Most Americans are increasingly declining any affiliation that would call on them to sacrifice of their time, let alone money or attention. Instead, we prefer to show our support through social media, which requires only that we push a button.

Here in America, we have been thrilled to see people all over the world stand up and take to the streets for their rights — in Egypt, in Libya, in Syria and now in Russia. We can be proud that our example and our ideals have helped inspire people to hold liberty close to their hearts and protest for their freedom.

We just hate it when they do that here.

Americans have increasingly little tolerance for the freedoms we encourage others to fight for. We demand that our protesters be rousted from public parks while we cheer protesters in Tahir Square. We condemn governments for holding civilians in secret prisons without a fair trial while we pass laws allowing our government to hold citizens in secret, without access to lawyers, if they’re even suspected of being a terrorist. We demand open government and freedom of the press in foreign countries while restricting journalists from investigating an increasingly secretive American government. We insist other governments slash their social safety nets to reduce their debt, but we won’t touch our entitlements.

Some hypocrisy in government is to be expected; nobody lives up to their own hype. But America has long prided itself on being a shining beacon to other nations, and other nations have often used us as their lighthouse. Today the American Revolution has nearly conquered the world. Yet instead of celebrating, we’re actively cutting and running from our own values.

What kind of country do we want to be?

America was frightened by the Sept. 11 attacks, and frightened people often do things that are out of character. It’s also absolutely true that we live in a world that is more wired and interdependent than ever, and this requires rational adjustment. But we’ve faced challenges and terrible enemies before, and while we’ve bent we’ve never tied ourselves in knots this long. What would in other circumstances be an aberration from American freedoms is becoming a whole new way of life.

I think the difference now is that we were previously willing to make sacrifices for our values and now we’re not willing to sacrifice for anything. We still believe, but we want believing alone to be enough.

Recruitment to the armed services is a constant struggle; membership in service organizations is down; membership in unions is down; belonging to an organized religion is down. Most Americans are increasingly declining any affiliation that would call on them to sacrifice of their time, let alone money or attention. Instead, we prefer to show our support through social media, which requires only that we push a button.

The more we have turned into a culture of instant gratification, the less we are willing to accept that some things have to be earned. The more we have turned into a therapeutic culture, the less we are willing to accept that sometimes the best things for us can also make us uncomfortable. We have massive consumer debt because people believe it when they’re told they’re entitled to the finer things in life and the cost will never really come. We have massive corporate corruption because businessmen convince themselves that responsibility is what other people are paid to do.

People like that cannot lift the torch of liberty. It’s too heavy and too hot. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and we’re trying to outsource it to the lowest bidder.

It shows.

So what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with a people just wanting to get along, be secure, feather their own nests, and jettison any rights and responsibilities that get in the way?

Nothing, I guess. I can’t really blame anyone for just wanting to make a good living and take care of themselves and feel secure.

But we once aimed to be better. We inspired much of the world to be better.
I miss that.

Benjamin Wachs writes for Messenger Post Media, and is the editor of Fiction365.com. Email him at Benjamin@Fiction365.com.