The American Difference
Dr. Michael L. Ford
31 December 2006
The difference between America, the land called the United States, and much of the rest of the world has been highlighted again this month in the death of Gerald Ford. Recently two other national leaders died, Pinochet of Chile and Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Though the manner of these two men’s death was vastly different they had something in common. Large segments of their country’s population were joyful for their deaths. In the United States, though Gerald Ford had his political enemies, there is no great outpouring of elation that he has gone to his eternal reward.
When former President Richard M. Nixon died, though some took the opportunity of speaking unkindly about him, we saw no great celebrations of his departure. In fact, most people took time to remember the good things he has done for the country. When Pinochet died, most good he had done was recounted by reporters outside Chile, not media within. The difference says something about the difference in the two countries.
In Iraq, when Saddam Hussein was executed, the expected increase in violence did not occur. This is probably creditable to the increasing presence of Iraqi policing and effective American occupation. But there was great rejoicing, even though it was more subdued than had been expected. It is not just that much of the time most of the world’s nations see their leaders as corrupt or self-serving. Americans recognize the human failures of their leaders as well. But we believe in the crisis of the moment our leaders can make unselfish decisions with the greater good in mind whether we agree with their decisions or not. It is the evidence of the Christian view of faith is still at work in most Americans.
When John F. Kennedy was alive, I despised the man. But I remember how sick at heart I was the day when someone came down the hall and stuck their head into the room and said, “The President has been murdered!” I was so nauseous that I was quite literally sick to my stomach. The funeral, and its images are burned into my memory. We do not change Presidents that way. The American difference is the Christian influence upon the Nation. When it is gone we will be just like much of the rest of the world.
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