U.S. troops stationed in Saudi Arabia to protect the Royal Family from terrorism are obliged to sail into the Red Sea in order to celebrate Christmas. This practice is designed to avoid any offense to their Muslim hosts.
So sensitive are Americans to the religious tradition of Muslims that crosses are covered up and any outward signs of Christian observance avoided.
Of course, Muslim denunciation of Christians and Jews is widely accepted. On an Egyptian television children's special, Jews were recently described as having "turned into apes," and the elderly of that faith as "having become pigs." Christians are deemed infidels and the progenitors of the Crusades, a historical condition that for many Muslims has contemporary parallels. Recently, Iranian President Ahmadinejad said: "I will stop Christianity in this country." Under Iranian law, committing apostasy can lead to the death penalty.
With this as a backdrop, there is an American scene that deserves full disclosure. On December 6, I went to the White House Chanukah party. Jews from the most to the least observant were present. At the top of the stairs on the second floor, the West Point Cadet Choir sang Chanukah songs in Hebrew. It should be noted that only about a quarter of those in the chorus are Jewish.
President Bush and Mrs. Bush greeted everyone with their usual cordiality. In fact, the president lit Chanukah candles and proceeded to tell the tale of this celebration.
For me, however, the most startling scene occurred at about 8 p.m. Several chasidic leaders noted that it was time for prayer. They sought a minyan, a prayer group of 10 males. Once assembled, these men proceeded to daven. There they were, 10 bearded men, bobbing up and down in prayer, in of all places the Dolley Madison room at the White House.
I could not conceive of a more incongruous scene. Here in what is ostensibly a Christian country, in a White House led by a born-again Christian, one can find chasidim praying in the Dolley Madison room.
All I could say to my wife was "only in America." I stood there frozen in astonishment. After all, Jews mostly lean Democratic. More significantly, my mind kept returning to the intolerance Jews and Christians face in the Muslim world. How would the Muslim Brotherhood respond to this White House scene? In fact, who cares?
My heart swelled; I was simply filled with pride. Despite all the criticism from the naysayers, despite all the braying from the left-detractors, America is a magical place. You don't have to hide your religious beliefs; you can even display them in the White House.
Imagine, if you can, the response to a group of chasidim that wished to pray in the Saudi Royal Palace. Their heads would be cut off before the first words were uttered.
The more I thought about this remarkable event and the contrast to the Muslim world, the more I came to realize what we are fighting to preserve and why this fight is so critical.
As I stood in the second floor corridor, tears were rolling down my cheeks. Yes, I have a love affair with America. I love our history, our traditions, and our tolerance. I recognize national imperfections, but despite them, there isn't any nation in the world that can reproduce the prayer service I observed on December 6. That was the essence of America.
With the new year soon upon us, I have only one resolution: a reasserted devotion to the land I love and a commitment to fight without restraint for its continued glory. This place is, indeed, the last best hope for mankind, and those who don't realize it are merely blinded by ideological rage.
Perhaps it was hyperbole when Nathan Hale said: "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country." Hyperbole or not, that is the sentiment that should inspire us for 2006. It is the spirit we need to sustain us. For doubters, I refer them to the scene I described in the Dolley Madison room. Only in America could it be found.
Mr. London is president of the Hudson Institute. He is also the author of the book "Decade of Denial" (Lexington Books).
Although Leonidas is a devout agnostic, he wishes one and all a very Merry Christmas and New Year of peace and prosperity.