By Alexis Deacon
America’s Bicentennial July 4, 1976-
Mr. Jergens said, “Rocky, do you believe that America is the land of opportunity?”
“Yeah” came a sheepish reply from a Philadelphia club fighter named Rocky Balboa
Mr. Jergens: “Apollo Creed does and he’s going to prove it to the whole world by giving an unknown a shot at the title.”
Rocky was the classical rags to riches American Dream story of an uneducated but big-hearted Italian leg breaker for a loan shark in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The same city which played such a big role in America’s founding and dream for Independence. Rocky was a small time boxer who got a shot at the world heavyweight championship. My Dad took me to see the Rocky movie in the theatre the day it came out. I was a teeny tiny little girl who played with Barbie dolls. Boxing wasn’t exactly my forte at the time so I fell asleep. My Dad got really mad at me for sleeping and then he proceeded to take me to see Rocky at the cinema for over a dozen times during the next month. I got it. There was a life lesson to be learned there. In America if you really want something, whatever it is, you can achieve the impossible. With hard work there is literally nothing out of reach. The sky is the limit. My Dad raised me like a boy, like a fighter. He threw me in a pool to teach me how to swim before I could barely walk. It was the learn or die technique. If someone messed with me, I knew how to punch them out. I wasn’t allowed to cry, be a majorette or do anything girlie. Being a cheerleader was strictly forbidden. I was taught to let other people cheer for me. Autographs or any form of idol worship was also strictly off the table. I went to a high school which was a former military school. We got to run up steep hills every school day like we were at boot camp. When I wanted to make the basketball team, I had to do what Mickey Goldmill, Rocky’s trainer, said to do “train hard for 45,000 minutes, ten weeks, ten hours a day.” And I did. Over the years, the Rocky series became my favorite movies. I even went to college in Philadelphia, drank raw eggs and ran up Rocky’s famous steps every day as the sun was coming up. I later grew up to become a fan of boxing, MMA, UFC and more importantly the American dream. Those were different times.
Now I wonder.
Does the American dream exist anymore?
On the night before Rocky’s first big fight with Apollo he said to his girlfriend Adrian “Who am I kidding. I ain’t even in the guys league.”
Rocky continued, “I was nobody before. But that don’t matter either, you know? ‘Cause I was thinkin’, it really don’t matter if I lose this fight. It really don’t matter if this guy opens my head, either. ‘Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I’m still standin’, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood.”
I’ve been thinking lately about that particular era in history. Ted Cruz’s speech at the 2016 GOP convention reminded me of Ronald Reagan’s speech around the Bicentennial. It was another time when America had made the wrong choice. Reagan didn’t win the nomination in 1976, Ford did but Reagan “went the distance.” Both Reagan and Rocky would go on a few years later to achieve the big ultimate victory with America cheering them on.
Reagan quote from the 1976 Republican convention:
“If I could just take a moment; I had an assignment the other day. Someone asked me to write a letter for a time capsule that is going to be opened in Los Angeles a hundred years from now, on our Tricentennial.
It sounded like an easy assignment. They suggested I write something about the problems and the issues today. I set out to do so, riding down the coast in an automobile, looking at the blue Pacific out on one side and the Santa Ynez Mountains on the other, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was going to be that beautiful a hundred years from now as it was on that summer day.
Then as I tried to write — let your own minds turn to that task. You are going to write for people a hundred years from now, who know all about us. We know nothing about them. We don’t know what kind of a world they will be living in.
And suddenly I thought to myself if I write of the problems, they will be the domestic problems the President spoke of here tonight; the challenges confronting us, the erosion of freedom that has taken place under Democratic rule in this country, the invasion of private rights, the controls and restrictions on the vitality of the great free economy that we enjoy. These are our challenges that we must meet.
And then again there is that challenge of which he spoke that we live in a world in which the great powers have poised and aimed at each other horrible missiles of destruction, nuclear weapons that can in a matter of minutes arrive at each other’s country and destroy, virtually, the civilized world we live in.
And suddenly it dawned on me, those who would read this letter a hundred years from now will know whether those missiles were fired. They will know whether we met our challenge. Whether they have the freedoms that we have known up until now will depend on what we do here.
Will they look back with appreciation and say, “Thank God for those people in 1976 who headed off that loss of freedom, who kept us now 100 years later free, who kept our world from nuclear destruction”?
And if we failed, they probably won’t get to read the letter at all because it spoke of individual freedom, and they won’t be allowed to talk of that or read of it.
This is our challenge; and this is why here in this hall tonight, better than we have ever done before, we have got to quit talking to each other and about each other and go out and communicate to the world that we may be fewer in numbers than we have ever been, but we carry the message they are waiting for.
We must go forth from here united, determined that what a great general said a few years ago is true: There is no substitute for victory, Mr. President.”
The recent Olympics had me reminiscing as well. The seventies were a volatile time. Carter was a disaster as a president. Even as a child I would lie awake terrified by this man’s administration. There were gas lines everywhere. As fuel prices skyrocketed the economy tanked. The Soviet Union grew stronger and the Cold War was omnipresent in the news, especially after the invasion of Afghanistan. America grew weaker by the day. Then, 52 American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days after a group of Iranians took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Americans lost their pride as the world laughed at us. Somehow, we had forgotten our identity, forgotten where we came from and what we were made out of.
The Olympic games of 1980 were the first spark of hope we saw back then. The first sign God had sent us a miracle and was about to turn things around. On February 22, 1980 during the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid New York, the United States hockey team defeated the famous Soviet Union team. The Soviets were suppose to win. We were the underdog amateurs and the youngest team there . Our team was filled with unknown names. The bastion of Communism versus the bastion of capitalism battled it out on the ice. The space race had been ongoing against the two nations followed by the nuclear arms race. It was electric symbolism well beyond hockey. Two super powers with opposing ideologies locked horns. America was at such a low point going into this Olympic games. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, it was a slap in America’s face. Carter had made us weak and boycotted the summer Olympic games. There was nothing to look forward to that year. In the locker room, our hockey team hung up a telegram reading “beat those commie bastards.” When the crowds chanted “USA, USA,” it was psychologically a chant for the American dream and the American way of life which was being washed away by the progressives and greatly damaged by Carter.
I still remember where I was at that exact moment watching that hockey game. I was with my grandparents at their house. I was staying with them while my parents were out of town. It was a delayed broadcast on ABC but before the Internet most American believed it to be live. It was so exciting coming down to the very last moment. Before the game, coach Herb Brooks told his players “You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours.” It reminded me of the Bible verse in Esther.
At the end of the game with seconds left on the clock, sportscaster Al Michaels screams”11 seconds, you’ve got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles?! YES!!!” USA wins. The crowd goes wild. Team USA went on to win its final games and won the gold medal.
This game was the turning point for America’s come back. The slogan “let’s make America great again” was born. A few month later Reagan won the GOP nomination and ultimately the White House in a landslide victory carrying 43 states. The Democrats lost the Senate for the first time in over two decades. Our hostages were released from Iran due to Reagan’s win. The tide turned and Reagan created the greatest economic boom our country had ever seen. He used laissez faire policies to get the government out of the entrepreneurs way. Jobs came back, taxes and inflation were lowered, people bought homes and started businesses. American pride returned. Reagan restored our global honor. Communism was being defeated all over the world. People believed in their dreams again. It was “morning again in America.” The Reagan Revolution was in full swing as fortune smiled!
The perfect storm emerged as Reagan, Thatcher and Pope John Paul II ushered in an age of worldwide conservative messaging. What transpired in the 1980’s was like a fairytale. When America returned to God and faith, the manna came raining down upon us in endless blessings. Things went from black and white to technicolor. Reagan was president, Rocky was the heavyweight champ, our Hockey team won the gold, our hostages in Iran came home and every American felt like they were on the top of the world. Not long after Reagan’s presidency, the Berlin wall came down too, thanks to him. Conservative principles work. They raise the standard for the world. Our framers knew that and conservatives today understand this truth as well.
Things may not be so miraculous this time around looking at where we are in 2016.
I have been so sick for so long. Sometimes, all I do is think about the past or hope for the future because the present is an endless stream of nothingness. The current time is like being on a hamster wheel in the hot humid summer sun, running, sweating but getting nowhere. Each day the republic falls further into tyranny and the people’s anger grows as they feel helpless to do anything about it. Out of desperation they turn to populism which is one of the most destructive forces in politics. Populism is a mob rule form of Fabian socialism. In 1884, Laurence Gronlund, who is credited with bringing Fabian socialism to the United States, published “The Co Operative Commonwealth” in which he laid out an American version of socialism, stressing slow evolutionary progression of statist ideology rather than violent revolution. Gronlund believed in using the populist movement to absorb all capital and property by the government in a peaceful manner. He believed eventually political corruption would lead to enough people who were willing to trade individual liberty and personal property rights for security and the Trump movement is a reflection of this type of populist uprising. Obama became the final step in the progressives’ 100 year march to Marxism. Obama’s presidency and the judges he packed our federal courts with are finding ways to grow centralized government bigger, out of the scope of our Constitution and they nationalize everything they can get their grubby little hands on. Our beloved federalism is eroding. Our faith and founding principles turn to dust in the wind.
Rocky Balboa’s life didn’t have the happy ending the audience wanted for him. He endured numerous hardships and my life arc followed this character. I was wildly successful as a young adult only to watch most of my family and friend’s die young. I had an unusual life filled with car accidents, fires, hurricanes and floods, more than my fair share of destruction. God had saved me from so many horrible tragedies which I had gone through and I had to ask why. Although, I feel like a completely broken person in every way, there must be some reason I am here. I stand completely alone in the abyss wondering what my purpose is. I watch our country slip into darkness and wish I could do more, say more, help more.
Are conservatives helpless?
Facing an election of either Hillary or Trump, we know the Convention of States is the only answer. However, it took the progressives one hundred years to bring us to this point and it may take conservatives equally as long to turn this country around. We are so far gone and we can’t fix this overnight. Things will probably get worse before they get better. We live in the google age where we have grown accustom to instant gratification and we won’t have it with this. Most republics don’t last 300 years. Will America yet again be the exception to the rule? We need to work our entire lives to preserve freedom and turn back the tide, and the sad truth of the matter is, like Reagan said in his 1976 speech about the time capsule, we may never know the outcome. We probably won’t live to see the fruits of our labor. Only the people of the future will know whether we succeeded in saving America. And all we can do is march on. We were meant to be here now to save this republic. “Perhaps you were born for such a time as this” Esther 4:14. This will be a struggle and we more than likely won’t survive to see the victory and we have to live with that. Like Rocky says “Life isn’t about how hard you hit. Life is about how hard we can get hit and keep moving forward.” We must push ourselves to “Go the distance!” and hope the future thanks the memory of who we once were.