Freedom. It rolls of the tongue like an incantation we whisper, or shout, to ward off the evil spirits of Marx. Not that any of us know what Marx wrote, or understand the relationship between the kissing cousins of communism, capitalism and democracy. No, we need not understand our ideology, nor our national scripture, nor the high priests who interpret its veiled and unknowable sections and amendments. Those who would dare question whether the twin gods of efficient resource accumulation or the ability to ‘do as thou wilt’ are the zenith of the human condition, are simply unpatriotic. While the near deification of the founding fathers is slowly coming to an end, the increasingly trendy position to take is one of the political agnostic. The usual talking point revolves around the Whiskey Rebellion and the fact that any act of governance, no matter how slight, is anathema. For many reading this post, the invectives against the gradual creep of our ‘democratic republic’ ring true, but those willing to burn a few more brain cells may start to wonder if the results were a feature or a bug.
The two schools of thought with any philosophical consistency surrounding the whole concept of the rebellion against England are anarchy and traditional monarchy. The former school of thought demands that we didn’t go far enough with the Declaration and later, the Constitution. It was rebellion, but not enough rebellion. The entire structure of society, from constabulary to King, needed to be ripped down and the founders could have ushered in a very Rousseau-esque era of the ‘bon sauvage.’ The latter school would posit the entire thing was an enormous misstep in the history of western civilization, and it has created a Leviathan of such proportions its collapse will be a civilizational-ending event. Democracy and the wholesale implementation of it after America has lead to the gradual, but certain cultural rot and social, moral, and economic collapse of nearly every country it’s been foisted upon. The current birth rates and culture seem to increasingly lend weight to the latter. I leave it to our children’s children…the handful that will actually exist…to better judge the matter than anyone today.
The question before us that is worth mulling over when a quiet moment arises, is the fundamental difference between those two schools of thought. Both are in extremis positions. I dare say the adherents of either would agree that the seeds of the tree we see bearing fruit before us were planted on, or close to, the very day we are celebrating. There is no doubt we live in a world created by the Lockean tabula rasa philosopher-kings of Philadelphia, Mount Vernon and Boston. However, both come to wildly differing conclusions, because of one or two presuppositional differences. I would be hard pressed to think of a better, or more timely, illustration of how important our foundational beliefs are. While I certainly have strong opinions on which side seems to have the mountain of historical and philosophical evidence supporting it, the purpose of this is not to simply rail against anarchy. I give most of them credit for at least staking a position that isn’t rooted in a desire to click their heels together three times and wind up in 1950. We aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. No, I want you to sit back today and consider what exactly are the results of this grand experiment.
I spoke with an older gentleman this past week who quite soberly confided ‘there is no doubt in my mind I lived during the zenith of American society, and no one your age or younger will ever experience anything like it.’ I don’t know if this day was a victory or a tragedy for America and western civilization. We have made incredible advances in science, technology and virtually every other intellectual discipline. Yet, we have our children raising money for the holocaust of their peers. Sixty million odd children and it’s nothing to us as a people. We burned and enslaved a sizable portion of the ‘separate but equal’ states in the name of freedom. We hold more computing power in our pocket than NASA got to the moon with. We are also eating psychotropics like candy on a national scale. Were it any other country, or any other form of government and we would demand it be judged by its fruits. Perhaps it is time we take a cold look and re-think exactly why we recite those familiar words and talking points that comfort us.
One of my favorite Greek maxims is ‘know thyself.’ Inscribed on a temple to Apollo, it is most apropos in the times we live in. The amount of ‘Fake News!’ and social upheaval occurring at a seemingly breakneck pace means those ill-equipped to deal with the deluge of misinformation and outright falsehood will become reactionary. Chaos is being sown, and it is being done on purpose. Confused people make bad decision. Confused people often make emotional decisions. Confused people don’t question why the chaos is happening…or who is causing the chaos. Could anyone have foreseen what this nation has descended to in the lat two hundred and forty-two years? Was it genius, or folly? I can’t answer that question for you. It’s worth asking, though. However, I can ensure my house and my family doesn’t descend into that tomorrow, or the next day, and the day after that. I can ensure western culture has a home within these walls. Those questions, I can answer. Self-reflection is a luxury we have at the moment, let us use it wisely. Have a happy 4th of July.