Sarah Hoyt first linked to this, and it struck a lot of chords.
As she said: “This is why I came up with the Usaian religion in my books. And this is why we cannot let the light go out. We cannot. Else, the world will be plunged in darkness.”
You see, my German professor at my undergrad college had been on the other side of that little bridge, or one very much like it. Austria had been released from occupation a year before (1955), and Dr. W was attending the University of Vienna in 1956. Everyone knew about the Soviet suppression of the Budapest uprising and the flight of Hungarians to the west. Dr. W.’s professor came into the classroom and said, “Austria is a neutral country. The government cannot do anything to favor one nation or another. However, if you as individuals feel the need to volunteer to help the refugees, you are excused from class.” And the entire group got up and left, heading for the border.
When I was in High School, I think, although I may have been younger, I read The Bridge at Andau. That little book left a mark that still flares up from time to time. People so believed in the west and the call of freedom, that they preferred the risk of dying to staying behind. Hundreds of people died trying to cross the divide between East and West Germany.
It’s hard to take today for granted when you recall that kind of thing. The United States was, still is, and can be even more in the future, the Golden Door that Lady Liberty holds her torch up to light. No one says that life is perfect here, or ever will be (or should be, in the sense that material want is eliminated by government largess. Down that road lies disaster.) But the US is still the beacon of hope, the place where people can believe what they want without fear for their lives. The enemies of freedom call the US the “Great Satan” because we are the temptation, we are the spirit that says “just try it. Life can be different. Ask the question. Think the thought, try to improve the mousetrap and people just might reward you for your effort. Or not, but we’ll encourage you to try again.”