Summary: Here are some thoughts important but seldom heard amidst the celebrations on Independence Day, a holiday whose meaning we have forgotten.
“… the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
— George Washington’s First Inaugural Address (1789).
The Roman Republic died, but its people were slow to adjust to being subjects. Their most common reaction was resignation. Their popular philosophies were resignation put to music: Stoicism, Epicureanism, Hedonism, and Christianity. How will Americans react when they realize that the Constitution has died? Will we react with reform, rebellion, or resignation?
The coming years might test America more than anything in our past, including the Revolutionary and Civil wars. America might lose both what defines us and what we hold most dear: our Constitution, our vast wealth, and our role as a global hegemon. This transition will be like a singularity in astrophysics, a point where the rules break – beyond which we cannot see.
Such trials appear throughout history. Consider Russia in 1942. Ruled by a madman. Their government had betrayed the hopes of the revolution, killed tens of millions of their own people, and reduced the nation to poverty. Most of their generals were dead, their armies were in full retreat, and vast areas were controlled by a ruthless invader. The mark of a great people is the ability to carry on when all is lost, including hope. We can learn much from the Russian people’s behavior in WWII.
“Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Dr. Franklin ‘What have we got, a republic or a monarchy?’ ‘A republic, if you can keep it’ replied the Doctor.”
— Entry of 18 September 1787 in the Papers of Dr. James McHenry on the Federal Convention of 1887 (signed the Constitution, our 3rd Secretary of War, and namesake of Fort McHenry).
If we could contact the hereafter to ask the Founders’ advice, what might they say? Probably they would remind us that self-government must be fought for and earned anew by each generation. The structure of the Republic is a gift from our parents. Each generation decides what to do with it.
There is an election in November, and another after that. But voting is not enough. Please donate your time and (if possible) money to candidates (local, state, or national). But that is not enough. Above all we need a commitment to liberty and self-government – and a willingness to work together to achieve and improve these things.
Without them we are nothing. All that we have gained can disappear like last year’s snow, as has happened to so many others in history.
So let’s spend today in celebration of what we have.
Let’s spend tomorrow and the days after that working to keep and improve it.