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Big Tech: What do companies like Google and Meta owe America? | Opinion

Recently on hisUncommon KnowledgePeter Robinson of Stanford’s Hoover Institution interviewed Matthew Continetti, author of a fine new book on American conservatism, and Christopher DeMuth, a prominent public policy scholar and former president of the American Enterprise Institute. Towards the end of the conversation, Robinson asked his guests why big US tech companies, whose profits now come largely from abroad, should nevertheless prioritize US interests or at least avoid undermining them.

DeMuth responded in four words: “Because they’re American.”

His words, simple but profound, transported me. Suddenly it was 1965. I was 10 years old. My four younger brothers and I, along with my mother and grandparents, were attending the Memorial Day Parade in the small mountain town of Mount Morris, near the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border in the heart of Appalachia. .

My father, who was only 39 at the time, walked in the parade with his fellow World War II veterans. A decade earlier, these sons of farmers and coal miners had helped destroy the Nazi war machine. They risked their own lives to protect the lives, liberty and dignity of others – not only their fellow Americans, but also Europeans and everyone else. The “young people” in the parade were Korean War veterans. There were no Vietnamese veterans yet. Leading the parade and in the color guard were World War I veterans.

We waved flags and cheered on our heroes. There were Gold Star mothers riding around in convertibles and a high school marching band. The parade stopped at the small war memorial in the center of town between the volunteer fire brigade and the bank, the colors were presented and one of the local preachers prayed a fervent prayer, praising the courage and sacrifice of the soldiers fallen and thanking God for freedom and democracy.

We were the only family that wasn’t Protestant — my mother’s family is Catholic, my father’s is Syrian-Orthodox. There was a black family in the local community. But we were all accepted as fellow citizens and we treated each other with respect.

All differences between us disappeared and we united in our love for our country and in gratitude to those who had given “the last full measure of devotion”. What mattered—all that mattered—was that we were Americans. And we were proud to be Americans – proud of what America and its citizens had done, proud of what America stood for. We believed in – and cherished – our country.

We were in the middle of the Cold War. The Cuban Missile Crisis had occurred less than three years earlier; JFK had been assassinated by a communist less than two years earlier. None of us had any doubts as to who was right and who was wrong. We knew Communism was bad and it was our ideological enemy. We have rejected the Marxist dogmas of atheism, dialectical materialism, class struggle and the idea that history is driven by material conflicts of interest. We have profoundly denied that it is necessary to overthrow the bourgeoisie and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. We believed in the dignity given by God to the human person.

We had no illusions that our country was perfect. Yet we thought America was a great and good land, and its principles were true and just – worth fighting for and, if necessary, dying for. We knew that where we as a nation fell short was because we failed to live up to those principles.

Reflecting on these childhood memories, I wonder: were we naïve? Have we been simplistic? Have we been uneducated and captivated by an unattainable ideal? Did we go wrong with a whitewashed image of America? Was the nation founded on a set of deeply immoral beliefs, and was the Constitution merely an instrument to sustain oppression?

No.

I’m still that 10-year-old kid. I still believe what that little boy believed. I love my country, because it is mine, yes, and because it is ours. But more than that, I love our country because it is good: its ideals and principles are true. I love our country for what it best represents and for the great good it has done, including showing that “government of the people, by the people and for the people” can indeed “last for a long time”. .”

Today, the state of our politics provides legitimate reason to question whether our nation continues to value and honor its principles and strive to uphold them. Some people, noting that many of the men who declared “all men are created equal” were slave owners, condemn these principles as false. Some want to apply them selectively and in a spirit of ideological partisanship: freedom for me but not for you.

At both ends of the ideological spectrum, there is talk of “national divorce” and even civil war.

Yet I have faith that America and its noble principles will endure.

A source of my optimism is my father, my hero. Now 97 years old and extremely fragile, his kindness, compassion, courage, deep moral strength and childlike faith inspire me and my four brothers every day. Every year since returning from Normandy and Brittany during World War II, he has participated in the same annual Memorial Day parade in this small Appalachian town, although in recent years he has not marched, but rather been pushed in a wheelchair.

Every Memorial Day, my father salutes the flag while “The Star-Spangled Banner” is sung. On his chest he wears the medal he received from the French Republic when he was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor for his contribution to the liberation of this nation from Nazi tyranny. Every year, my brothers and I have to put enormous pressure on him to wear the medal. In his humility, he does not like to display at the memorial service insignia which distinguish him from his honorable comrades-in-arms; indeed, many medals have been earned but never awarded.

You don’t have to earn a bravery medal to be considered a defender of America. What unites us — what makes us “us” into “we the people” — is our common commitment to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which recognize the deep, inherent and equal dignity of every member of the human family. Me, and you, and all of our fellow citizens have certain responsibilities to America because we are american.

This is the case for coal miners and farmers. And this is no less true for university professors and technical executives.

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program on American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University