Win with Wisdom

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus argued, "A man's character is his fate," by which he meant that we are all capable of shaping our futures.  It is also true that a nation's character is its fate and that countries prosper or perish by their own hands.

Taking these two truths together, it is easy to look around today and lose hope about what lies ahead.  Western civilization is in moral peril and spiritual decay.  Increasingly authoritarian political leaders have abandoned Enlightenment principles recognizing the sanctity of individual rights and a social compact ensuring that legitimate government arises only from the "consent of the governed."  Virtue is maligned, while sin is lauded.  Constitutional protections and inherent freedoms are ignored.  Manipulated language and propaganda supplant both meaning and the pursuit of truth.  Surely, we are damned.

Or maybe the endless winds of chaos and change have conspired to make sure we are here to lead at this moment in history.  Maybe you see the collapse around us clearly because you are meant to help rebuild and lift others up.  When our brains and hearts tell us that something is terribly amiss in the world, then we are given an opportunity to fix what's out of place.  When everything around us seems wrong, then we are given the chance to change everything.  That is either a heavy burden or an extraordinary gift, but which it is remains our choice.  The great blessings of free will flourish only with sacrifice and duty.  We are, as English poet William Ernest Henley reminded, the masters of our fates and the captains of our souls.  It is our character that will decide what is to come.  It is our choices that will shape what lies down our road.

I will tell you now that the West will survive only if America survives, and America will survive only if enough Americans awaken to the real threat of encroaching totalitarianism quietly descending all around them.  Speech codes, thought police, digital tracking, universal surveillance, political persecution, unrestricted government power — these are the calling cards of tyranny.  Either Americans will wake up to the bitter reality that their lives and liberty are already on the line, or they will one day be woken up by the same jackbooted enforcers who always come knocking on the insufficiently indoctrinated's doors.  In the space separating these two possible futures, there will be a moment — a spark, if you will — that will either catch fire in the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere or be extinguished before it takes hold.  That moment will decide everything.

The question for anyone alive today is this: what will you do with that moment?  Will you let it slip by because you have convinced yourself there is nothing to be done?  Will you throw up your hands in despair at overwhelming odds?  Will you hope that someone, somewhere does something in your stead?  Or will you dig deep and armor your resolve with iron courage?

I say that for a large number of Americans, iron courage will take the day.  I say this because deep down in Americans' souls is an indomitable yearning passed down from one generation to the next demanding to be free.  It may lie dormant or even unknown to those who have yet felt it coursing through their veins, but there is an American spirit burbling just below the surface of polite society packed with feral energy and begging to be released.  When Americans realize they're being trapped and prodded and backed against the wall, righteous anger will transform into unmitigated and unrelenting rage.  The tormented will rise and finally have their say.

Make no mistake: this is a contest of wills not at all different from that which birthed the American Republic.  On one side is an entrenched global empire of aristocratic elites, and on the other is a ragtag group of disparate Americans whose mutual bond and chief inheritance remain their abiding ambition to remain free.  Like that same contest two and a half centuries ago, victory will be neither quick nor certain.  

It is easy to forget just how difficult achieving American independence was and how many years its pursuit required.  A decade of patriotic debate preceded a decade of war, which was followed by a decade of constitutional trial and error and another two decades of internal and external threats to the nation's continued existence.  By the time Americans had made it past Britain's second bite at the apple with the War of 1812, they were less than a half-century away from a Civil War that pitted brother against brother, father against son.  That we are fortunate enough to be here today to prosper from the sweat, toil, and loss of so many who came before us and gave all for our benefit binds us in debt to their service.  What we have, we owe not to the diabolical, thieving Marxists who seek their "fair share" but to the generations who came from nothing, had little other than a persistent dream for freedom, yet built everything you see today. 

America's survival has never been certain.  Freedom's survival has never been certain.  Pain and blood, suffering and sacrifice have always been the enduring costs for both.  Liberty, human emancipation, and redemption are necessarily hard-fought and hard-won rewards.

Now is the time to commit to future victory, however tortuous the path.  "Remember, there's folly and foolhardiness on one side, daring and calculation on the other.  Make the right choice."  Those are memorable lines from C.S. Forester's wonderful collection of historical adventure novels (also adapted into a number of terrific films) about a young Royal Navy officer named Horatio Hornblower serving amid the turbulence of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.  The Hornblower books are a great throwback to an era when duty, honor, virtue, courage, and truth all towered prominently over one's choices.  They are equally a reminder that the elimination of virtue, courage, and their cousins from our culture has come with tremendous cost.  Just as politicians have replaced God's will with their own, Westerners have replaced respect for man's character with a celebration of his fleeting desires.  However, just as God has not disappeared simply because politicians insist that He must, virtue has not disappeared simply because it goes largely unnoticed.  Courage and honor and duty are as real as anything you can touch, and when you commit yourself to their pursuit, you make it impossible for your enemies to subdue you.

The line between "folly" and "calculation" is indubitably thin.  It is extremely easy to rush into a losing proposition when patience is yet required.  It is easy to unleash vengeance when wisdom counsels restraint.  It is all too tempting to let the enemies of freedom provoke us into tactical errors of judgment.  It is hard work to hold the line while being taunted, persecuted, and jailed.  

It is never too early, however, to spread the word about what's coming.  It is never too early to gather friends of freedom by your side.  It is never too early to stand for free speech, freedom of religion, and individual liberty.  When the moment for great change comes calling, you will know for certain that the time for courage and daring has arrived.

Image: Jeff Turner via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

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