Friday, July 3, 2015

Friday's Thoughts: Some Thoughts on America

By Kit

The idea of America as a new nation, unlike any other in history, is as almost as old as America itself, going back to the Shining City Upon a Hill imagined by the Pilgrims as they set foot in the place that would come to be called “New England.” They, seeking to separate themselves from what they saw as the heretical English Church, hoped that their new settlement would be an example to the whole world, much like Israel was (or was supposed to be) in the Old Testament.

And this association of America with the Israel of the Old Testament continued, indeed it became stronger, even after America declared its independence. Benjamin Franklin’s proposal for the Great Seal was an image of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. In a way, America was to be the new Israel and Americans the new Jews. We would be strangers in a strange land, leaving behind an old world and forging a new nation in a new world.

And how would we be different? The nations of Europe, it must be remembered, were took their general shapes from accidents of geography, language, and the limits of kings’ medieval fiefdoms. There have been occasional alterations since but have remained largely constant since then. And over time those countries coalesced into nationalities and ethnicities; the English, the French, the Scots, the Czechs, the Poles, the Germans, etcetera. And each of those nationalities and ethnicities had histories and folklores.

But what did America have?

G.K. Chesterton has been quoted almost ad nauseum on this topic but his famous quote needs repeating because it is true: “America is the only nation founded upon a creed.” And that creed, he said, was in the Declaration of Independence: all men are created equal, that they have the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, and that governments are created by the governed to secure those rights. It promoted the unique idea that a governments exist not only to protect people from the armies other countries’ governments or from criminals inside the country but from the government itself; that government itself is as much a threat to the people as it is a necessity. As a result, while most countries seek to disarm their populaces to keep the people safe, America was constructed with the idea that the populace should be armed to keep the country free.

The idea that governments exist to protect it’s people’s liberties was, and still is, a radical and astonishing idea.

What is even more astonishing is that we’ve kept it going for more than 200 years. The French love to brag about how they “created” democracy, as if Athens had never existed, the British did not have a parliament, and the American Revolution did not pre-date theirs by at least a decade. Or maybe it’s their Philosophes, Montesqui and Rousseau, who inspired Americans, which they did, but that ignores the existence of English writers like John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, both of whom were born before Montesquieu and died before Rousseau was even a zygote. As well as ancient Greek and Roman writers Aristotle and Cicero. Those, too.

But, whatever the source of their claims, it is always worth mentioning that though they did create a republic, they could not keep it going very long. They descended into the nihilistic bloodshed of the Reign of Terror and fell under a dictatorship before finally returning to monarchy and, after a brief 4-year return of the republic, again had a Napoleon sitting in power as a dictator, Napoleon III. They were only able to establish a permanent republic in 1870, eighty years after Bastille. And that one was only stable after brutally crushing the Paris Communard in 1871 during the Semaine Sanglante (“Bloody Week”).

The failure to permanently establish republics in Europe caused many republican and liberal-minded Europeans such as Alexis de Tocqueville to come to America to see how we had managed to do it.

It also brought immigrants, too, and still does. People from around the world seeking a better life.

It is often not realized that the God of “God Bless America” is, at it’s heart, not the Christian God of the New Testament, believed in by many of the early settlers and frontiersman, but the Jewish God of the Torah. Songwriter Irving Berlin first heard those words not from some Christian preacher or politician but from his Jewish mother. At the age of five Irving Berlin and his family were forced to flee Russia due to the anti-Jewish pogroms, the only memory Irving had of Russia was watching his home burned down at night. After they arrived in America his mother would often say, “God bless America” because if it were not for America they would have had nowhere else to go.

So, on this fourth of July, have fun, stay safe, and remember all of the things that have made this country truly unique.

And may God continue to Bless America.


AndrewPrice said...

Nicely said, Kit. When I look at the world what amazes me is that America is the first country that was voluntarily formed by the consent of the people and by them choosing to come here. We are a nation of immigrants in the most meaningful of ways because it was by choice that people came here and continue to come here.

And all of that informs our sensibilities. The slogan "love it or leave it" is just not something you would see in other parts of the world because they don't see themselves as fluid, they are where they are because they are the ethnic group who has always lived there and that means they should live there and they should do what their ancestors always did. American's don't think that way. We see the world as wide open and full of amazing potential.

What's more, those who come here don't come because they are required to or were following prey or because this land was taken for the expansion of their people. They come here to become Americans, something very special, and to live the American dream.

And all that means that America is full of exceptional people... dreamers who have the will and desire to chart their own futures. That makes us exceptional. Indeed, if you ever travel the world, you will be shocked at how passive and fate-bound the rest of the world's population is compared to us. Americans don't accept problems and hope that someone more important fixes them... we are a do-it-yourself people because we own this country, we aren't just renting it, and we want to make it better.

America is awesome. Americans are awesome.

Kit said...


Thanks for the comment.

"they are where they are because they are the ethnic group who has always lived there and that means they should live there and they should do what their ancestors always did. American's don't think that way. We see the world as wide open and full of amazing potential."

I think you are right.

Critch said...

When I was overseas I was always amazed at how many people I met in Europe and the Middle East who wanted to be Americans....we are still that place most people want to live in...

Kit said...

Something else, I rarely hear Americans use the term "foreigner", at least in relation to people from other countries in the US. They use the terms immigrants and tourists; people who are moving in and people who are just visiting.

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, That is absolutely true. When we hear how much people supposedly hate us, it's always their elite talking and being reported upon by out own self-thought elites.

When you get out among average people, you quickly see that they really do love America and a good size chunk want to come be to become Americans.

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