Dear World: The attack on Paris was not some inexplicable "tragedy" that we need to "grieve." This was a purposeful, despicable act of violence in the name of religion that all good people must forcefully condemn. Holding hands and singing songs and lighting buildings in pretty colors may make us feel warm and fuzzy for a moment but it will not solve the problem. Failing to confront this evil will only make it worse, as it has done steadily since 9/11. For too long, the world has avoided facing this problem. But we cannot avoid it forever. At some point, we must collectively take a stand.Imagine, if you will, that on December 7, 1941, F.D.R. had said: “America condemns this act. We stand in solidarity with the people of Hawaii.” And then went back to planning the White House Christmas Party. And what if Lincoln had not gone to war? What if he had simply allowed the South to secede, what would America look like today?Yes, good people love peace. We long for peace. But peace does not come of its own accord. Peace comes when good people defeat those who use violence to impose their will on the peaceful. We must stop reacting with shock and sadness and sympathy to every vicious and gruesome terror attack. We must begin strengthening our resolve, and rising up defiance. We must make “never again” mean something, in our time. The time has come to stop talking and start acting, and to demand results from our leaders.152 years ago this week, Abraham Lincoln said this:
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Gettysburg, November 19, 1863).
These words are just as true, and just as critical for us to hear today as they were then. Lincoln's fight was against slavery, and to reunite America under our constitution which enshrines freedom, democracy and justice as inalienable rights. Today, we have a new fight on behalf of freedom, and against those that would oppress us and others. At every point in history, in every generation, when a dictator or a dictatorial ideology rises up against freedom and all those who love it, we must stand fast against them. We must join together and fight to defend our rights, our way of life, and all those things we believe to be good and decent in the world. Or we will lose it all.