WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN AMERICAN?
And have we completely lost track of that meaning?
“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Patrick Henry, Founding Father
“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” Samuel Adams, Founding Father
“The way to secure liberty is to place it in the people’s hands, that is, to give them the power at all times to defend it in the legislature and in the courts of justice.” John Adams, President and Founding Father
“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” Thomas Jefferson, President and Founding Father
In the Judeo-Christian tradition there are two great commandments, articulated by Jesus Christ long ago: ‘Love God with everything you’ve got, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ These two commandments, from the beginning, set the heart of Americanism firmly on the path of love, reverence and good will. Quite simply, the truth is, these commandments are the source of our goodness.
With the decline of the church in America has come the decline in love, reverence and good will. That much is obvious.
There are two essential requirements of Americanism that set our minds on the path of truth and justice: Liberty, always liberty, and, limited government, for you can never have liberty without limited government.
“The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose.” Ronald Reagan, President, speaking as a private citizen in 1964.
The Founders also knew the Constitution, flowing from the Declaration of Independence, set the proper limits on government so that liberty and opportunity might flourish. They warned us that painting outside the lines set by the Constitution would put the republic in peril, threatening, and likely destroying liberty, forever. James Madison, President, and Founding Father, a man considered the father of the Constitution, described the challenge setting proper limits:
“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” James Madison, Federalist No. 51, 1788
It is quite apparent today government has no self-control. We have painted far beyond the lines drawn by the Constitution, and we are paying for those violations, losing liberty day by day, watching as prosperity fades away.
What of our role, of a citizen’s personal responsibility to be self-controlled?
Robert Frost, one of our greatest poets, was acquainted with James Madison’s vision of America and the dream. He wrote of that dream: “Now I know—I think I know…—what Madison’s dream was. It was just a dream of a new land to fulfill with people in self-control. That is all through his thinking…. To fulfill this land—a new land—with people in self-control.”
There is no virtuous people marked by self-control once separated from the Judeo-Christian tradition summed up beautifully in the Two Great Commandments, just as there is no republic, no liberty and no America without fierce adherence to the Constitution, the kind of fidelity required to prevent government from becoming our master, to prevent presidents from becoming kings who dominate the legislature, and to prevent courts from becoming agents of dictators.
Will we recapture the American Dream, renew the Founder’s vision, restore the republic and reclaim our right to self-government? Will we re-establish self-control in government and in our personal lives?
Certainly not, if we keep electing people who repudiate that vision, people who promote big government, individuals who deny the rights of the people and ignore their consent, politicians who show no self-control, who seek destruction of the Constitution, and of liberty, all in their lust for power and central control, among them, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
Will we revitalize the American dream as individuals? Certainly not, if we ignore the heart and mind of Americanism, which is self-control, realized only by obedience to the Two Great Commandments, and realized in government only by like-minded people upholding the principles revealed in the Declaration and the Constitution.