…the Founders put their names down for the world to see.
They risked everything to be free of tyranny.
Today we live in a much different world.
A world in which material comforts and applied technologies have divorced men – for the most part – from the natural elements.
This divorce has led generations to consider the highest goods to be those that serve the appetites.
But 238 years ago people were too close to nature, and by extension, too close to death to even consider the cultural premise of our popular culture: I want what I want when I want it, and I deserve nothing less.
In Whittaker Chambers great autobiography, “Witness”, he writes of his years as an American communist spy, his disillusionment with communism, his years of hiding from the KGB hit squads, and his conversion from atheism to Christianity.
Chambers noted that his journey from Communism to the West was one of principle and not one of political calculation. The argument for this was Chambers’ conviction that in leaving Communism he was leaving the winning side to go over to the losing side.
He was not an optimist.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 came 28 years after his death.
When I first read “Witness” the Wall, and the USSR, had been down for years, and I thought to myself, “How wrong the great man was about the winning side.”
I’m not so sure anymore.
I fear we live in most interesting times.
I fear things will get much worse before they get any better.
I fear things my not get better at all.
I fear we are at that point in cyclical history at which too many are too happy to be too ignorant of the lessons of history. Especially those lessons of history that point out that self-governance requires certain virtues that extend beyond being a consumer of celebrity culture.
These are just random thoughts, not well organized, nor supported at all with anything beyond assertion, opinion.
But on this inaugural day of TFYH, on this 238th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, I was compelled to contribute something.
There also exists the compulsion to share part of the closing passage from Federalist #55, written – I believe – by James Madison:
“As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be, that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.”
I pray that we have yet sufficient virtue for self government, and if not, we find it before another fall.
And I pray that Whittaker Chambers was wrong, but I’m not an optimist.