The nation marks yet another anniversary of the Declaration of Independence this week. The famous story is told of Benjamin Franklin leaving the Continental Congress after passage of the Declaration. A woman asked him, “Well, Doctor, what have we got – a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin gave a terse response. “A republic if you can keep it.”
With the current forces at work in the nation today, we are wondering if we are reaching a point where trying to keep the republic as established is in peril. The number of Americans who have no clue as to how the nation was founded, who founded it, and under what principles, is ever increasing.
College students can’t name a founder, and many cannot even name the year the nation declared independence and from what empire. High schools, middle schools and elementary schools do not include basic civics in their curricula. What’s worse, those who have taken up the careers of political reporters have little training in civics or political science, so little understand how government works.
What has been taught on all the above-mentioned educational levels is the left-wing notion that the nation was founded by evil white men, who held slaves and built a nation to extend their “privilege.” Such a view is not only vapid, it is a misunderstanding of history in general.
The nation was formed as an experiment in self-governing such as the world had not seen before. It was the result of historic forces of religion, philosophy and experience – being colonists in the British Empire. Those forces forged a new way of thinking about the means and ends of government.
Were there difficulties? Absolutely. Was their slavery? Yes. But, one must remember that in the writing of the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution, the matter of slavery was handled in the best way possible.
There are some who today believe the allowance of the institution of slavery is the Original Sin of the United States and forever taints her and disallows her to stand among the family of nations. Such is a myopic and unrealistic view obtained by looking backwards through the lens of today’s mores.
Slavery existed in all cultures in history, including the native cultures of North and South Americas, and Africa. Defeated tribes and peoples were either killed or enslaved. The slave trade that brought Africans to these shores was not only the work of Europeans, but Muslim traders and chieftains of various African tribes.
But it was the Christian religion that sought the fair treatment of slaves, and later the emancipation of those slaves as something repugnant to human dignity and the rights of individuals. These things are not taught in schools nor talked about among the elites. Instead, our young people get a steady diet of how corrupt the system was that founded the nation. As we said this is a myopic view. The nation had to be founded before the slave question could be tackled.
This invalidation or corruption theory espoused by the elites of the nation seeks to upend the values of individual freedom and dignity to which the nation aspired from the first. It took a bloody civil war to break the nation, and the errors that happened during reconstruction that resulted in the institutional discrimination that took another 90 years to overturn.
Today, we have a segment of the population – a vocal and violent one – that wants to replace the individual with the collective, and sees not each person, but each person’s group or status. The person is ignored for the group, be it gay, minority, women or the newest, transgender.
Those who desire to see a return to the rights and responsibilities of the individual are deemed enemies of this new idea and on the “wrong side of history.”
We are seeing the republic assailed with the idea of a fascism of this new idea, which seeks to impose the state as the means to implement this identity politics.
We need a new understanding of the history of the nation and the principles of its governance or Dr. Franklin’s admonition may become reality. We will lose our republic and become a fascistic tyranny governed by those who cannot abide those with dissimilar ideas.