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Homeland

Can you see your country’s faults and still love it?


After living in Japan for a year during the early 2000s, my son thought it would be interesting to try “that other island that starts with a J.” That is, Jamaica. He expected the culture would be different—and it was. Completely.

I visited him that summer in Negril, on the westernmost tip of the island. He lived in an unfinished hotel—oddly, the builder had finished the second floor, and that’s all—at the end of a dirt road, with goats and shanties and uncertain water supply. Aside from minor inconveniences, I enjoyed the trip. My memories glow with blinding sun, turquoise ocean, glittering beaches, tropical fruit free for picking, and smiling people (a few of whom tried to sell me drugs or sex). We didn’t need a car—getting around was a simple matter of waving down a taxi (typically a vintage Toyota) and cramming ourselves in the back seat along with the other passengers.

It was fun, but “East or west, home is best.” Even so, I wasn’t prepared for my emotional return. After touching down in Kansas City and shuttling to my car, I unlocked the door, slid into the front seat, and gripped the steering wheel as the thought gripped me: I love this country. I love my car, I love these roads and buildings and people going about their business unmolested. It wasn’t just material prosperity; it was the sense of freedom stabilized by order, the ability to go have an adventure yet return to safety and comfort. This was home.

You know the worst while encouraging the best and working toward the better.

Wilfred McClay acknowledges that simple love of home in a City Journal article titled “Civic Education, Rightly Understood.” Rightly understood, “A patriotic education should be an education in love”—not chauvinism or jingoism, but sincere affection for one’s country and a desire for her welfare. It’s similar, I think, to love for a spouse. You know the worst while encouraging the best and working toward the better.

It appears that most American children are not getting this kind of civic education. America’s sins, common the world over wherever one group gains power over another, are treated as unique. But her virtues are taken for granted or waved away as hypocritical piety. President Donald Trump authorized the 1776 Commission—a panel of academics, historians, and public intellectuals—to challenge this cynical interpretation. They begin with founding documents. “No nation before America ever dared state those truths as the formal basis for its politics, and none has strived harder, or done more, to achieve them.”

Not all men (or women) were deemed equal in 1776, but those words promised they would be. Power always corrupts, but the words called power to account. When we took our freedom too far, the words recalled us to justice. Our mistakes, some of them grievous, have tended to self-correct because of the words, deeply embedded in our national consciousness.

Unless it was all a sham. That’s what critical theory in general teaches: History is about power, not virtue. Critical race theory in particular has found its moment as the conscience of a nation, and the history it cites is not entirely false. But instead of building our shared house, like the wise woman of Proverbs 14:1, it aims at tearing the house down, to be replaced with—what? The outlines of a social-justice utopia look a lot like Marxist redistribution.

Have the proponents of CRT thought through the practical result of trashing the country we share? Of teaching children that there’s nothing remarkable, or even redeemable, about our constitutional government? McClay, author of a history called Land of Hope, wonders if the dispirited youth of today have lost hope partly because of the hopelessness they’re taught to feel about their own home.

C.S. Lewis saw this coming in The Abolition of Man: “Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism.” That is, souls not trained to love will default to apathy—or rage.


Janie B. Cheaney Janie is a senior writer who contributes commentary to WORLD and oversees WORLD's annual Children's Book of the Year awards. She also writes novels for young adults and authored the Wordsmith creative writing curriculum. Janie resides in rural Missouri.

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DMIL8001

Yes. Exactly. But how to get through to our children who are so "woke" (deceived) that they've forgotten the dream that so many have come here to find, including the poor Cubans and Chinese suffering under their own brands of Marxism/Communism. Trying to discuss this with them is hard when fingers remain glued into ears; we pray every day for them that God Himself will REALLY wake them to His blessings all around us and to the deception being perpetrated by our Enemy and his minions. Thank you for your article.

DATH3978

Your story "Homeland" in the 07.17.21 edition of World Magazine reminded me of an almost 30-day visit I made to five impoverished countries in East Africa in 2013: Burundi, DR Congo, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi. I was researching a book on a man who lived his first 27 years in refugee camps. (Title: Refugee for Life)

During the trip, I experienced estrangement (among non-English speaking peoples), lack of medical facilities and reliable utilities (daily brown outs in Bujumbura, Burundi) racial hate (Rwandans who couldn't return home because they were of a race that a few years before had engaged in genic ide), theft (of credit cards at a border crossing), lack of plumbing, hot water, holes in mosquito netting, toilet facilities, etc., threatened assault and threatened theft (of my backpack) because I was a white person and all white people must carry millions of $.

I ended my international trip in my home city of Minneapolis, MN, processing through customs at the airport. A customs official looked at my passport, looked up, and said with a smile: "Welcome home." I teared up, grateful to have had the opportunity to see and live (for a short time) in proximity to other cultures, but even more grateful to be back in the U.S.A. We are sooooooo blessed!

Thank you, Janie, for the reminder.

David A. - January 2021 Mid-Career Journalist Institute Graduate

OldMike

Amen! AMEN!!

Nothing made by humans can be perfect and this Nation is no exception. But no other nation in history has ever given so many people so much freedom and so much opportunity. Thank You, Lord, for the United States of America and for the wisdom You gave our Founding Fathers!

philoxfordal

Thank you, Janie. If we would take the same template and apply it to our families who would be left standing? We would be a miserable lot destroying our homes, schools, churches and workplaces with our own hands. And somehow we are made to feel virtuous by pointing out everyone else's faults?! As if any nation is flawless. Our nation was not even one hundred years old before we began to take action against the cruelty of slavery. What about the hundreds and thousands of years prior?? What about the Babylonians, the Persians, Greeks, the Romans, Indians, Native Americans, Africans, Muslims, Barbary Pirates, and the list goes on. Why is our view so short-sighted?? Prior to the U.S., slavery was not even a "race" issue. Slaves were found all over the world, and had been for thousands of years...and often were people of the same race. Where was their action to abolish slavery?!!! It took William Wilberforce a lifetime of work in England and a Civil War in a young America to begin the process of righting a wrong. What would happen if each country were put under the same microscope, how many would be without condemnation?!! Would WORLD... or any school, church or organization be able to flourish under such negativism? God forbid that we define ourselves by our flaws. Even Nehemiah who brought back an exiled people recognized there is a place for grieving over past sins. But it is also Nehemiah who said, "There comes a time to stop mourning. Today is the day to celebrate, do what is right and move forward." May God give us grace to find that pathway forward.