The Calling of Our Generation
By: Hans Zeiger
“The war against this enemy is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation.” These are the words of President Bush on September 11, five years after the attacks. If Baby Boomers doubt that this present war is the calling of their generation, the children of the Boomers-at least the rising leaders among them-have little doubt that it is theirs.
On the eve of September 11, 2006, nearly 150 Hillsdale College students gathered for a candlelight vigil on the campus quad in front of Central Hall. I expected perhaps a few dozen students to take time out of an already busy evening on campus for the occasion. But they kept coming, picking up candles, forming into the solemn huddle.
Having been asked to lead the vigil, I began the time with prayer, and then a student read a poem he had prepared, and then a singer led the group in the National Anthem. Several shared their thoughts-one girl’s brother was about to leave for Iraq, another’s boyfriend was readying for his assignment as a Marine. The latter Marine left Hillsdale last semester, called up suddenly for training; his words to me before he left remind me of what this war is: “America,” he said, “is rapidly approaching-or may have arrived at a physical, philosophical, and spiritual battle for her survival and, more importantly, a battle that will determine whether Western civilization will continue to exist to bring freedom to future generations of men.”
Thinking on these things, looking out on the crowd gathered that night, considering the flag as it furled overhead, I thought back to the second week of my junior year in high school, 9/11/01. Before that, only the Columbine shootings could really have been a shared memory for my peers and me. But as we watched the television and talked that day of freedom and terrorism and tragedy, something in us came together. By Friday that week, when the football team had its first game, the packed seats of Sparks Stadium looked like and sounded like America.
Much of that, we well know, has faded. Five years is an utterly long time for a democratic nation to practice its patience. We expect little wars and big peaces; we forget the realities of our nature.
But I saw the other night a vanguard waiting, praying, singing “God Bless America” with more genuine fervor than all of the Congress half a decade ago. I couldn’t help but think that God is preparing our generation for something great, something as crucial as the task of our Founding Fathers 230 years ago. Today, the “calling of our generation” is spiritual and religious. Leaders are needed.
The hate-driven enemy understands the value of leadership. Theirs is a religious war that relies not upon majorities to fight but upon small groups of warriors, little pockets of young men who will take up box cutters and airplanes. Then again, there is a role for majorities; if not the terrorists, at least the jihadists mean to populate the earth, focusing their energies at the moment in Europe, where native European energies wane funereal, and the West dies peacefully. Or they build their movement in other ways, as the youth of Europe, hopeless to find meaning in the rotten churches of the place, fall in with a terrorist gang in search of purpose. So it was with the English bottle-bomb plotters of August. They found their purpose, and were it not for last minute intelligence collaborations and the grace of God, the authorities would not have found them.
The war goes on in Iraq, and Iran is explosive, and Israel duels a score of enemies, and Syria hosts a foul legion, and rogue men inhabit various other lands from Indonesia to France, seeking whom they may devour.
What is our answer? Ronald Reagan had an answer: “No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.” Such will and moral courage lives on in the rising generation, small though the remnant may be. But I think the leaders among us, the young Christians among us, the missionaries whose fight is by friendship among us-there are more of them than we may have thought.
Ours is a Commission to freedom, the enemy’s a ji’had to terror. There are some, I know, who despair that freedom will lose, but they are wrong. Our generation is called by a voice echoing now in a million souls to a revival of spirit and truth. When it unfolds, our enemy-without and within-will learn that truth is the freeing thing.
Hans Zeiger is author of the new book Reagan’s Children: Taking Back the City on the Hill. www.reaganchildren.com and a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.