“All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.” George Orwell

As my generation sinks deeper into self-absorption, the thought of someone laying their life on the line to protect our freedom doesn’t sink in anymore. The definition of freedom is convoluted and controversial; it divides us instead of uniting us. Many Americans are led to believe the Left’s “social justice” guilt-trip, the President’s “fair share” mantra, and the ridiculous catchphrases developed by the Occupy Wall Street crowd because the rhetoric sounds feel-good.  Most of us honestly want to believe the best in people; we want to believe that people mean what they say and say what they mean, but sadly, when it comes to leadership in this country at this point in time, that is rarely the case. There is also generally much more to the story, theory, or policy than what is shared with the public.

Most Americans don’t understand the political games happening in this country, and I’m not going to pretend I have every scheme, agenda, and detail figured out either. A major part of the disconnect between the American people and the American government is that our situation has become so complicated and tiring; only those who are paid to understand it all actually bother going through documents like the President’s proposed 2013 budget.  The rest of America remains ignorant because the American government is too large — too many agencies, too many bills, and too many issues to follow.  There’s also no transparency from our leaders; they’re not willing to own up to their mistakes, or offer a coherent personal past without fishy associations to the likes of Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright and uncertainties pertaining to birthplace, religion, and action-proven stance on pretty much anything.

I don’t expect perfection from those who lead my country. I don’t expect a flawless record, fine-tuned charisma, or a speech-making ability that rivals Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I expect a president who will be honest about where they’ve been, where they are, and where they are headed.  I expect a president who understands the true purpose of our government as laid out in the founding documents, and builds up those aspects of American society.

An important part of the government’s purpose is to protect its people:

“The principal purposes to be answered by union are these the common defense of the members; the preservation of the public peace, as well against internal convulsions as external attacks; the regulation of commerce with other nations and between the States; the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with foreign countries.” James Madison, Federalist #23

The people that carry out that duty should be honored for their sacrifice, especially by our leaders. Recently, President Obama exploited top secret military operations by “revealing” to Hollywood director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal the secret identities of a “planner, Operator and Commander of SEAL Team Six,” the covert team responsible for the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden,” so they can make their new movie about Obama’s “gutsy call.” Apparently top secret information isn’t top secret information anymore. I don’t understand why killing Osama bin Laden was a nail-biting decision, but the release of that kind of information is a disrespectful move for the Commander-in-Chief. If he’s giving out that kind of information to Hollywood, who knows who else has access to other military secrets.

This weekend, MSNBC host Chris Hayes said he was “uncomfortable” referring to American soldiers who died in battle as heroes because it rhetorically justifies more war:

“I feel… uncomfortable, about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism, you know, hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers, and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.”

So, the soldier who sacrifices time with his family, what he wants to do in life, and personal security and comfort to spend time learning how to defend his country as tensions rise in the Middle East, Europe, and Mexico doesn’t merit hero status? Yes, Mr. Hayes, you’re wrong about that.

To me, true American Exceptionalism consists of voluntary acts of charity, embracing the freedom to do your life’s purpose, and experiencing the growth and resilience that comes from making mistakes along the way. American Exceptionalism used to connote true freedom to experience the risk and reward associated with hard work without the constraints of established social classes, but now, the phrase implies that we think we’re better than everyone else. Correction: our system is better than everyone else’s and is worth defending. There’s a reason early immigrants saw America as a land of great opportunity. Not to say that early American government didn’t ever make mistakes, but a unique pattern stems from each mistake (i.e. Native American persecution, Japanese concentration camps). We mess upwhen the government oversteps its boundaries and performs a fabricated government function that is not specified in our founding documents.

Those in uniform should be honored in every way possible for fulfilling the actual purpose of government– defending America against real foreign and domestic threats.

Assistant Editor Sydney Phillips | @sydphillips