On the morning of May 24, 1980, my grandparents, along with my mother and their three other children, finally set foot on free land after an arduous 90-mile journey by boat from Cuba to the United States.
In this last year, Americans have argued about which freedoms ought to be limited, for how long, and under what conditions they should be given back based on a virus with a 99 percent survival rate for most Americans. They have also seen a rise in censorship and street violence and a push towards treating people as part of groups rather than as individuals.
My grandparents experienced all of this firsthand — in Cuba.
There, my grandfather was a political dissident, speaking out against the Castro regime. For this, he was beaten, imprisoned, and abused. He and my grandmother were in their 20s with four small children, so wouldn’t it have been easier to have remained silent, kept their heads down, and accepted their circumstances? Even when the Cuban government offered to let them emigrate to America on the Mariel Boatlift, they worried that acceptance might be a test of my family’s loyalty to the government and that at any minute they could be arrested, separated from their children, thrown in prison, tortured, and even executed. No wonder, then, that my grandparents described the experience of being crammed inside the belly of a stifling, overcrowded, barely seaworthy boat as the easiest, most comfortable part of their trip.
What made such a risk worth it?
In a word, freedom. The freedom they knew they could have and the life they knew they could live if they could only make it to America. Cuba could not offer them a chance at success when “success” was limited to what the regime permitted, not what you could achieve, when your individuality, talents, and passions were irrelevant and your value dependent on how well you produced what the government told you to produce.
America presented a stark alternative to the decay that communism brought to that otherwise beautiful Caribbean island. America meant my grandparents would have the opportunity to retain the fruits of their labor, to pursue careers and invest in arenas they chose, to share their opinions without fear of state retribution, and to be judged as individuals rather than as members of any collective, among so many other liberties.
In short, America presented my grandparents with the opportunity to write their own destiny without having it controlled by someone else.
That was America 41 years ago. In today’s America, while still a stark contrast to the continued decay of Cuba, the flames of liberty that guided my family to their new home and made the journey worth the risk are not burning as brightly. On the heels of the Wuhan virus, America seems to be marked more by fear than by liberty. State officials capitalized on public uncertainty to restrict freedoms whose exercising should be left to each American.
At every level of government, the Marxist-based Critical Race Theory threatens to replace our individuality with intersectional collectivism. We run the risk of bankrupting our economy by making everything “free.” Political correctness dictates our language, prohibiting or redefining objective truth to satisfy delusional progressive agendas. God and family are the new taboo, while secularism, sexual promiscuity, and obsessive self-love have become the new standards. Virtuous freedom, ordered liberty, and the republican system of government our Founders designed is being replaced with state dependence and intersectional justice.
We may not be in a physical war, but we are in a war — a war over information, ideology, worldview, and even words themselves, which combined, arguably pose a bigger threat to America than our past battles.
Nevertheless, while the flames of liberty have dimmed, they are not extinguished. For the Americans who love this nation, who love the freedom that America affords, who know her to be the most successful, powerful, just, benevolent, and opportunity-filled nation in the history of the world because of how she was designed, your country needs you now, perhaps more than ever before. America needs patriots who know what America has been, who will fight to preserve her and make her all that she can be.
The torch of freedom is in our hands and this generation must decide whether we let it burn for another. Like my family’s journey to America, the cost may be difficult, arduous, and perhaps even deadly, but whether it be 1776, 1980, or 2021, the dangers of liberty are worth it.
With history as our teacher and the future as our canvas, let us draw with the same fervor and dedication to the principles of this nation that those who came before us demonstrated that we might faithfully discharge our responsibility to secure liberty and justice for all Americans for generations to come.