Why You Need to See Dinesh D’Souza’s “America”

Go see Dinesh D’Souza’s movie “America: Imagine the World without Her.”

See it as soon as you can. Take your kids. Take your parents. Take your conservative and religious friends who likely already believe its message. Take your liberal and secular friends who may need more convincing. It is truly a film everyone should experience.

At the end of the two hours, if you feel you would have been better served enduring endless fart jokes next door in “Tammy,” I will personally reimburse your eleven dollars and buy you a new bag of popcorn.

Scratch that last. I’m a teacher trying to get through the lean months of summer, and do not have the funds to make this guarantee. But you get the idea.

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People who know me might assume that I have always been a church-going, dyed-in-the-wool Republican, but this could not be further from the truth. When I was sixteen I read Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian and the equally anti-Christian Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, swallowing them hook, line, and sinker. When I was eighteen, my dad told me he would cut me off financially if I paid to see Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. I went anyway.

I have always thought that if you are going to believe something, you should not be afraid to hear the other side’s best arguments. If your deeply-held convictions fall apart at the slightest challenge, then they could not have been that solid to begin with. Sometimes in order to believe, we must first doubt.

We don’t gain anything from echo chambers. We need to engage head-on with the other side, which is why I have so much admiration for Dinesh D’Souza. I even feel a sort of begrudging respect for Bill Ayers for at least engaging D’Souza in open debates, most recently on Fox News with Megyn Kelly. At least liberal professors are not afraid to say what they really mean and what they intend to do, unlike liberal politicians.

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There is an old saying that familiarity breeds contempt. An immigrant himself, D’Souza is the perfect person to answer America’s critics. He does not have to imagine a world without America; he has lived in one.

D’Souza begins with a hypothetical scenario almost too possible to contemplate: What if George Washington had been hit by a sniper’s bullet and the Revolution had died with him? Would the world be a better or worse place for America’s absence?

Through interviews with activists and scholars on the Left, D’Souza presents the five main indictments against America being told every day in high schools and colleges around the nation. They are:

  1. We stole the land from the Native Americans.
  2. We stole half of Mexico in the Mexican-American War.
  3. We stole the labor of the Africans through slavery.
  4. We steal the resources of foreign nations through our imperialistic misadventures.
  5. We steal from our own people through the greed of our capitalist economy.

Basically, America is a country built on theft. As Michelle Obama said, we are “downright mean.” We are not one nation of free men and women, but rather a system of victims and victimizers, oppressors and oppressed. These stories are told by people like Howard Zinn to make us feel shame for our country’s sins, not pride in her virtues. This shame has a purpose—to win our consent in the progressive’s dream to re-make America (to “fundamentally transform America,” as Obama has said), instead of trying to restore her core values of faith and industriousness.

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I will leave it to the film to articulate these ideas, and to D’Souza to convince you that they are oversimplified and misleading. Of course America has made mistakes. We are just as prone to greed and folly as anyone. The difference is our commitment to the idea that in America, “you write the script to your own life.” As Bono notes, we are the only nation that is also an idea. This freedom to chart your own course is the essence of the American Dream and the reason we remain the hope for the world.

Critics may accuse D’Souza of whitewashing the darker chapters in American history, but this is not the case. He simply puts them in their proper historical context. Throughout world history, most states and empires have gained their wealth though conquest and plunder. Look at the Vikings, the Mongols, and the Islamic caliphates. Slavery is, unfortunately, as old as civilization itself, and greed as old as humanity.

The Native Americans took each other’s land through territorial conflicts for centuries before we arrived, killing and enslaving as they went. 3,500 free blacks in the South owned over 10,000 slaves. While many other countries had slaves, we were the only one to fight a war to end it. Instead of plundering their resources, we lost thousands of lives and billions of dollars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan to give others a chance at freedom (as well as try to advance what we thought were our self-interests). Our capitalist system has enriched the lives of not just our own citizens, but lifted millions out of poverty in India and China.

None of this is said to excuse or minimize the atrocities in our past. America is not perfect. Like every other nation, we have our faults and we have made our fair share of mistakes. The difference is that our Founding Fathers created a framework in the Declaration of Independence that could be used over time to remedy these faults, bringing our actions ever more in line with our ideals.

Despite our imperfections, millions continue to come to our country each year, crossing oceans and risking everything to seek their chance at the American Dream. In what other nation could Frederick Douglass, born a slave, meet with the President of the United States? In what other nation could Madame C.J. Walker, the child of former slaves, become the first self-made female millionaire?

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Every year when I teach nationalism, I start by asking how many of my students (10th graders) are proud to be American. Usually about half raise their hands. Many have already accepted the lie that America is no more exceptional than any other nation, and that the United States is synonymous with stupidity and greed. This revisionist history cannot continue to be pushed without severe political and cultural consequences.

See this movie to celebrate America’s greatness, but more importantly to remember what is at stake. You won’t be sorry you did.

Last night, my husband and I saw it with about thirty others. When the credits began to roll, no one got up from their seats. It was almost as if we were afraid of the enormous responsibility awaiting us once we left the theatre, and not yet done being inspired. D’Souza quotes Ronald Reagan’s observation that ours is the only national anthem that ends in a question:

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

How we answer this question will depend in part on how well we understand the truth about our own history, and how effectively we communicate this truth to our children. Reagan also said:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

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Your Contraception Is Your Responsibility

Women can buy houses on their own. They can purchase cars without help from their bosses. Women can grocery shop, book vacations, save for retirement, and in general run their family’s finances—as most do—without assistance from their employers.

But they can’t purchase birth control on their own.

At least, this is the message of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s dissenting opinion, following Hobby Lobby’s recent victory in the Supreme Court.

She writes: “The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage.”

But since when does not paying for something mean denying access to it? By this logic, my employer has been denying me access to gym memberships, home security systems, and food, all of which can be viewed as more essential to good health than birth control.

Or are women just uniquely helpless in this, the most personal aspect of their lives? They can’t have it unless someone else pays for it?

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Whose responsibility is it to pay for a woman’s birth control: her own, her employer’s, or the government’s? If reproduction and contraception are individual rights, as liberals claim, then they are also individual responsibilities.

Rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same coin; you can’t have one without the other. When I was a child, my parents could prevent me from having certain things simply by refusing to pay for them. Now that I am responsible enough to make my own money, I have the right to use it as I please, even on things my parents might not support.

When you make government or your employer the “parent” by demanding they pay for something you could get yourself, you are also making yourself a child, beholden to their better judgment. “You can’t tell me what to do with my body!” liberals cry. “But you have to pay for it!”

Demanding something as a right while denying it as a responsibility is the essence of adolescent petulance.

The Hobby Lobby ruling has set off a heated debate that appears to pit women’s rights against religious rights, but this narrative overlooks the responsibility side of the equation. Women did not lose any rights as a result of the decision. Congress should never have passed a law (Obamacare) making employers 100% responsible for their employee’s birth control choices, including methods that can be seen as ending a human life after it has already been created. Whether one views certain forms of birth control as moral or immoral, contraception itself remains the responsibility of the individual.

Liberals have been quoting Ginsburg’s blistering dissent, but her arguments miss this basic point. She writes: “Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults…

As the woman’s autonomous choice, it is also her autonomous responsibility. It is extremely unlikely that Hobby Lobby’s female employees will be forced to bear unwanted children as a result of this decision. Their policies still cover sixteen forms of contraception, just not the ones with the potential to prevent an already-formed embryo from implanting in the uterine wall. And if they want any of the remaining four, they can pay for them. Hobby Lobby is not trying to stop them.

She continues: Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community…”

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The Catholic Church was already granted an exemption as part of the law. Fortunately, the Supreme Court ruled that you do not forfeit your freedom of conscience when you form a business.

There is a reason the First Amendment protects freedom of religion together with freedom of speech. Our Founding Fathers understood that one’s freedom of religion is not confined to worship alone, but extends to other areas of life as well. Hobby Lobby is not taking any action to prevent employees from using birth control. They simply don’t want to be compelled to pay for (and by extension participate in) an act they find morally questionable.

This is their right. Once I turned twenty-one, my parents could no longer stop me from consuming alcohol. But I didn’t demand they supply me with weekly stockpiles of liquor.

Ginsburg continues: “It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.”

Many life-saving surgeries are also equivalent to (or greater than) a month’s full-time pay, but Obamacare does not require these to be covered at no additional cost. Claiming contraception as an essential preventative service requires us to understand pregnancy as a life-threatening condition. This may be the case for some women, who still have many options under this ruling, but certainly not the majority. If pregnancy were an illness to be prevented at any cost, like colon cancer, people would not spend tens of thousands of dollars intending it as a result.

In the meantime, insurance companies have raised co-pays on essential prescription drugs needed to keep people alive in order to cover the costs of providing “free” birth control. Nothing is ever truly “free.” Someone always pays. In the case of contraception, it should be the one using it.

Perhaps Ginsberg’s strongest argument is that people do not have an unlimited right to religion. She writes: “Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…

Fortunately, no one is claiming religion as an unlimited right to refuse to comply with the law. In fact, this was specifically stated in the majority opinion. In this particular case, the Supreme Court ruled that there was no compelling government interest in forcing Hobby Lobby to provide four particular types of contraception that can act as abortifacents. It did not grant employers an unlimited mandate to impose their religious views on employees.

“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield,” Ginsberg worries. A liberal friend of mine concurred, taking to Facebook to express his concern over the “slippery slope” that might allow employers and organizations to pick and choose which services are covered and which are not. They would have the power to become “judge and jury” over the individual’s every health problem. He listed Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and diabetes as conditions employers could claim were the result of individual choices, and thus not subject to coverage.

I was amazed at how well this argument summarized the case against government-run healthcare, which remains the real “slippery slope.” If society has to foot the bill for your healthcare costs, they will naturally demand increasing control over your healthcare decisions. When you give government the responsibility to pay for what happens to your body, you also surrender the right to control it.

It’s Time to Get Angry about Obamacare

Pissed off about Obamacare?

You should be. If you are not yet steaming mad over the ironically-named “Affordable Care Act,” then you must fall into one of three categories: the tiny fraction that will actually benefit from the new law (temporarily, and at other’s expense), those Americans still largely ignorant of its ill effects, or the docile herd of obedient citizens (“sheep-le”) who have been so thoroughly well-indoctrinated by the paternalistic hand of the federal government that one more obtrusive mandate is met with but the mildest irritation before marching dutifully along to the slaughter.

This post is directed especially at my fellow young Americans, the so-called “Millenials” or “Gen X-ers.” Many of us comprised the adoring crowds of Obama enthusiasts who bought right into the vague sentiments of hope and change that carried the most liberal and inexperienced man ever into the Oval Office. We will suffer disproportionately under the burdensome weight of Obama’s policies, not the least of which is the over six trillion dollars in new debt that has been racked up. And we’ve got over three long years left to go.

We will be paying off that expense long after the men and women who authorized it and benefited from it and won elections because of it are dead. It will remain our problem. And when our children are forced to attend underfunded schools and our bridges and roads fall into disrepair and our military lacks the strength to properly defend us against our enemies, our tax dollars will go to pay down the interest of bills racked up by previous generations. Talk about a “head start!”

So not only will Obamacare add billions of new debt to our already out-of-control federal government balance sheet, it will also cause young people to pay more for a good we are statistically the least likely to use—healthcare.

In the contest of generations, healthcare used to be the one advantage young people had over the middle aged and elderly. Older people have had time to establish themselves in careers, to invest in their homes and savings, and to benefit from generous pension plans and Social Security. I’m sure I don’t have to remind my fellow twenty-somethings and even thirty-somethings that starting a life for oneself is hard. Getting that first mortgage is hard, especially if you’re still paying off student loans from college. Trying to pay for diapers and formula and daycare for young children is expensive. As a public school teacher, I have to do all these things on a salary that is 2/3 of what the same teacher in his fifties is making, as just about the only way to get a raise as a teacher is to climb the “years of experience” ladder.

But we have—or I should say, we had—one great advantage over our parents and grandparents: our relative health. Most young people I know rarely ever go to the doctor. One day we may have to deal with cancer or heart disease or type-II diabetes or arthritis, but for many of us, these maladies lie decades into the future. I don’t mean to paint with too broad a brush, as I realize that several of my peers have already battled cancer and other serious health issues. But statistically on a whole, young people use healthcare less and at a much lower expense.

In one study, the Department of Health and Human Services found that “half of the population spends little or nothing on health care, while 5 percent of the population spends almost half of the total amount.” In 2002, the top 5% accounted for 49 percent of overall health spending, or roughly $11,487 per person, while the bottom 50% accounted for only 3% of total spending at a cost of $664 per person. The same study finds that “the elderly (age 65 and older) make up around 13% of the U.S. population, but they consumed 36% of total… expenses.”

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The entire premise of Obamacare is that the young and the healthy will be made to pay more so the old and the sick may pay less. This will be achieved in two ways.

First, health insurance companies are limited in how much they may discriminate on premiums between the sick and the healthy and the old and the young, although I’ve already demonstrated that the old and the sick account for most healthcare spending. Insurance companies must now accept patients with pre-existing conditions. How are they expected to cover the cost of the sick but by charging more for the healthy? Insurers are also prohibited from charging older people more than three times the rates of healthy young people. Again: the young pay more so the old may pay less.

At this point, it may even seem fair to say that “Yes, the young and healthy will pay more, but it’s only fair to spread the costs around.” Perhaps, unless you consider the enormous advantage that older Americans still possess in every other economic area—salary, property, retirement benefits, not coming of age in the Obama economy.

But the main way Obamacare hurts the young is by eliminating low-cost policies that don’t provide the sort of comprehensive coverage mandated by the new law. In the past, a twenty-five year old man might have preferred a cheaper policy with a high deductible that doesn’t include all the bells and whistles. Now the ten essential services all plans must cover include maternity and newborn care, mental health services and addiction treatment, and rehabilitation services and devices. And of course, birth control must be provided at no additional cost.

It all sounds good at first… who doesn’t want more coverage?! Until you ask yourself, what about the guy or gal who just wants health insurance in case of emergencies (the original purpose of insurance) and has no need for birth control, maternity care, or addiction treatment? What about people who are celibate, or are physically incapable of having children? What use do they have of maternity care? What about people who live sufficiently healthy lifestyles to not require addiction treatment or mental health counseling? More coverage comes at a higher cost.

Too bad. The government has made the decision of what healthcare coverage you need for you.

The liberal talking heads have countered that “Yes, young people will pay more, but they will also have better coverage!” As if it is up to them to decide. What if I want to eat Hamburger Helper at a cost of $5? Will the government now insist that I purchase $40 filet mignon? After all, it’s better food!

Deductibles in some plans are still $5,000 and $6,000, and bronze plans only cover 60% of costs even after reaching that threshold. With these new realities, it is entirely possible that a young person or family might decide that health insurance does not make economic sense for them any longer. Why pay as much as $1,000 in premiums per month for something that doesn’t even kick in until you’ve already coughed up $5,000? Where is that $5,000 deductible going to come from? May as well save up the money for when it is needed and pay the penalty for not having coverage.

Of course, there are the subsidies, government contributions to make premiums more affordable for low-income people. But even with the subsidies, most young people will still pay more. Also, people who have never had to rely on government largesse in the past will now find themselves dependent on Washington.

But couldn’t that be the very point of it all? Less self-sufficiency, more government dependence. Young people who grew up wanting a good-paying job or to maybe start a business will settle for staying on their parents’ plans until age 26, and after that go on the exchanges and get a first-hand lesson in how to rely on the government for your very well-being.

This brings me back to the three categories I mentioned earlier. Some people, namely the sick and low-income, will benefit initially from government subsidies. But these subsidies will not just appear out of thin air. Government can not give you anything it does not first take from someone else. What happens when that someone else is yourself? We are paying for these subsidies in the form of increased debt and burdensome taxes that have hampered job creation and limited economic growth. What one hand giveth the other taketh away.

Some may still be ignorant of the bad Obamacare news, but my guess is not for long. It’s hard not to notice when something suddenly ends up costing you double what you used to pay.

It is the third category that I worry about. How many young people will just suck it up and pay more, or pay the tax penalty, and go about their business? Just change the channel and try to think about something less maddening and more pleasant. Is this where we are now in this country that once took on the might of the British Empire over essentially a sales tax that seems modest by today’s standards? Perhaps we should change our national anthem from the “land of the free and home of the brave” to represent something more accurate… “the land of the taken care of and the home of the government dependent?” What use are freedom and bravery in these times? Both come with risks that are just too great. Better to just take a number and get in line, DMV style. Because that’s what our healthcare system is about to become.

I pray that we will rediscover the vigor and independence—the audacity, to use Obama’s one-time favorite word—of our founding generations. Maybe Obamacare is just the shot in the arm we need to realize how empty are the promises of big government liberalism and how necessary the call to action.

Ronald Reagan famously said:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was like in the United States where men were free.”

I fear I that my children will have to hear these stories at an Obamacare nursing home from my parents and not myself. Unless the government decides—as they almost inevitably do—that the elderly and sick are in fact too costly to keep alive. Then we will have indeed come full circle, as both the young and the old will suffer under the increasing equality of socialist misery.