The approval of a Department of Homeland Security is one of the more important things Congress can do in our war against Radical Islamists (to use Lou Dobbs’ new and vastly more appropriate terminology). Congress needs to do more than just approve the idea, however—they need to endorse the name as well. I’ve never liked euphemisms, and coming from the Left Elite I was instilled with the importance of words and the role they play in politics. If you control the definition, you control the debate.
This important lesson has emerged in a very insidious way from an even more unlikely source: Peggy Noonan. President Reagan’s former speech writer and now a contributing editor at the Wall Street Journal, Ms. Noonan, a woman I have always admired, is so oddly anxious about the word “Homeland” that she is leading the charge to wipe it from our war lexicon.
In two of her recent columns for OpinionJournal.com, she proclaims “a consensus is forming, we want you on board” as she rails against using the word ‘Homeland’ as part of our antiterrorism department.
Why this crusade against a word evocative of our love of country? She complains that it sounds too “European,” or more specifically “Teutonic” (read German). Obviously this concern is silly, but what should alarm us is the fact that her new cause represents the ongoing efforts from both the misguided well-meaning and misanthropic who are frightened by deep and genuine American pride (which explains the notoriously left National Public Radio joining in the call for its ban).
You see, words remind us, encourage us, and give us permission. If a word evocative of our deep patriotism is eliminated from use, or mitigated in some way, it sends a message that perhaps our feelings are also inappropriate and should be, well, toned down.
I’ve always liked the word Homeland specifically because it does reflect a new, and wholly naturally, American sensibility. Ms. Noonan contends, “Homeland isn't really an American word, it's not something we used to say or say now.” Well, of course not. But things have changed, and now our patriotism envelopes our ideas and the physicality of where we live. Other than the barbaric sneak attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor, the United States Homeland before September 11, 2001 hadn't been attacked in almost 190 years. Now we know, as virtually every other nation knows, what it’s like to have the enemy dare to invade our home.
In her recent columns, Ms. Noonan argues that American patriotism is about ideas, and she’s right. She also infers that the word ‘Homeland’ promotes a patriotism that is tied, inappropriately so, to the land itself, “When you say you love America, you're not saying our mud is better than the other guy's mud.” Well, as a matter of fact, my patriotism is about American ideals—fidelity, equality, freedom and democracy, but it is also about this place. Yes, for me it is about the mud, too.
Our ideals and values did not spring from a vacuum—they come from the men and women who were inspired because of the potential of this country, this place. They are ideals and values that remain only because tens of thousand of Americans died in the mud during the revolutionary and civil wars to ensure the survival of the American dream. It is now about the earth that is beneath the World Trade Center that turned to mud in the rains after September 11. It is that mud, now a final resting place for thousands, and the mud of the field in Pennsylvania where the heroes of United flight 93 died to save countless others, that deserves to be a part of our American heritage and pride. It is indeed a new, exciting, appropriate and more expansive way to view our patriotism
When Radical Islamists flew airplanes into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center they were attacking ideas, but they were also attacking cities and what those cities, those places, mean to the world. Washington, DC and New York represent freedom and equality to the world. If it were just American ideas that the envious wanted to destroy, they could have struck anywhere in the world. But no, they attacked the Homeland because even they know how important it is.
Homeland, indeed. One of the better and more important words we need to embrace and recognize. Ms. Noonan complains, however, that it “summons images of men in spiked helmets lobbing pitchers of beer at outsiders during Oktoberfest.” Once past this absurd stereotypical assault on people of German heritage (can you image what would be said if she conjured up a comparable stereotype of Africans?) it becomes clear that our best thinkers should get out of the house more. For those of us who swim in the ether of ideas all day long, it’s good to be reminded that there is, after all, a great big place called America sandwiched in between New York and Los Angeles. Once there, you will find actual heroes--the kind of people who saved the world, twice over, during the last century. They’re farming, and building, and creating. They’re raising their families, and hoping their loved ones, now serving overseas in this war against Radical Islamists, will come home safely, and soon after a job well done. Once again, they are saving the world. You will find Americans there—the heroes of our story—and dare I say, not a spiked helmet among them.