Posts Tagged ‘Great Britain’

To Be American

July 4, 2010

I. What is it to be American?

What is it to be an American?  Is it to live at certain points on a map?  Is it to have the right to vote?  Is it to have the right to free speech?  Is it to have the strongest military?  Is it capitalism?  Is it George Washington?  Norman Rockwell?  William Faulkner?  Aaron Copland?  John Wayne?  Baseball?  Apple pie?  All of the above?  None of the above?  Or is it something much more?

II. America is an Idea

America is really an idea: an idea of liberty, or freedom.  It is an idea that recognizes man is born with certain rights which are inseparable from him.  It is an idea of a new nation.  A nation based on a form of government by the consent of the governed, founded on certain principles, and granted certain powers organized in such a way as to best secure those rights and liberties for the people it governs.  This idea of a new American nation is set out in two separate but interconnected documents: The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.  The Constitution flows from and is a natural outgrowth of the principles of the Declaration. 

III. The Vision of the Founders

The men who created and shaped these two documents, America’s founding fathers, were men of great vision but also men of practical common sense.  They truly believed they were putting forth self-evident truths, but they knew full well the radical departure they were taking from what must have seemed, at the time, the destined march of human history.  So when Thomas Jefferson put ink-dipped quill to paper, the Declaration of Independence, he knew, would be a fundamental rejection of all other forms of government extant at that time.  Most especially, the Founders of the new American nation were intent on differentiating and separating themselves (or dissolving all political bands) from the country that was their progenitor turned antagonist: Great Britain.

In taking this upon themselves, the Founders relied on the protection of Divine Providence and pledged to one another their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.  If they failed, they knew that their lives would be over, and that no future history would remember them for long.  Indeed, they and their cause would be a mere footnote to history: rebels who dared challenge the might of the British Empire and who were justly crushed by it.  But they did not fail.  Miraculously, they succeeded in their cause.  They prevailed, even though at times all seemed lost. 

The Founders knew, however, that it would not be enough to merely win.  They knew that if they were victorious over the British they could not simply substitute one kind of tyranny for another: one despotic ruler for another despotic ruler.  No, the form of government which they would need to create and put in place would have to be something quite different from the European model of a supreme centralized state authority as embodied in the personage of a king.  Indeed, so worried were they about this, that the first form of government they ratified, the Articles of Confederation, was hardly a government at all.  It was so removed from any central form of government that it resulted in near anarchy and was an utter failure.  So they tried again.  And this time they got the balance right.

The Founders envisioned and created a new and unique form of government.  They foresaw that if they put in place only that government which was absolutely necessary, such conditions would allow the maximum amount of liberty for the people.  They knew government could never deliver happiness to people and, if it ever tried, it would only create the opposite result.  Rather, they understood that if people were merely allowed to pursue their own happiness, that they would, and that in their own way they would find it.

They also foresaw that power in such a system of government would need to be diffuse.  They understood all too well that men were not to be trusted with power: that they were easily corrupted by it.  Hence, the form of government they would establish would have power so balanced and so spread throughout its various layers that no one individual or group of individuals could credibly accumulate and concentrate power and so pervert the system into tyranny. 

And so, the formulation of a system of government was created based on certain guaranteed liberties and certain checks and balances on power.  It was to be one that would be a bulwark against those unscrupulous individuals who crave power and would seek to use power to subvert liberty.

IV. American Exceptionalism

Alexis de Tocqueville

So unique was this new system of American government that people began to talk about it, and the concept of “American Exceptionalism” arose.  American Exceptionalism is something I have touched on several times before in these writings.  It is a philosophy that can be traced back to Alexis de Tocqueville, a French historian who in the 1830s travelled throughout the young American nation and was quite impressed by what he saw.  And no wonder. Coming from Europe where despotism was still entrenched, American democracy was a refreshing and remarkable experiment.  So inspired was he that he wrote about it.  His treatise, Democracy in America, is a major work on the early American nation, its government and society.  In it, he depicted America as having established a form of government that created a remarkable balance between individual liberty and the needs of the community.  In this, he saw the young American nation as truly unique in the world.  Indeed, it was exceptional.

V.  Abraham Lincoln and American Liberty

Abraham Lincoln also knew that America was a unique and exceptional nation.  Delivered in the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is a kind of testament and prayer in recognition of America’s unique position in the world.  At the time, the fate of this nation “conceived in liberty” must have seemed very much in doubt, and Lincoln obviously feared that this, the only beacon of liberty on earth, could very well be snuffed out.  On this July 4th, it is worth remembering his stirring and enduring words:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.  But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate…we can not consecrate…we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. –Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863.

The nation survived that ordeal, but both Lincoln, and the Founders before him, knew that this unique concept, this idea of liberty embodied in a nation, would be tested throughout its existence, as it had been during the Civil War.  And they knew it would be tested from without and from within.  The year following his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln made the following statement on liberty:

We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names—liberty and tyranny.  –Abraham Lincoln, 1864

VI. Liberty and Tyranny Today

Lincoln’s quote on liberty and tyranny seems most prescient.  For in America today there are those who would call a thing liberty when it is really tyranny.  They are Americans who would do with other Americans and the product of other Americans’ labors as they please and all the while call that liberty.  Or compassion.  Or spreading the wealth.  Or social justice.  Or socialism.  But by whatever words they may call it, it has but one name: tyranny.

They are the ones Lincoln and the Founders forewarned us against.  They are the ones who would test liberty again and again and, if they could, take America away from what it was and remake her into something else.  They would use the power of the government as a tool to compel Americans to do what they think Americans should be doing with their lives.  They would use the power of government to compel Americans to embrace certain things and give up other things; to compel Americans to obey certain rules but dispense with other rules.  And they would call these actions the granting of “rights” and they would do so operating under the banner of liberty.  They would change, if they succeed, the very idea of America.  

And they are succeeding.  They are doing these things right now, and they are doing them from within.  There are leaders in America today who think it is government’s role and function to change people’s inclinations: to get them to do what they think they should do.  They seek to enact laws that purport to make certain groups or classes of people healthier and happier; or laws that are intended to make things more affordable, or safer, or cleaner, or easier, or more efficient; or laws designed to advance a particular cause or industry or private—but politically connected—entity within an industry.  In essence doling out happiness, to some.  And all at the expense of other people.  This stands diametrically against everything the Founders envisioned for this country.  And it is an anathema to the very idea of America.  Charity and compassion when compelled by governments, are neither charity nor compassion.  They are hoped-for handouts, that in turn become expected welfare, and that in turn become entitlements.

Most Americans today don’t think or probably even care much about all this stuff.  For them, it is just a bunch of politicians bickering, as usual.  But make no mistake: there is a war going on right now and right here in America.  Not a war fought with guns and bullets (at least not yet) but with ideas.  And the victor will determine the kind of nation we will be.  On the one side are those who believe the Founders got it right from the beginning.  That their formulation is one that works better than any other system ever has or ever could.  On the other side are those who think that the Founders’ views, while perhaps historically interesting, are to be seen as quaint and misguided, and in these modern times, certainly outdated.  They see the Founders as just a bunch of decrepit old white men who dressed funny and wore funny wigs and who just “wouldn’t get” what America is all about today.  They see America as having run its course, as being on the wrong side of history, as needing to be more like modern Europe or other nations of the world.  They see America as a country in desperate need of change, or even “fundamental transformation.”  There is no single idea or viewpoint that could be more wrong or more dangerous to this country’s existence than this one, for it takes aim at the very heart of what we are.

VII. Conclusion

What makes us exceptional, unique and unlike the other nations of the world, both past and present, is an idea.  An idea of liberty that binds us together as Americans.  We, as a nation, took a divergent path off of the historical road towards strong centralized government.  Yet, there are those who would have us return to that road and become more like other nations.  If we do, we will move further away from what we are meant to be: further away from what it means to be American.

The Founders bequeathed to us and made us stewards of a simple and elegant formula.  A way for a self-governing and self-reliant people to pursue happiness on earth.  For the Founders, it was their vision, their dream.  And to be American today is to have the great privilege to actually live this beautiful dream as a reality.  Now, why on earth would we ever want to change that?

Related posts on this topic:

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/coming-undone/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/america-r-i-p/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/why-you-don%e2%80%99t-have-a-right-to-healthcare/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/the-arrogance-of-hope-change-%e2%80%a6-or-else/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/glenn-beck%e2%80%99s-cpac-speech-tiger-woods-and-toilet-bowls-a-blackboard-and-brilliance/

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Coming Undone?

June 11, 2010

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.

The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars

Did wander darkling in the eternal space,

Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth

Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;

Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,

And men forgot their passions in the dread

Of this their desolation; and all hearts

Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:

And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,

The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,

The habitations of all things which dwell,

Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum’d,

And men were gather’d round their blazing homes

To look once more into each other’s face…

                           —Lord Byron, from Darkness

 

I.  Introduction

Thomas Hobbes

Long ago, an English philosopher once characterized the natural state of the human condition as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”1  Perhaps Thomas Hobbes had it right.  But considering the everyday lives of most modern Americans and Europeans, you wouldn’t know it.  Until recently, that is.  Over the course of our daily lives, most of us probably never give a second thought to how fortunate we Westerners — particularly Americans — truly are.  How pampered and privileged we’ve grown accustomed to being treated.  Most of us live and work in relative comfort.  We cruise around in our SUVs, or other similarly extravagant vehicles, while listening to the latest songs on our I-pod playlist.  We go to shopping malls (real or virtual) that cater to our every whim and fetish for things gaudy and gadgety.  We chat (or text) away on our cell phones or clatter away on our laptops while sipping gourmet coffee.  We see luxuries as mere conveniences and conveniences as absolute necessities. And we demand all sorts of expensive “rights” from our government leaders who seem more than happy to dole them out to us provided we keep electing them to office.  We’ve become so used to this coddled — albeit humdrum — way of life that we feel cheated if it is ever somehow denied to us.  We see it as no less than our birthright, our inheritance, our legacy.  We feel we are entitled to it.

And yet, most of us don’t seem to have a very clear understanding as to how we even got here; or have even the vaguest idea how entirely new and fragile all this is.  And for those of us that do, it is a trifling thought that signifies very little as we go about our daily routine.  We don’t stop to think that what we call life today in modern Western civilization, never even existed only four or five generations ago.  And we have nary a thought that one day it might all just go away.  Instead, we go on living in our own world enveloped by a kind of bubble of affluence and entitlement which deludes us into believing that Hobbes’s stark observation of man’s true state of existence is just not so.  Or if it is so, then it has little relation to today.  In our comfortable time and place, the realities of that other, much bleaker human condition are kept neatly at bay, tucked far away in other times, in other places.  In short, we take everything we have for granted.

But only five generations ago, everything was completely different.  At the very beginning of the twentieth century, there were of course no I-pods or I-pads or laptop computers.  There were no cell phones (the telephone itself was still a new invention.)  There was no Internet.  There were no televisions, no radios, no air conditioners, no refrigerators, no microwaves, no coffeemakers, not even a pop-up toaster.  In fact, the widespread use of applied electricity, as made available to consumers, was in its infancy.  The newly invented gas-powered automobile would have been a quirky indulgence.  And even basic needs like central heating and running water would have been considered a comfort that only a relative few could afford.  Indeed, a world with all of these amazing things in it would have seemed, to the seventeenth century mind of Thomas Hobbes, entirely fantastical.  And yet still alive today, there are those few very old folks who can actually recall, from childhood, the harder but much simpler times before any of these incredible advancements in the human condition had come into being.  Before the world was utterly transformed.

II.  A Brief History of American Capitalism

But what was responsible for this astonishing transformation of the world?  What was the overall driving force behind the affluence and technological advancements?  Was it government?  No, absolutely not.  And it definitely was not a large, centralized government.  In fact at that time government programs, to the extent they existed at all, were nothing like the costly entitlements of today.  Indeed, outside of waging war, the government’s role at the beginning of the twentieth century was, by today’s standards, a very limited one. 2

So what was responsible?  In a word, it was capitalism. American capitalism. As the nineteenth century drew to an historic close, the premonitory beginnings of the new twentieth century foretold the advent of an even more momentous age.  The decrepit despots and ruling classes of old Europe were on their last legs.  Soon, the First World War would snuff them out completely.  And in the New World, the age of American liberty and American capitalism — of individual freedoms and free enterprise — was well underway.  America had made it through a bitter civil war and survived.  And a nation, “conceived in liberty,” had in fact not perished from the earth. 3  Indeed, it was flourishing.  America as an idea — an idea of freedom — had taken hold.  Liberty, individual liberty, and self-reliance were at work in all spheres, and had become the fulcrum and foundation of the American economy.  And they became embedded in American culture and society.  The young American nation’s industrial revolution was in full swing.  Virtually over night, America went from an agrarian economy to an industrial powerhouse.  And the nations of old Europe looked our way with envy and a desire to emulate.  And emulate they did, but they only got so far.  Caught up in class struggles and internecine conflicts, and tied down by the vestiges of their own feudal past, capitalism in the American sense never quite took root in Europe.  The façade of capitalism was erected but deference to the central authority of the state remained.  It would take yet another World War and then a Cold War for European nations to finally try to put misguided ideologies behind them.  Yet even today much of Europe still seems poised to slip back into the false calm of despotism.

Nevertheless, as the new American century moved forward, the power of American capitalism, and the wealth it created, was spreading worldwide anyway it could.  And as the reach of America’s brand of capitalism extended elsewhere, it began to utterly and fundamentally alter the lives and living standards of Americans and Europeans.  Indeed many Europeans, not willing to wait for prosperity to come to them were now emigrating to America’s shores in droves.  Capitalism was lifting off the shade of night and raising America and the world into a bright new realm of limitless possibilities.  Unfettered freedom in the markets, freedom in the exchange of thoughts and ideas, created and still today creates the nurturing environment — the incubator — for individual initiative and innovation and invention to take place.  It was the “pursuit of happiness,” that our founders had so eloquently bequeathed to us, made actual and real.  Individuals, not governments, reliant on no one, other than themselves, armed with freedom and a desire to succeed: that was the simple but beautiful idea — a dream almost — upon which the young American nation was founded and that Americans were actually living.

And, at least until recent times, it was an idea that was lived by Americans without undue interference or “assistance” by government.  Quite the contrary, it was a formula that worked precisely because government was removed from it.  As little government as possible; only that government which is absolutely necessary — these were the things our country’s founders warned us about over and over again.  But somewhere during the past one-hundred years or so, between New Deals and Fair Deals, between Progressive Reforms and Great Societies, between Social Justice and the Nanny State, between Hope and Change, we allowed government to gum up the works.  Big time.  We are now a full-fledged entitlement economy, society, and culture which is something the founders of this country never wanted us to be.  Individual self-reliance and initiative have gone by the wayside.  They have been supplanted by a group mentality of entitlement.  We look to government now, rather than ourselves, for “rights” and other “free” stuff, and we are embittered and angry if ever we are denied our due.  Moreover, we are made to feel justified in these feelings.  Indeed, over the years we have been encouraged and conditioned by weak leaders within governments and by a misguided media culture to see these things — this grand benefits package — as our heritage.

But as we choose to remain an entitlement society, we shall go the way of all entitlement societies: sooner or later, the bubble bursts.  And when it does, that other, cruel Hobbesian world comes rushing in. 

III.  Greece: The Collapse of an Entitlement Society

In Greece, that bubble has burst.  The momentous events in Greece over these past several weeks and months have been a rude awakening for the Western world.  Greece, the epitome of a modern entitlement society, has finally come crashing down.  For decades, Greek citizens have relied on government entitlements and subsidies: unaffordable state jobs, excessive state pensions, government healthcare and other high-priced government programs and, consequently, the country has amassed unsustainable debt.  They’ve simply run out of money.  Now, the government’s long overdue attempts to rein in spending through a variety of austerity measures — a requirement of their multi-billion dollar bailout by the European Union and the largely United States funded IMF — have forced the Greeks to give up the entitled way of life that they had grown accustomed to and accept another, harsher reality.  As a consequence, Greece has erupted.  The Greeks have resorted to looting and rioting and lawlessness, resulting in anarchy and death.

At present, the only thing keeping the Greek economy alive today is the massive infusion of loans from the IMF and the European Union.  The Greek economy and society have simply come undone.  And it is dark days indeed for the Greek people: nasty, brutish and short.  They must now try to start over.  To search for the pieces of their past lives through the dark of starless nights and the sulfurous pall of extinguished days.  To rethink the future and to relearn, perhaps, what they had never really taught themselves in the first place.

Now, comparable calamities are foreseen in the other entitlement nations of Europe: particularly Spain, Italy, Portugal, Great Britain and Ireland.  If one or more of these nations experience similar death throes then the dominos will surely begin to fall.  Some experts suggest that any number of obscure triggers may set things off and send fundamentally profound tremors undulating through all of the industrialized world’s economies. 4

Obviously, this all has potentially dire implications for the United States.  But the Greek example illustrates a larger point: the inevitable predicament that all entitlement societies, including the United States, eventually find themselves in.  As the debt grows, it eventually swallows up the nation’s capacity for production.  Like in Greece, ultimately the nation’s economy is devoured entirely by national debt and becomes no more. Essentially, entitlement economies feed upon and finally consume themselves until there is simply no economy left.  So is present day Greece a glimpse into the future of America?  Are we coming undone too?

IV.  Are We Coming Undone?

Well to start with, we are a nation and government that bears little resemblance to the one that existed just four or five generations ago (to say nothing of the one that the founders envisioned).  We were then a land of immigrants — mostly European immigrants— who fled our respective home countries to come live the promised dream of America.  But the sad irony is that now we have more in common with Europe and European systems than ever before.  A recent study by the Heritage Foundation finds that one in five American households now depend on the government for assistance with basic necessities (e.g., food, housing, etc.) And one in eight households now rely on the government for food-stamps.  This is to say nothing of unemployment subsidies, education subsidies and the advent of subsidized healthcare.  All this, the study finds, while the number of Americans who actually pay the taxes to ostensibly support this government largesse is shrinking.  5

And, all the while, the government continues to grow.  Recent federal government stimulus programs, government bailouts of industries, and now government-run healthcare have been heaped onto an already growing mountain of national debt.  The government has become an enormous and myriad conglomeration— a colossus — of bureaucratic programs, agencies, divisions and departments that siphon billions off the nation’s wealth just to pay for the interest on the debt alone.  While Greece’s debt to GDP ratio is at an unsustainable 110% the United States is now not far behind, with a recent CBO report estimating U.S. debt will rise to a staggering 90% or more of GDP by next year!  6   Continuing down this path, “we can expect a default on government promises (Medicare, Social Security, Healthcare), higher interest rates on U.S. government bonds or even a flight by foreign investors like China to alternative investments, and a drop in the value of the dollar, raising energy and consumer costs and spreading inflation throughout the economy.” 7   All of this resulting in a dramatic decline in American living standards for generations to come.  Eventually, the colossus topples and falls.

The Colossus of Rhodes

So these are all very disturbing statistics.  Numbers shocking enough to provoke any reasonable government official to take action and change course.  Or at least one would think that.  And yet today we have leaders in government who seem not the slightest bit concerned by any of this – on the contrary they are willing to go even further in this direction.  Indeed, our President actually comes right out and says, and seems to truly believe, that government and more government is the only solution for America.  And he is aided and abetted in this view by a complicit mainstream news media that borders on a ministry of propaganda. 

But what’s more is that we, as a people, seem perfectly willing to accept this madness; and that is the real tragedy.  Apart from a few vocal dissenters, today we, the people, look to government for solutions rather than ourselves.  With our dependable entitlements and our reassuring affluence, with our mania for creature comforts, and in our sheer arrogance and complacency, we have moved well beyond mere apathy and into the mindset of dependency.  We have lost our way and drifted far, far away from what we were one hundred years ago, and before, into something that we were never meant to be.  We have allowed ourselves to be cajoled, nudged, and deceived by those in government who would have us depend on government rather than ourselves; so much so that we now feel entitled to our dependency.  But dependency and liberty can never go together.  So we’ve traded in one for the other.  Now we’re left with platitudes from politicians, slogans of hope and change, images on the television, and our own vanities.  We are left with the mere trappings of liberty.  But not liberty itself. 

So how long can America remain on this tragic, catastrophic course?  How much longer can the unsustainable be sustained?  How long before we realize that we have become Greece?  Before we realize the inevitable, tragic collapse?

In a way, Greece is lucky that they are the first.  They are lucky that there are still  solvent institutions like the IMF and EU to come and bail them out.  But what happens next?  What happens to Spain, to Italy, to Portugal, to Great Britain, to Ireland?  Who comes to bail them out?  What happens to California? To New York?  To Michigan? To Louisiana? To Florida? To Pennsylvania?  To the whole of the United States?  What happens when the economy completely shuts down?  When currency becomes worthless paper?  When investments, retirement accounts, savings accounts are completely wiped out?  When there is no longer a monthly check from the government?  When there is no food on the shelves?  No electricity?  No heat?  No running water?  When people have nothing left to lose; when we have finally come undone?  Because sooner or later in an entitlement economy, society and culture, it all comes undone.  And, frighteningly, these sorts of things always seem to happen sooner than anyone expects. 

Darkness falls.  And the night comes swiftly.  

V.  Conclusion:   “We Are Americans”

It was a simple formula that the Founding Fathers gave us.  Individual liberty combined with self-reliance in the pursuit of one’s own happiness.  A simple and beautiful and common-sense formula; not some pricey entitlement and benefits package.  We were given an elegant thing by very courageous, brilliant and generous men, and we threw it away; or rather so abused and neglected it that it is as good as thrown away.

However…   However, individual liberty, self-reliance, free-enterprise, the free exchange of ideas and freedom of speech and expression — these essential ingredients that make up the rare alloy of capitalism — come from America and nowhere else.  They come from our shores.  They may have taken root elsewhere in the world, and thank Heaven for that, but they are American “inventions” if you will and they are what make us unique.  America is the birthplace of these things and they are our true legacy, our real inheritance.  Capitalism, the free-market way, is the unique American way.  It is as American as apple pie or a Norman Rockwell painting.  It is in our blood, so to speak. It is our culture.  And for that reason, so long as we remain Americans, we can always naturally return to it.

And we will return to it.  With the passing of this year’s Memorial Day into night and into day again, and with this week’s remembrance of D-Day and the consequential days that followed it, I am reminded that this country has seen dark days and darker nights before.  This nation has faced formidable — seemingly insurmountable challenges — and has overcome them.  And so I am reminded of this nation’s greatness, its uniqueness.  I am reminded of its tenacity and inner strength.  I am reminded of its love of freedom and individualism.  And I am reminded of its people — our people.  Our people are not the Greeks. We are not the Italians.  Nor are we Spaniards or Portuguese.  We are not English, nor Irish nor Scottish. We are not Germans nor are we French.  We are not Russians. We are not Asians, neither are we Arabs.  We are not Africans, we are not Australians, and we are not South Americans. We are neither Mexicans nor are we Canadians. We are, rather, all of these, and something much more.

We are Americans.  E Pluribus Unum, is the Latin phrase.  Out of many, one.  And as Americans, we shall triumph over the undreamt of troubles that for us Fate has set in store.  We shall change our course and right our faithful ship, as we have done so many times before.  We shall come through this dour darkness to look yet once more into each other’s face, in the bright early light of a newly dawning day.  8

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Notes:

1: The full Thomas Hobbes quote: 

“Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”  –Leviathan, Ch. 13.

2:  Around the beginning of the twentieth century, the United States national debt as a percentage of GDP was only around 10%.  United States currency was tied to the gold standard.  There was no Federal Reserve Bank.  And there was no Federal income tax — that would have to wait until 1913 with adoption of the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution.  For a great website on the history of U.S. Government, taxation, spending and debt, click here:    http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/index.php

3: The full Gettysburg Address:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.  But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate…we can not consecrate…we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” –Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863.

4: Washington Post article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/23/AR2010052304170.html

5: http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=36648

6: Washington Times article:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/mar/26/cbos-2020-vision-debt-will-rise-to-90-of-gdp/

7: Heritage Foundation article:

http://blog.heritage.org/2010/05/10/europe-2010-a-glimpse-of-america%e2%80%99s-economic-future/#more-33298

8: The poem: 

We Are Americans

We are Americans.

E Pluribus Unum,

Is the Latin phrase.

Out of many, one. 

And as Americans,

We shall triumph

Over the undreamt of

Troubles that for us

Fate has set in store.

We shall change our course

And right our faithful ship,

As we have done

So many times before.

We shall come through

This dour darkness

To look yet once more

Into each other’s face,

In the bright early light

Of a newly dawning day.

              – by Elbert Soler

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For related posts on this topic, link to:

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/america-r-i-p/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/why-you-don%e2%80%99t-have-a-right-to-healthcare/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/the-arrogance-of-hope-change-%e2%80%a6-or-else/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/glenn-beck%e2%80%99s-cpac-speech-tiger-woods-and-toilet-bowls-a-blackboard-and-brilliance/

Fortune Favors the Brave

March 18, 2010

There is a phrase in Latin that the ancient Romans were fond of saying: Aduentes Fortuna Juvat.  Roughly translated, it means “fortune favors the brave.” 

Earlier this week, as a part of his final push for universal healthcare and the fundamental transformation of American culture and society, President Barrack Obama staged a rally in Ohio attended by scores of his hardcore supporters and, notably, Congressman Dennis Kucinich.  Obama concluded his speech by saying, “We need courage, that’s what we need…  I want some courage!”  He then jetted back to Washington, D.C.  The next day, Congressman Kucinich, who had been treated by the President to a ride on Air Force One, announced he was changing his “No” vote on healthcare to “Yes.”  In a speech Kucinich declared, among other things, that healthcare is a “basic right.”  Time will tell whether or not fortune smiles upon Mr. Kucinich.

Well, with all this talk by politicians about being courageous, I thought it would be appropriate to take a moment to look at an American leader with real courage: George Washington.  Now, I am quite sure most of us all know at least a few generalities about the following story from our high school history.  Unless of course you are a student in high school today, in which case you are busy learning about much more important things like: The Influence of Hip-Hop on American Culture; The Proper Way to Use a Condom; and Why You Don’t Need a Daddy to Have a Family.  But be that as it may, here goes…

It was winter of the year 1776.  The new American nation had declared its independence from Great Britain the previous July and all-out war with the British was underway.  The American Continental Army, led by General George Washington, had been beaten and chased out of New York by the British forces and was in a desperate retreat.  British General Lord Cornwallis had pursued Washington’s diminishing army through New Jersey, until the Americans withdrew across the Delaware River and took refuge in Pennsylvania in early December.  Although General Washington’s skillful retreat had prevented the British from completely crushing the dwindling American force, the outlook for the Continental Army, and American prospects for winning the war, was very bleak indeed. 

George Washington had fewer than 5,000 men in his army, whose morale was now at its lowest.  The Congress, ever pessimistic, had turned tail from Philadelphia and fled to Baltimore.  There was no money left to finance the army.  Provisions were scarce and Washington’s men were starving and cold.  “These are the times that try men’s souls,” wrote Thomas Paine, who was actually with the army at the time.  Virtually everyone considered the American cause lost.  That is, everyone except George Washington.  At this dire hour, faced with these demoralizing circumstances, George Washington, a man of deep faith and courage, decided to go on the offensive.  He knew that, despite the forces arrayed against him, he had two things in his favor. First, the popular mood among the people against the British remained strong, and, second, he had the element of surprise on his side.  So rallying his men before dawn on December 26th, he secretly led them back across the Delaware River, over land to Trenton, New Jersey where a force of some one thousand Hessian troops (German mercenaries engaged by the British) were quartered. Washington and his men took the Hessians by complete surprise and, after a brief engagement, defeated the entire force with negligible losses to their own side.  So overconfident were the Hessians that they were caught sleeping off the effects of their Christmas revelry from the night before.  As the story goes, after the battle the Hessian Colonel was found dead with a dispatch letter in his coat pocket warning him of the American sneak attack.  The letter was unopened.

Aduentes Fortuna Juvat!

After this victory, the American war effort was galvanized, the Congress found renewed confidence in General Washington, and enlistments in the Continental Army increased dramatically.  Eventually, the British were forced to retreat to their base in New York City.  Many consider this battle to be the turning point in the American Revolutionary War.  In later years, George Washington himself became convinced that America was guided by Divine Providence.  Fortune favors the brave.

In this the current battle over universal healthcare, we all of us are called once more unto the breach to defend what George Washington and his brave men risked so much to obtain.  On one side are the Republicans in Congress, some Democrats, and the vast majority of the American people whose mood against the proposed legislation remains strong.  On the other side are Mr. Obama and most Congressional Democrats.  In this process, we have seen secret deals made and Senators bribed, all manner of legislative chicanery used, deception and outright lies told by politicians at the highest levels, and a President who on the one hand expresses his ambivalence as to how his legislation is passed into law — as long as it is passed into law — while on the other hand talks about courage.  Courage?  Just what sort of courage do you mean Mr. President?

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For more on the healthcare debate, link to:

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/why-you-don%e2%80%99t-have-a-right-to-healthcare/

https://culturecrusader.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/the-arrogance-of-hope-change-%e2%80%a6-or-else/