For the past several years, my practice on Independence Day is to repost (with tweaks as they present themselves) an essay honoring America that I wrote a while back and didn’t think I could top. Then the server crash wiped out everything on my blog, and with the press of other projects I haven’t even attempted to recover anything from the blog through Archive.org.
That’s okay, though, because the optimistic vision of the achievement of the American vision presented in that post has been dulled in my estimation of this country’s future. (I seem to find myself drawn to sharing the pessimism which is often displayed at the political site Protein Wisdom.) I’m not a Republican or a Democrat (okay, technically I think I might be a registered Democrat, but that is only because the Utah Democrats have a closed primary, unlike the Utah Republicans); my political allegiance is to my country, not to a party. I believe in American exceptionalism, unlike our President who apparently doesn’t even know what the term means: I believe that America is qualitatively different than other countries which are based on an ethnicity or a history or a geography. I believe that the United States of America is the first — and, so far, only — nation founded on a set of principles, the biggest one being this: that government is the employee of the citizenry. Not its guardian. Not its benefactor. And certainly not its master.
I’m despairing that there will not even be lip service paid to that idea by the time my children have children. When Nancy Pelosi can come out and say that Independence Day should be used to celebrate a piece of legislation which is the greatest enforcement of overreach obligating citizens to the government, it means that the word “independence” — as well as “patriot,” “freedom,” etc. — has been wiped clean of any substantive meaning in public discourse, and instead is being used as a sacramental shibboleth. When the greatest crime of which someone can be convicted in the public eye isn’t dishonesty, promise-breaking, adultery, breaking of oaths, or tyrannical coercion, but is instead the admission of a racist comment, it means that the same level of kneejerk shibboleths has replaced true moral and ethical considerations on the part of the condemners. When the simple statement that the the supreme law of the land, the Constitution, is in fact the supreme law of the land is enough to get one labeled as an extremist or a “fetishist” or, inevitably, a racist (because that’s another word which is being wiped of meaning in its weaponization), it means that the rule of law is being purposely misunderstood by those whose elected obligation is to support that rule of law. When a court can determine that a lawful vote by the people to amend their state constitution is, nonsensically, unconstitutional — and imply strongly that all those who don’t share their definition of rights are somehow morally depraced — it means that “tolerance” has become another “trojan horse” word which really means that it’s okay to denigrate and demonize those whose reasoning on the utility of public policy differs from your own.
This isn’t a Republican vs. Democrat thing. This is a ruling class vs. citizenry thing. This is about a people who once believed in free will, self-determination, and the knowledge that one is not owed success or comfort, and who are now being taught to believe by Pavlovian training that success is a birthright, that variation in outcome is proof of inequality of opportunity, that “fair” means whatever the person who wants your vote says it means, and that the only “choice” in which the government has no power to dictate your behavior is infanticide.
Near the end of the Book of Mormon, the prophet/historian Mormon, who has spent most of the book condensing and chronicling almost a thousand years of his people’s history, turns finally to the events of his own life, and you can see in his record that he realizes that the prophecies made about his nation’s downfall are coming home to roost. And at the risk of sounding hyperbolic and melodramatic, I sometimes find myself realizing exactly how he felt: hoping and wishing that things would get better, and working to make things get better, but not really believing that they ever will. The “fundamental transformation” which our current President baldly proclaimed to be his ambition — and which too many Pavlovian-trained voters thought was a good thing — is too back-ratcheted to ever be reversed, or even to have its velocity slowed much. Too much of what made America both great in actuality and far, far greater in future potential has been bled out in generations of pandering by the hopeful ruling class of either party to a populace trained to complacency and dependency, contemptuous of any distrust of government largesse, as dullwitted and unknowing as manure-spackled steer filling the feedlot looking forward only to their “fair share” of corn feed.
Welcome to domestication, America. Pray that the government teat never runs dry, because your teeth have been removed for that teat’s comfort, and you could never survive in the wild.