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Founders’ Legacy: Will We Prefer the Calm of Despotism?

(Written October 21, 2008; From the book The Cross & the Constitution in the Age of Incoherence, by Allan Erickson, Tate Publishing, 2012)
Our second president said this at the end of his life, speaking directly to us, here and now:
“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that ever I took half the pains to preserve it.”
President John Adams, 1777
Much has been written about the two Americas: rich and poor, red and blue, right and left, traditional and post-modern, religious and agnostic. Given politics driven by different ideas about our purpose, it can be said we have divided into two increasingly warlike camps. These camps have been locked in struggle for the soul of the country for at least sixty years.
One camp—considered New Age—is populated by people born in the post-WWII era. They were raised in the 1950s,  came of age in the 60s, then launched a new vision of America, something dramatically different from what had gone before, a counter culture, in short, a systematic repudiation and contradiction of every element of traditionalism, premised upon the notion America is inherently evil— racist, sexist, imperialistic, jingoistic. It is supposed, in this camp, these ills can only be cured by a purging of all things Judeo-Christian and free market and military, and government is the logical agent to exact this purging. This camp—what this writer calls Americans In Name Only (AINO)—has worked hard to successfully conquer and control government, education, media, entertainment, and publishing.
Consequently, tax dollars fund legal advocacy groups that tear down the Ten Commandments, insist the Boy Scouts allow homosexual leaders, force gay marriage through judicial activism, deny rights to people in the womb, codify assisted suicide, and employ the arm of law enforcement to stifle free speech and enforce new codes of politically correct behavior.
Ultimately, conformity and control are the tools used to build the new “consensus,” by force, if necessary. Some might say it is King George in a different robe, bearing the likeness of Karl Marx. These AINOs are the driving force behind the Obama candidacy, with the help of foreign powers.
The other camp—considered old hat—are people born somewhere before and during WWII, raised in various times of struggle and deprivation, coming of age even today in the hearts and minds of ten year olds. Sadly, members of that greatest generation are dying off rapidly, their torchbearers now minority voices dominated by media, Malibu, and Manhattan.
This second camp we call traditionalists. How do we define traditional Americanism in this pluralistic society? One might be tempted to gaze on Norman Rockwell paintings in a kind of nostalgic exercise to capture a sense of traditionalism, risking hyper romanticism. Another might embrace the 1940s or the 1830s or 1776 to find strands of traditionalism. Yet traditional Americanism is not a place or a painting or a period of time.
Traditional Americanism lives in a set of simple ideas and essential virtues: liberty, equal opportunity, justice, goodness, charity, hope, promise, community, volunteerism, fidelity, honor, faith, prudence, restraint, service, economy, individualism, self-reliance, family, and courage. Revisionists will scream objections, but the truth is our moral lifeblood has always flowed from Judeo-Christian traditions not from an embrace of AINO universalism.
Based on their understanding of the laws of nature and the presence of the Creator, the founders struggled to birth our country, first by shedding blood to throw off the domination of England, then by sweat and tears to form the government, followed by more sweat and tears and sometimes blood, arguing what emphasis to place: strong central government or states’ rights; isolationist foreign policy or expansionist engagement; government setting the pace in promoting social change versus change from the bottom up by the people informing government as they worked it out for themselves.

The dynamics shifted here and there, back and forth, and continue today. The miracle of this experiment conducted by free and independent people is just that, a miracle. Like all things, this miracle has a life span and will be replaced by something else, something less, as the miracle worker is displaced.
What the founders feared most has come to pass: we have created an enormously powerful federal government, now presiding over a desperately split and antagonistic population. Combine this reality with looming bankruptcy and unprecedented foreign threats, and we are found standing on the edge, staring into the abyss.
We have traveled far afield from our roots. And if the polls are correct, we insist on traveling further. At a time when proven traditional Americanism should wisely inform our proceedings to affect our salvation, like stubborn children we appear insistent on an alternative path, one that suggests implementing methods already shown to be failures: larger government, more taxation, government-prescribed social engineering, central control of the economy, attempts to appease enemies, weakened national defense, erosion of family and morality.
Will we actually sell our birthright for a bowl of stew and healthcare?
Do we really think it wise and enlightened to place faith in government instead of our proven track record walking in the traditions of our fathers?
Did not our revolution contradict the idea government is the solution, either monarchy or democracy?
Have we fallen so far as to demonize a good woman like Sarah Palin and exalt a person like Barack Obama, a man who won’t even take a stand for the civil rights of babies who survive abortion?
By putting Senator Obama in the White House, we will be saying we have crossed over from being primarily a country of traditionalists, to Americans in name only. We will have placed our feet on a new threshold. The path beyond is grimly lit.
Yet one thing is certain: we will, in doing this, squander the liberty purchased and sustained by so many for so long. We will, in doing this, say to our Creator, “You are no longer the centerpiece of this republic but merely a side show, and a tenuous one at that.”
Do modern ears cringe at the strident words from a giant of Americanism?
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — Benjamin Franklin/An Historical Review of Pennsylvania, from Its Origin, etc., 1759.
Are we then making good use of this great freedom by handing it over to those who would destroy it?
Are we deserving of liberty if we refuse to protect and defend it?
Our third president, Thomas Jefferson, said, “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms [of government] those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” And, “Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.”
Timid people fail to preserve freedom and, rather, accept the calm of despotism by electing Barack Obama. Therefore, to recapture liberty, there will be tempestuous seas ahead or a passing away of the miracle forever.

Image: Courtesy of:

Allan Erickson

Allan Erickson---Christian, husband, father, journalist, businessman, screenwriter, and author of The Cross & the Constitution in the Age of Incoherence, Tate Publishing, 2012.

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