To Reclaim America, Reclaim Virtue

The disturbing societal decay we are experiencing didn't happen overnight.  It has been fomenting for decades.  This has always been a fallen world.  But the gradual, sometimes imperceptible cultural decline is now staring us squarely in the face.

The genesis of our decline can be traced largely to the counter-culture of the '60s.  You know, drugs, sex, and a good riot to round out the week.  Oddly, many of the miscreants of that era are now in power in academia, Hollywood, and politics.  Many in younger generations may not even be aware of the problem.

Critical thinking has long disappeared from students at government schools and universities.  Its replacement is "relativism."  If it feels good, do it...no moral compass required.

Instead of weighing the pros and cons of policy issues, opposing views are shut down by "cancel culture" zealots on college campuses — often with violence.  "Gaslighting" has become a regular tool used by politicians and the corrupt media to shape public opinion.

So how do we correct our course and navigate back to America?

What's at Stake? Some Perspective

We often take our liberty for granted here in America.  However, freedom is a rare blessing that should be cherished.  It is not the norm.

Freedom House has documented that 2018 marks the 13th consecutive year that global freedom has declined.  The United States set the standard for the blessing of liberty through the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.  We now rank 51 out of 87 Free Countries.

Freedom House estimates that in the entire history of mankind, 100–110 billion people have populated the planet.  Of that number, perhaps 3–5 billion have enjoyed freedom — roughly 4%.  Imagine, only 4%!

So tyranny, oppression, and slavery have been the rule throughout history.  Freedom is a rare and fragile gift passed down from our Founding.  Will future historians see our times as an anomaly, or will we pull out from this tailspin?

The Pillars of a Constitutional Republic

In his Farewell Address, George Washington stated:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness[.] ... And let us with caution indulge in the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education ... reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

As a point of clarification, Washington was not a Deist, as some academics maintain.  He was an Episcopalian, as were most of the Founders.

Samuel Adams, father of the revolution, wrote to Richard Henry Lee at the close of the war: "I thank God I have lived to see my country independent and free.  She may long enjoy her independence and freedom if she will.  It depends on her virtue."

And Ben Franklin wrote: "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.  As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."

In the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson states that the American people seek "the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature's God entitle them[.]"  What exactly is Natural Law?

The Founders admired the precepts and writings of Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 B.C.) among others.

Cicero on Natural Law:

  • It's a code of morality based upon "right reason" gifted to us by our Creator
  • It's eternal and noble
  • It's universally applicable
  • It cannot be transformed or repealed
  • Its timeless...it can't be superseded by a legislator

Cicero's architecture for these principles was built on the ability of the human species to reason.  "And reason, when it is full grown and perfected, is rightly called wisdom" (ibid.).

Interestingly, Cicero was not Jewish, and Christianity was decades into the future.  But he was able to independently discern the first two commandments: to love God and love thy neighbor, in that order.  He felt that any human being of any race who finds a guide can achieve virtue.

During the pre-Revolutionary period, it was widely known that there were two different types of virtue: personal and public.  Personal virtue was "The Golden Rule."  Public virtue was described as love of country.  Many colonists struggled with whether they had the character to become a Republic.  But, by the onset of the war, they had developed the confidence in both themselves and their fellow patriots.

Learning from History

History is not to be judged.  History is to be learned from.  To paraphrase Edmund Burke and Winston Churchill, if we don't learn from the mistakes of history, we're destined to repeat them.

Ben Franklin and other Founders warned that once a political office became a position of profit, corruption would be widespread.  As an ambassador to England and France, he witnessed this firsthand throughout the parliaments of Europe. 

In the United States, it was considered an honor to serve.  Depending on the position, sometimes a small stipend was allotted.   George Washington refused payment, except for expenses, as commander of the Continental Army.  He also declined a $25,000 yearly salary as president, even though Mount Vernon was virtually in a state of ruin after the war.

Avarice and ambition (love of power) are among the worst corruptors of human nature.  The Constitution was written to offset these frailties with a system of checks and balances.  Brilliant!

Course Correction Required

Vince Lombardi was asked by a reporter how he was able to turn the perennial losers known as the Green Bay Packers into winners so quickly.  His response was, "Winning is a mastery of fundamentals."  The farther we get from the foundational principles of this country, the more desperate our situation.

The building blocks of renewal start with church and family.  Education will be challenging but achievable.  We need to force schools to stop teaching revisionist history and get back to true civics.  Follow the money.  Stop funding and grants to any school system that doesn't comply.  We all need to get more involved.  Thomas Jefferson said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

We need to elect and appoint leaders that model virtue, both personal and public — leaders who will uphold law and order for all.

At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin was waiting his turn to sign the Constitution after months of passionate argument and negotiation.  His eyes fell on an intricate carving on the back of the chair that George Washington was sitting in.  He was trying to determine if it was a rising sun or a setting sun.  The jubilance of the occasion influenced his judgment...definitely a rising sun.

On the horizon, there are a new SCOTUS confirmation and a presidential election.  While the challenges appear daunting, there's nothing Americans can't accomplish.  As the fog begins to lift, we have renewed hope that future generations will witness another rising sun.