What Do We Stand For?
September 3, 2013 by Brandon Smith
At the very edge of oblivion, some men reflect; others snivel and cry. I have spent many years now studying the societal strengths and failings of modern American culture, and I have to say that most citizens within our once grand Republic will do far less reflecting and much more crying when the bell tolls. This is not to say that I believe the fight is lost. Far from it. In fact, I would consider myself an optimist amongst many of my peers in the liberty movement as to our chances of defending Constitutional freedom today. There is a very strong core within our country that still embraces the ideals of individualism and independence. The problem is that those who are awake face each day surrounded by lunatics and the giggling blind. It’s difficult to find solace within the asylum of the “mainstream,” so we begin to assume we are alone.
Even worse, we sometimes have to deal with misguided and biased people who join the liberty movement not to stand upon any solid fundamental principles, but to attempt to impress their own twisted world views upon us as if they “know better.” You would think that the concept of freedom would be simple to understand and grasp. But for some people, it is like plunging into a trigonometric wonderland of confusion.
As the United States, led by the Administration of President Barack Obama, moves toward yet another possible war in the Mideast, using covert terrorists as proxies and enacting violent policy based on dubious or nonexistent evidence and far-flung accusations, I realize that with all the blathering voices out there telling us what to think, what to do, what to fear, whom to admire, whom to worship, how to live and what to aspire, perhaps it is time for each of us to solemnly question what we stand for and what America is supposed to stand for.
Really, think about it. What are we here for? What purpose do we serve in the grand scheme of things? What are our defining principles?
Have we lost track of ourselves as Americans so completely that we cannot even explain in a reasonable fashion what kind of people we want to be and what kind of world we want to live in? Are we so busy squabbling with each other that we have no time to examine the foundation upon which we all rely?
I think it is safe to point out that for many decades the actions of our government have not represented or reflected the ideals of the public. I can’t say I’ve met very many people who would voluntarily or happily cheer the course of our Nation. Much of what is done in our name is not done for our benefit or for the benefit of our children. Most of the crimes committed by our government are crimes we would never want to be remembered for as individuals.
If this is the case and if deep down we all want a much different legacy than what is being created for us, what would this legacy be? I believe that most Americans would not argue with the following list of virtues.
Most Americans want to be in control of their own destinies. The sad reality, though, is that many Americans believe themselves to be in control of their own destinies when they are not. They believe they are informed when they are actually ignorant. They believe they are rich when they are actually poor. They believe they are self-sufficient when they are actually as helpless as newborn babies. They believe they are courageous when they are actually cowards. And they believe they are righteous when they are actually guilty of numerous crimes against their fellow man. One cannot be an individual unless he understands himself and his own weaknesses.
Americans want to see themselves as independent and self-reliant, yet many of us go about pursuing this independence in backward ways. Socialists view an independent life as a gift granted by society through the tool of government. In other words, they believe that the collective is responsible for supporting and sustaining the individual and that the individual owes the collective allegiance for its efforts. Objectivists tend to treat independence as a kind of “get out of jail free card,” as if true individuals should care only about themselves and their posterity and that there should be no consequences for their own harmful actions.
What both sides can’t seem to fathom is that independence is about responsibility. It’s about responsibility to one’s self, to make one’s own way in life without the constant aid of a nanny state. It is also about responsibility to one’s inner conscience, which warns us not to maliciously violate the life and liberty of others. Whether on the left or the right, Americans have forgotten that real independence comes with strings attached.
Decentralization Of Power
At this very moment, the White House has decided whether it will unilaterally attack a foreign nation that presents absolutely no clear and present danger to the United States. In a play for limited liability and shared guilt, Obama has “offered” to “allow” Congress to vote on the decision to go to war in Syria, while stating openly that as President he has the authority to initiate an attack anyway, without its oversight. The White House is moving to strike Syria because its attempts at covert destabilization and terrorism (again, without the approval of Congress) have failed, and it is trying to erase its mistakes in a hail of missiles. Centralization of power is the exact opposite of what America was founded on. Checks and balances exist for a reason. Such measures are ingrained in the Constitution in order to ensure that our entire country is not led down a path of criminality and destruction based on the decisions of only a few men.
The great allure of centralization is that each political faction within the United States is easily tempted by what it could do if the system were under its control. People on the left and on the right foolishly imagine that if only the dark power of centralism were in their hands, they could use it for “good.” But nothing good ever comes from centralization. Decentralization is the only answer.
Americans have become increasingly schizophrenic as to what this actually means. Surely, most of us understand and agree that each individual has a right to worship as he wishes and participate in any religion he chooses. The moment we begin to use government as a way to interfere in the worship of one religion, we risk one day having government used to interfere with our own religion. Sadly, this ideal has been turned on its head by some who think that spiritual concerns should be erased from government altogether. Government is not and never will be a purely objective entity. Government is made up of human beings, and human beings always bring their ideals to work. I fail to see the harm in allowing a courthouse, for instance, to post the Ten Commandments on its wall. This is an expression of a predominant spiritual ideal that ultimately harms no one.
By the same token, however if one day a court in another town decided to post the precepts of Buddhism on its walls, there should be no complaints from Christians either. Unfortunately, all sides (including Atheists) seek to apply their own spiritual (or secular) views as if they are in contest with each other, and this leads to all sides attempting to use government as a weapon to enforce those views. I think the Founding Fathers, though many of them Christian, saw the great danger in religious groups battling to force their particular beliefs on each other. The Constitutional protections of religious freedom were thus designed to make spiritualism a personal, rather than political, endeavor. Most of us do not wish to live in a society in which our government has been sterilized of all spiritualism, but we also refuse to live under the insanity of a theocracy. The only answer is the original answer of the Founding Fathers: to believe as we wish to believe and to leave everyone else the hell alone.
Our country was built on the philosophy of noninterventionism. But today, those who promote the strategy are immediately accused of being “isolationists” by the mainstream. I think the stupidity of interventionism has been made abundantly clear over the past decade, as our mindless adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Yemen and Syria are falling apart. Nothing has been accomplished in these offensives on the other side of the world except the further erosion of America’s economy, not to mention our credibility.
As polling appears to suggest today, many Americans are once again finally learning to embrace noninterventionism in the case of Syria, and this awakening should be encouraged further. Regardless of the rationalizations given by the establishment, freedom (if that is indeed what the White House is selling) cannot be spread by force of arms or sold like a fast-food franchise. Furthermore, we should be taking care of the liberties being eroded within our own borders before gallivanting around the globe pontificating to foreign nations about their supposed inadequacies.
Constitutional Liberty Before Political Party
Political parties are the bane of American life. They are the primary means by which our population is controlled and distracted. Parties are poison. When I vote, I vote for the individual representative, not his party. His party may argue that only it is the true purveyor of freedom. His party might argue that only it has my best interests at heart. His party may even argue that only it is honest and forthright in its platform. But if the individual politician and his record does not reflect the promises of his party, then what the party has to say is utterly meaningless.
There are no “lesser of two evils.” There is only honorable or dishonorable, Constitutional or unconstitutional, sincere or deceitful. A Republican who breaks his oath to defend the Constitution is no more likely to gain my support than a Democrat who does the same. This is a concept that has been lost on Americans for many years now. The idea that there should be no such thing as “party loyalty,” only loyalty to one’s own conscience, is one we need desperately to return. The dangers we face in our current era are a product of both major parties, and anyone who says otherwise is wearing debilitating blinders. As we creep closer to disaster, it is vital that we remember that at bottom the coming fight is between champions of freedom and proponents of tyranny, whatever party they may claim membership in.
I could continue for a hundred pages on the underlying structure of Constitutionalism that we still value but have been estranged from for so long. As our Nation enters a new stage of social, political and economic unrest, there may be very little left to hold on to. As I stated before, as a country, we can either reflect or snivel. We can take action (beginning with ourselves), or we can complain (starting with others). We can stand firm in our core principles, or we can argue endlessly about the nuances and biases surrounding those principles. We can come together under the banner of freedom in the face of despotism, or we can remain divided and conquered.