Jewish World Review July 3, 2002 / 23 Tamuz, 5762

Lewis A. Fein

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Independence with Honor | After the last cymbal crashes and the final firework explodes, the American Day of Independence will act as a powerful reminder: That, across a great ocean and amidst a formerly proud people, where the swastika once flew and the Soviet emblem nearly stood; where Judaism is dead and Christianity ignored; where the tyrant's rhythm pounds ancient roads and glorious streets -- that, in France, Bastille Day will be a poor imitation of American courage.

The Fourteenth of July will be France's day of moral exhaustion, another "ordinary" day of total, absolute, undeniable surrender. For, if one looks closely (past the sound of romantic voices and beyond the horizon of majestic sites), there is the unwashed legacy of moral collapse -- of fading posters and peeling propaganda; of missing eyes and absent stares, but mustachioed faces.

These images - with architecture by Napoleon, philosophy by Rousseau and shame by Marshal Petain - stand as history's warning (and America's duty): that celebration without courage is merely cowardice with a national anthem. That every Nazi or Soviet collaborator is now not also a patriot, a conveniently new member of a previously small minority; that, where the same elderly men and matronly women now proclaim "Liberte, Equalite, Fraternite," they once also said "Zeig Heil!"

Indeed, the warning here is an obvious one, that neither time nor geography is the only barrier between America and France. Rather, the true barrier - the invisible wall between anger against evil and compassion for terror - is the French - nay, European - sense of moral equivalence. And, it is this sense of moral equivalence (caused by ethical exhaustion and worsened by national blindness), that looks upon every race or religion (except Jewish survivors or Christian observers) and says -- "Look here, young and foolish Americans. We can pacify your Islamic enemies - our Arab visitors or Algerian immigrants - while preserving our own buildings. America may burn, but the Eiffel Tower still shines."

Yes, the Tower remains; a physical landmark for Nazi invasion, communist protest and even Islamist conquest. And therein lies a fundamental difference between America and Europe: We will sacrifice our cities - we will ignite our Southern states or risk our Western territories - for freedom; we will burn Atlanta or offer Honolulu, so that all Americans - black and white, Jew and Gentile, Protestant and Catholic - may enjoy the fruits of liberty.

Yet, European sophisticates, people for whom stolen art or hidden gold is exclusively important, hate freedom's price. These individuals would rather take their political cues from Hitler or their spiritual words from bin Laden than see the Louvre crumble; than see the Champs-Elysees with potholes or Versailles with dust.

In the end, the barriers between America and Europe - the wall between celebratory fireworks and another explosive sky, between the United States and France - are not merely visual. For the sounds Americans will hear tomorrow, though commemorative and festive, also bear last September's echo.

The air will bear the notes of war and purpose, of resolution and victory. The sky will reflect the symbols of justice and unity. The country will represent the promise of freedom and diversity of belief. The American people will preserve their political birthright, without malice and consumed by charity. This republic, one nation under G-d, shall not perish from this earth.

JWR contributor Lewis A. Fein is a writer and Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles.Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, Lewis A. Fein