July 7, 2020
Given by any other man, it would have been considered one of the greatest speeches of our time. A triumph of American exceptionalism. But it was not any other man standing under the granite faces of Mount Rushmore on the night before July 4th. It was Donald Trump. So however inspired his words may have been, however sincere his call to remember the deep well of American goodness, however different his message might have been from all the others the media loves to criticize, he was never going to get a fair shake. The president’s detractors stopped listening a long time ago, missing the moment they would have realized this nation had been waiting for.
What happened Friday night, under the red, white, and blue bunting of a Fourth of July weekend, was defining — not just for this president, but for a hurting country. The scars of 2020 already run deep, with the last several weeks splitting wider old wounds. For most of us, it’s a time of uncertainty we’ve never experienced, a fear for our nation that’s never felt more real. It was with that backdrop that President Trump flew to South Dakota and spoke from the heart. He reminded us about the miraculous story of America, about the men and women of every race who bled and fought to make us the brightest light the world had ever seen. “No nation,” he said, “has done more to advance the human condition than the United States of America, and no people have done more to promote human progress than the citizens of our great nation.”
There are so many great chapters of adventure, innovation, and courage waiting to be written, Trump wanted the country to know. But the other side isn’t interested. They don’t want to teach children to love their country, honor their history, and grab on to opportunity. They want to erase our history, he warned. But “their goal is not a better America. Their goal is to end America.” Undermining, the president explained, the very cause they claim to represent — the cause of abolitionists, of Martin Luther King, Jr., of civil rights visionaries the world over.
Passionate at times, eloquent at others, it was the speech of a man who realized it wasn’t just his presidency at stake — but his country. And yet, the same hypocritical voices who demand the very leadership President Trump displayed eviscerated him for it afterward. “Dark,” “divisive,” “traitorous,” and “combative,” the media’s reaction was full of this ridiculous insistence that patriotism isn’t just partisan — it’s racist. “It would be difficult to get a more textbook expression of the American civic religion than the speech at Rushmore,” NRO’s Rich Lowry declared, “…or a more affirming account of the greatness of America and its meaning to the world. And, yet, the speech was tested and found wanting.”
Meanwhile, no one is quite sure what the mob’s solution to this crisis is (if they seek a solution at all). Their idea of justice divides. Their idea of equality silences. If we can’t unite around our common identity as Americans, what is there? And maybe for angry liberals, that’s the point. “Divisive?” the editors of the Wall Street Journal wrote in astonishment. “Mr. Trump’s speech was certainly direct, in his typical style. But it was only divisive if you haven’t been paying attention to the divisions now being stoked on the political left across American institutions.”
Never before, Lowry insisted, “has a speech extolling America’s virtues and the marvels or the nation’s heroes played to such poor — and completely dishonest — reviews.” You can say a lot of things, he argued, “that the speech was insincere, or that Trump’s tweets matter more than anything he reads from a Teleprompter… but you can’t say it was racially divisive.” What it was, Rich wrote, was a celebration of America’s “Founders, its ideals and freedom, its capacity for self-renewal, its astonishing variety of geniuses, adventurers, warriors, inventors, and great musicians and athletes.” If that’s an expression of “white supremacy,” Rich worries, then America is on dangerous ground.
And yet, the Left is so desperate to cancel President Trump that Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) couldn’t even get Democrats to pass a simple resolution condemning mob violence as the Senate left town last week. “[My proposal] was designed to be unifying. It avoided controversial subjects [and encouraged] basic dignity and civil respect. And apparently that’s too much to ask for today’s Democratic Party.” The only way they would consider it, he said on Monday’s “Washington Watch,” is if he inserted language blaming the president for creating this chaos. “I said, ‘Look, I’ll take the rest of [your] language, but… I’m not going to let you turn this into an anti-Trump rant…” And because of that, it failed.
This whole climate, Mike shook his head, “is not good for us as humans. It’s not good for our souls.” Civility, he urged, “ultimately centers on Jesus Christ’s teachings of love and respect. We can disagree with someone without being disagreeable. We can disagree with them even passionately while still loving them and treating them with decency and respect.” Let’s face it, he said, “This is the greatest civilization the world has ever known. And we’re great not because of who we are, but because of what we do, because we’ve chosen to be good and kind to each other.”
There are forces in this country who want to take that choice away. To make hate the only language Americans speak. We cannot let them. The time has come to rise up and defend what 244 years of freedom have already won — if not out of respect for the generations who came before us, then out of concern for the ones who come after.
Tony Perkins’s Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.