When Being an American Meant Being an American
"Beat those commie bastards."
These were the inspirational words of Herb Brooks, coach of the United States 1980 gold medal men's ice hockey team, as he prepared his troop of young athletes to go into battle against the Soviet Union.
Beat those commie bastards.
Can you imagine an American coach saying such a thing at the 2012 London Olympics? Can you imagine USA men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski -- Coach K. -- kneeling down in a huddle at mid-court during a pivotal game against China and telling Labron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and the rest of his players, Beat those commie bastards?
Not very likely. If Coach K. uttered such a phrase (which would be out of character), you can bet it would draw quizzical looks from his players. What's a commie bastard? The phrase might even offend some of his assistant coaches, who've grown up in a politically correct environment rooted in cultural pluralism (socialism).
America is a very different place from what it was in 1980, when a group of no-name college players captivated the hearts and minds of the nation and beat the USSR in one of the most important sporting events of the 20th century. Back in the early1980s, it was okay to feel good about your country. It was okay to cheer and wave the flag and publicly speak out against the evil of communism. The Cold War and the threat of impending nuclear annihilation had a way of bringing Americans together -- Republicans and Democrats, Southerners and Northerners, New Englanders and Californians. (In 1984, Ronald Reagan won an amazing 49 states.)
Watching replays of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" is like an exercise in time travel; viewers are teleported back to an America that actually resembled the glorious place the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the United States Constitution. The 1980s was a time when America had a national identity, and when being an American meant embracing this identity. It was a time when Bruce Springsteen's song "Born in the USA" was on everyone's lips (although the lyrics are ironically anti-American), when The Cosby Show was #1 on television. It was the last great period of assimilation before the divisive roots of cultural pluralism (again, socialism) began to firmly take hold.
To be an American meant to embrace freedom and rail against the threat of communism, because communism always ends the same way: total economic collapse followed by people standing in bread lines under crushing government oppression (aka the former Soviet Union). It meant supporting free enterprise -- standing up for personal responsibility and individual achievement. It meant knowing that man is just a peon in the grand design of the universe, that there exists a higher power with infinitely more wisdom, and that it doesn't matter what you call this higher power (Jesus, Allah, Mother Nature, etc.) so long as you have enough respect for this mysterious life force that you don't presume to be bigger than it.
Being an American meant leading the world in space exploration (not hitchhiking with the Russians in order to explore the solar system). Being an American meant leading the world in education, medicine, and technology; it meant having a strong military to defend the world against tyrannical dictators; it meant standing strong with Israel and defending her right to exist; it meant fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and having the guts to engage in competition and take risks; it meant taking pride in having a job and making an honest living; it meant feeling embarrassed about being on food stamps and welfare and about having your first baby out of wedlock at age 15.
Being American meant speaking English; America's language debate ended 200 years ago, when Ben Franklin's idea to make French the official language crashed and burned. Being an American meant getting married (to the opposite sex) and raising a responsible, law-abiding family. Being an American meant being a true American citizen, not an unlawful alien who's been given amnesty by an elitist president pandering for votes.
Being an American meant saying, with pride, Beat those commie bastards, for America once was the antithesis of big government and suffocating communist ideologies.
Not anymore. Being an American has a whole new meaning. It means apologizing to other countries and people, apologizing for being successful and being bullied into feeling guilty about achievement. Sorry I worked hard my whole life and built a successful business and make so much money. Being an American means accepting the notion that our great country is "broken," that it is oppressive and unfair and needs to be fundamentally transformed. Being an American means dissent, resistance, and civil disobedience. It means airing grievances by defecating on cop cars.
Being an American means loathing white, married, heterosexual, Judeo-Christian, English-speaking, family-oriented people, who are legal residents of the United States, because they are "privileged" and the root of all evil. Being an American means teaching our children that corporations and Wall Street are also the root of all evil. Being an American means that standing up for being an American is impolite, imperialistic, and a wrongful display of supremacy -- much like a white person standing up for being white.
This summer, there will be no call for our athletes to "beat those commie bastards."
Listen closely: I think I hear Herb Brooks rolling over in his grave.
Christopher Paslay is a frequent contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer and the author of The Village Proposal. His blog, "Chalk and Talk," is at http://chalkandtalk.wordpress.com.