Land of the Free

One of my sons noted to me recently that when an American puts his hand on his heart and says, “I’m American”, he means something different to the rest of us speaking of our nationality.

When any of the rest of us declare, “I’m an Aussie”, “I’m South African”, “I’m Mexican”, or whatever, we are talking about the place we were born and call home. But for an American (meaning USA citizen) the declaration “I’m American” means much more than that.

America has been for centuries the “Land of the Free”. The Pilgrim Fathers went to the Americas to escape tyranny and to enjoy their freedoms. Since that time oppressed people from all around the world have made a bee-line for America. Beyond anything the nation stands for geographically is what it stands for philosophically.

So when an American says “I’m American” he may well be meaning something like, “I’m from that one land on the planet that people look to when they want freedom upheld.” They may well be giving tribute to an ideal that America has stood for over centuries.

Why Do They Hate Us?

Some years ago a dear American friend asked me, with a pained voice, “Why do they hate us? Who else is going to fight for them, if not America?”

While there are many who are contemptuous of American military might and how it is used, there is no doubt that America stands alone as the one force that can tame tyrants.

I heard an Aussie lady sharing some years ago about how she and her Christian associates in Afghanistan were illegally imprisoned as part of the Taliban opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each day as they endured terrible hardship their prayer was that God would send America to remove the evil Taliban regime. There was no other power on the planet that would have taken an interest and had the power to do something. When America did intervene each of these western Christians was released and repatriated home to recover.

Who Else?

So, let’s answer the question. Who else is going to do it if America does not?

Do you have an answer? There are world powers vying for prominence, politically, economically, or socially. Are those other powers committed to the same things we looked to America for in past generations?

Oh! I think I hear some of you distracted with your doubts about American power.

We have all been influenced by the Anti-American tide, haven’t we? We’ve heard the accusations that the wars are only about oil or something else. We’ve imbibed to some degree the idea that Americans are too blessed, too smug or whatever. Aussies tend to like to see the “tall poppy” cut down, so there is a hint of satisfaction when the great Americans find they are not the only people on the planet.

But, despite any and all of those considerations, who is going to be the champion of the oppressed if America does not do it?

Do I hear a cheer for the United Nations? What about China, the emerging super-power? What about Europe? Is there any puff left in dear old England? Are the oil rich Arab nations going to use their petrodollars to save the oppressed?

Freedom in Decline

Let us assume that there is no immediate replacement for the good old US of A. Let us assume that there is no other world power philosophically attuned to the notions of freedom which were sown on American soil centuries ago. Let us assume that, for the rest of our lives, America will have to remain at its post, stepping in to help protect those who would otherwise suffer.

So, let’s now take a look at the Land of the Free. And there we see Freedom in decline. In the glorious land of the Free freedom itself is on the wane. America as a super-power is on the wane.

Ever since the Vietnam War, which America withdrew from without a victory, we have seen America’s global influence in decline. We have seen an increase in attacks against America and Americans. We have seen America buy into fights for people’s freedom, and then become embroiled in an endless and thankless struggle.

The glories of D Day and Midway have receded into distant memory, replaced by the mire of political debate about who started what and why. American intervention is more likely to bring up snide remarks about elusive weapons of mass destruction, than a cheer that someone finally stepped in to do something.

The Doctor is Ill

If the Doctor gets sick, we’re in big trouble. And at this point in time, the world’s most effective resource for maintaining freedom is not doing so well.

America is facing opposition like never before. The new administration is leaving people wondering where America is headed. Its battles have become sticky and its allies are looking for excuses to abandon her. Back home her people are under increased internal troubles.

Add to that the oil spill in the gulf, the growing global contempt for things American and the failing dollar and there is cause for questions about the future of the land of the free.

Any Takers?

Maybe freedom is about to go out the window. Maybe the world is sliding into the next Dark Ages.

Or maybe this is just part of the ebb and flow of civilisation.

But maybe, just maybe, it is time for a new definition of freedom. Maybe America has lost the plot and there needs to be a new force of human conscience that stands for what is right.

Maybe America has past its use-by date and needs to be replaced with a new band of god-fearing men and women who will put all on the line to do what is right.

Any Takers?

Jenny Lind’s Most Glorious Voice

This is the day that … Jenny Lind was born, out of wedlock, in Sweden, in 1821.

Billed as “the Swedish Nightingale”, her singing was praised across the world. Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Berlin, Leipzig, Vienna, London – the crowds came to hear this diva of the operatic stage (Cavalcade of History, by C. Golding, page 801).

It is said that at the age of three she was able to repeat a song that she had heard but once. At age ten she sang on the Stockholm stage. From 12 – 16 her voice lost its sweetness, then returned with full force.

For a year and a half she was the star of he Stockholm opera before attempting studies in Paris. At age 24 she sang for Queen Victoria opening the way for much success in Germany. In 1847 she went to London and was enthusiastically received. Here she sang for the first time in concert.

In 1850 P.T. Barnum, the American entrepreneur, signed her up to appear in 150 “concerts or oratorios” for $150,000 (The Fabulous Showman, by I. Wallace, page 134).

American audiences fell at her feet. The press spoke of her voice as “unrivalled” and so, too, was her popularity.

After two years Barnum released her from her contract – she had given 93 performances and he had made his fortune.

Jenny Lind married Otto Goldschmidt, her pianist, on 5 February, 1852. He was a famous German pianist who had been a pupil of Mendelssohn.

In the years that followed she rarely sang for personal gain.

Irving Wallace tells of one who found her sitting on the beach in the late afternoon – “a Bible on her lap. The friend wondered why she had abandoned her career at its height. Jenny replied, ‘When every day it made me think less of this’ – and she indicated her Bible – ‘and nothing of that’ – and she pointed to the setting sun – ‘what else could I do?’” (page 159).

Jenny Lind died in London on 2 November, 1887.

P.T. Barnum cabled her husband. “So dies away the last echo of the most glorious voice the world has ever heard.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.