifty years had passed and his sister walked to his grave and touched its cold marble stone and ran her fingers over his name. Despite that, the young Ranger isn’t lonely – he is surrounded by 9,387 of his comrades who died during the invasion of France.
Rangers climbing Pointe du Hoc.
The teachers, those mothers, in the distant past had taught the children the value of patriotism. The value of the Constitution. The belief that freedom was a great gift from both God and our forefathers and was an idea and an ideal worth fighting for was taught to them in school and in church. Those boys who travelled far wearing Army green, Navy blue, the camouflage of the Marines, and eventually Air Force blue were mainly the sons of farmers, used to hard work that started early in the morning and sometimes went too far into the night when the cows were calving. The things that they were told that were true were God, freedom, family, and country and that you always had to work hard for these things, and sometimes you had to fight for them. And sometimes die for them.
Even the cartoons as I was growing up were infused with patriotism:
The school was torn down some time ago – I don’t know when. A bond issue was finally passed, and a new school was built. There aren’t many more students than when I went there, but there are new classrooms. These new schools are gleaming with whiteboards and new furniture and new books, and from the pictures you can see that the kids look a lot like the kids from when I went there; but the connection with 100 years of history went when the building was torn down.
Change is inevitable, but the one thing that my teachers taught us was that the Constitution was a rock, something special, something that every American had shared for hundreds of years. It was important, and it protected us, and protected our freedom.
I believed that, the way the boys that live forever on Pointe du Hoc did.
Ladders used to scale Pointe du Hoc.
Today, however, the population of the United States is at least 14% foreign born, but I’d bet that number undercounts illegal aliens. Second generation Americans, people born here of immigrants, account for at least 10% of the population. A quarter of the population of this country simply has no connection to anything American. 10% were born here, but were raised in a household that had little to no connection to anything American.
I was working in Houston on one particular job, often late into the night. The cleaning crew came in after 8 PM, and I was often still there. I’d taken Spanish in school, and would share a sentence or two with the very nice cleaning woman who came by. She spoke no English. One day I asked her, in Spanish, “Why don’t you learn English?” I realized that this nice person would have no chance to move up, no way to take part in the economic miracle that is the United States without English.
“Es muy dificil.” It’s too difficult.
The cleaning woman is very nice, but has no connection in any meaningful way to the United States. I’m sure she’s had children by now as 21% of children in the United States have foreign-born mothers. Her children likewise have had no part in building this country and have no reverence for the principles of its founding, or the sacrifices made along the way to create freedom. This is similar to me if I moved to say, England, or Denmark. I love England. I love Denmark. I’m ethnically related to those areas and admire both cultures.
If I moved to England I’d always be the Yankee. Or Amerikansk in Denmark. My kids, even if I had kids there, wouldn’t be English. They wouldn’t be Danish. They’d be the “kids of that American that lives here.” Maybe if my kids were born there, and then worked hard to assimilate away from the American attitudes and culture of their parents, then they one day the kids they had would be considered English or Danish. I’m an American, a product of American culture and no citizenship documents will ever change that.
25% of the people in the United States, however, simply aren’t American by any sort of rational criteria. One out of four – an amazing number and a number that is going to grow based on current trends and census data, perhaps to one in three by 2060. The United States has never had such high numbers of foreign born in history.
As these numbers grow, the electorate changes to an electorate that has no history of a representative democracy – most people coming to the United States are from places where elections are not free and fair, and in many cases the politicians from those countries are so corrupt to make Illinois look like a Boy Scout® camp. These are also places where constitutions are meant not for the people, but for the state, and are changed out with stunning regularity, often accompanied by firing squads and atrocity. They expect better here, but they also are ready-made for the politicians that promise them the world.
The political class, however, is excellent at creating and playing on resentment in new immigrants with no history of good government. Division is the strength of these politicians. “Why do these people have a say as to who is an American?” “Abolish ICE.” “You deserve free education, free healthcare, free housing, free food.” “Living wage for all.” “Common sense gun laws.” Thankfully, native language broadcasting is available to all of these new residents and new citizens so that they can avoid assimilation into the culture.
These residents also don’t have teachers that teach that the United States is good, that the Constitution is a meaningful document – times have changed and that just isn’t the “woke” take. They don’t get any of this from their family, either. Their family simply doesn’t know anything about freedom and the Constitution in most cases, and probably wouldn’t care if they did. It’s a document that foreigners put together – it is not part of their history at all.
Pointe du Hoc, after it had been taken.
As I said, I had faith in the Constitution. It was a great wall that both defined and constricted government, but in recent decades “rights” have been made up from layer after layer of interpretation that have nothing to do with the original text. On the other hand, rights that are written about clearly in plain language are somehow interpreted to be so limited that they hardly exist at all. But there are still some protections that exist, as long as there’s a majority of five to four. Change that number? Watch those liberties evaporate as Justices that admire the constitution of South Africa, the one that’s being interpreted to allow the theft of land, become a majority.
If we have politicians that actively create divisions between Americans with a heritage of limited government and an increasing number of people for whom the history of the United States means nothing, the Constitution won’t mean anything. It will be a speed bump for those who have no connection to it and who have no love of it. The Constitution in the hands of those who hate the limitations it puts on them will, in the long run, provide no safety at all as it is interpreted away, as the press revolts against it, and as the newly imported electorate ignores it.
And what meaning will the blonde Ranger of Pointe du Hoc have then?