Obamacare — upheld! Those were the words proclaimed on June 28th, which, had Washington, Madison, and Jefferson only been alive to witness them, would have bowed their heads in sorrow. But kings and prophets have long ago borne testimony that nations birthed in moral triumph are eventually handed to the unworthy, and the unworthy cannot maintain true liberty.
If liberty were simply a legal structure, that ruling would have established June 28th as fit for mourning. But consider, Americans, that such a ruling could not have been, had not the legislature passed the law. And consider that the legislature could not have passed the law had not the representatives been chosen who approved of such laws. And consider even further that the legislature would not have been elected, had the people been virtuous and educated.
Liberty, then, is not a legal structure (especially for democratic republics), but a spirit that lies within the hearts of men, the understanding of the laws of nature and of nature’s God, and the wisdom required to maintain unalienable rights with a just and proper force. The question asked, then, by those still possessive of the spirit of liberty, should not concern whether or not tyrannical and illegal laws can be repealed, but rather by what means a spirit of liberty can be regained.
Though history furnishes examples of physical liberty lost and regained, the spirit of liberty is rarely recovered, oftentimes being lost for centuries when men become unworthy of her. Rome herself, as Livy notes, elected many a dictator during her years as a republic, and even fell prey to a murderous oligarchy under the Decemvirs; but when the dictators overcame the exigencies for which they were appointed, a spirit of liberty resumed control, and the republic restored its session. And though the Decemvirs oppressed the Romans until the senate became empty, the streets were overtaken by a solemn gloom, and men almost lost hope of ever regaining liberty, it was only then — at the darkest of hours — that Verginius and Icilius took their stand and rallied in defense of a single girl’s chastity, throwing the citizenry into an impassioned rebellion, and handing the reins of the republic back to the people.
But Rome, in that almost legendary form, has long since passed away. That liberty, possessed by honorable men who often cherished virtue more than life, was eventually inherited by a populace which mistook license for liberty, wealth for virtue, and public welfare for security. Augustine noted, shortly after Rome was sacked by barbarians, that the Romans had become so debased, they cared nothing for the soul, and concerned themselves only with the physical; they viewed intolerance of vice as a threat to liberty, believing consent as the great measure of right; they defended property and the physical person, but not innocence; and though Rome barred actors from the rights of citizenship, believing them beneath a bestowal of full rights, she loved theater more than truth. Rome had become a nation of disreputable layabouts, and there came a day (long before Augustine) when a man arrived who claimed the dictator’s office, and never relinquished the title.
What, then, was the difference between these two societies? Why did one fail, and the other succeed? If the tyranny they experienced was the same, then the difference lies between citizens and subjects, between those who establish and defend liberty, and those who require subjection.
It’s not difficult to see how the free citizen becomes so lazy, ignorant, and lawless. At first, being immersed in luxury, he begins to relax his guard, to feel that all is at ease. In his quiet state, he kicks his feet upon his couch, no longer with any urgency attending to those matters important to his forefathers, believing that his wealth is established, his liberty secured. It is in this state, one of material abundance and moral impoverishment, at which one generation finds its inheritance, their eyes opening upon birth to find parents too content for character, an ethic which the child has no choice but to embrace as normal. It has been said that men accept the reality with which they are presented, and aside from spiritual conversion, there is no presentation more powerful than that of birth.
Having been born into luxury, the call of duty no longer applies to each and every action, and urges are no longer intended to bow to the will, but become ends in themselves. Becoming upon each and every day less convinced that a particular ethic established his luxury, the citizen begins to dissociate duty and reward, seeing that he already has the reward, and so with increasing flippancy becoming disinterested in the duty. He begins to look at his neighbors, a dwindling number of social conservatives, as old-fashioned and irrationally prejudicial, as excessively — perhaps paranoically — concerned for things about which no man, he feels, has need for concern. The world will not fall apart if one little moral standard here, and another there, is neglected. Besides, he says, not everyone who strays from character suffers. It can be proven within a moment’s notice, by the negligent lives of his neighbors, that no visible harm has come to them, and so the likelihood of comfortable survival remains high; he takes a glance at successful fools and believes their foolishness successful. He becomes content that the very laws of nature have forfeited their jurisdiction over him, and that he alone is his master, that by manipulating the laws of the state, and mitigating in every way the ramifications of folly, that he is somehow invincible. Luxury and an encroaching insurance sedate him, his mind becomes dull; his religion, impotent; his patriotism, superficial; his enemies, ignored.
But like an aging beauty glancing in the mirror, knowing her day has long since passed, the glory of nations passes before men’s eyes, and yesteryear’s triumphs can no longer sustain a patriotism fit only for peoples past and gone. Then certain men, longing for an inheritance of glory and liberty which could have been but isn’t, begin banging drums of cultural war, not so much against foreign armies, but against their fellow citizens; not against invading barbarians, but against neighboring traitors; against spiritual thieves and burglars oftentimes sanctioned by laws of government, but condemned by the laws of nature’s God. Such war requires no arms, but total conviction; no weapons, but truth and unflinching obstinance.
But how, then, to wage a spiritual and intellectual war? The enemy has control of almost every facility, and it will take years before our schools are mastered again by Americans; our struggle must then be waged man by man, family by family. We must learn and live the laws of nature and of nature’s God as presented in Scripture; we must look to Tocqueville and discover our social heritage; we must read Locke and Paine, Madison and Jefferson, Smith and Blackstone, John Calvin, Richard Baxter, and Charles Spurgeon. If the schools won’t teach our children properly, then we must forego comfort and do it ourselves; if our churches won’t preach a fiery Christianity, then we must read men who did, and teach it to our children not simply with words, but backing with deeds; if today’s leaders offer more volume than substance, then let’s look to history’s champions. But if we’d rather not, if we choose instead to follow the blind, if we decide to remain in the comfort of the present mainstream, then it can only be said that we were never worthy of our heritage.
Man by man, family by family, our warfare is in the trenches.
American patriots, awaken!