A couple of days into the power outage that we’ve been enduring here in Lynchburg, a friend told me that God uses everything to impart a lesson, and that there is a lesson in our predicament. While I agreed with him in principle, I wasn’t in a learning frame of mind at the moment! As the outage has dragged on, however, and with my family away for the duration in the comfortable air-conditioned homes of friends in Calvert County, Maryland, I’ve had a lot of time to myself for observation and reflection.
This Independence Day is the first one I can recall spending without the happy distractions of family, friends, food and fireworks, so I hope my thoughts on what this day means to us in the second decade of the 21st century aren’t being overly influenced by my melancholy mood.
I don’t think they are, because they reflect a sentiment I’ve expressed for several months now which some have called fatalistic, but which I prefer to think of as realistic and preparative with the objective of preserving the essence of our republic in some form or fashion.
Let me set the stage with a question.
Is Independence Day 2012 a celebration or a commemoration?
A day set aside to recognize an event can be both, but in my mind, a celebration is an occasion marked by festivity and rejoicing because the event we recognize affects our lives positively even today, while a commemoration is usually more contemplative, designed to remind us of something that was, and why it was important.
Increasingly to me, our Independence Day feels like a commemoration of something significant in our past, and less a celebration of something that is tangible and comforting to us in the present day.
Do we even treasure independence anymore?
According to the results of a Heritage Foundation study, one in five Americans is dependent on the federal government. Mike Brownfield, in writing about the study, reports that “Today, a full 70 percent of the federal government’s budget goes to pay for housing, food, income, student aid, or other assistance, with recipients ranging from college students to retirees to welfare beneficiaries.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has boosting food stamp rolls as a performance measure, even going so far as to persuade people to overcome their desire to be independent of government aid.
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama said, “I think it’s a deep problem when SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) officials think it is their duty to overcome ‘mountain pride’ or overcome the American sense of independence and individual responsibility. They seem to think that is an anachronism and that modern Americans shouldn’t have pride and independence. I think it is highly troubling actually.”
An aggregation of recent public opinion polls suggest that about half of Americans have no issue with the government accessing their personal financial and health information under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to determine their compliance with the law, nor do they seem distressed with government advisory boards making “recommendations” on their behalf regarding what health care they will receive.
Political correctness has replaced freedom of conscience and independence of thought and expression as the predominant social lubricant in American discourse, which is permitted to flow freely as long as you agree with the prevailing opinion put forth by the elites and their organs of mass communications.
If you do not, you are subjected to name-calling, bullying and intimidation to bring about either acquiescence or silence. The surprising and disappointing thing is that the ones engaged in the harassment of those who deviate from the party line are usually our fellow Americans, with the elites standing approvingly in the shadows.
Individual liberty is mocked by our president as a “you’re on your own” philosophy, which is a gross misrepresentation of the desire of those who love liberty to govern themselves and voluntarily serve their communities.
Independence seems to have gone out of style in America, and it happened right under our noses.
At one time, we believed in an elegant yet fragile combination of individual independence, limited government, civil society, and common morality. Lord Acton said, “Liberty is the delicate fruit of a mature civilization.” The founders, the architects of our republic, left us with a sound blueprint, even if we didn’t always follow it to perfection.
We once believed the individual was sovereign and free, and had dignity and worth not due to the benevolence of government, but rather his or her very existence as a human being made in God’s image.
We once believed that government should be limited in scope and power, and that the rule of law protected us from the worst excesses of governmental authority on one end of the spectrum, and majority rule on the other.
We once believed compassion and care were to be left to the people, who came together in what Alexis de Tocqueville called “voluntary associations” to meet individual and community needs. The Tenth Amendment to the Bill of Rights was written with the intent of encouraging solutions to problems at the lowest level of governance, starting with the individual and the family.
Most importantly, we once believed that independence and virtue were inseparable and indispensable. Religious liberty was the first expressed right in the Bill of Rights – yes, even before the freedom of speech - and the founders encouraged religion as the wellspring of a virtuous people, the only kind of people who could effectively govern themselves.
It was clear as a bell to the engineers of our republic that our independence relied on what our second president, John Adams, called “a moral and religious people” who acted not out of fear, but of a willing submission to common values.
His cousin, Samuel Adams said, “Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.”
As authors James Robison and Jay Richards write in their book, Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late, “Without decent citizens and politicians, the Constitution is just ink and parchment. It can’t secure our liberties if politicians and judges ignore it…The more a people freely obey the rule of law, the less need there is for the state to coerce us.”
In these times, however, I believe America is pointed more toward the coercive utopias in classic science fiction novels than the independent, self-governing nation we were designed to be.
License has replaced virtue, and our capitulation to our appetites has given the state the opening to constrain our independence, yet at the same time indulge enough of our passions to keep us anesthetized to the fact they’re stealing away our liberty.
I am struck by the similarities between the America of today and author Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Consider the following characteristics of Huxley’s vision:
- National sovereignty and borders are eliminated in favor of the World State.
- The act of reproduction is decoupled from sex, freeing men and women from the obligations that come with pregnancy, natural childbirth, and parenthood. These concepts, along with marriage and family, are considered obscene.
- Sex is purely recreational, and citizens are encouraged to engage in multiple sexual encounters without commitment or consequences.
- Materialism and consumption are glorified over thrift and savings.
- If consumption and indiscriminate sex without obligations aren’t enough to satiate you, then drugs – soma - will relieve your stress and dull your senses to the world around you.
- Children are educated in a manner to mold their self-image and worldview to that favored by the elites that run the World State. Critical thinking and learning skills are discouraged in favor of indoctrination.
- Individualism is socially unacceptable.
Do you see anything on that list that you recognize? I thought so, too.
So if Huxley’s coercive utopia isn’t your American Dream, what are you going to do about it?
What will you do to make Independence Day 2013 a celebration and not a commemoration?