Normally for the Fourth of July, I like to revisit President Calvin Coolidge’s 1926 speech on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence’s signing. The address is one of the finest articulations of America’s founding principles ever composed, made all the more valuable for its defense of their timeless nature.
But I cannot help but come into this Independence Day with a heavy heart. Not because I feel any differently about the reasons for the holiday—America’s birth remains a massive, unambiguous historical good, her founding principles remain the finest guide for organizing a society mankind has ever been blessed with, and the freedoms, opportunities, and standard of living we enjoy here remain the envy of the world. But never in my lifetime have we been in greater danger of losing those freedoms and erasing those principles.
Never in my lifetime has the danger of America ceasing to be America felt so real.
Utterly corrupt, amoral fanatics dominate the presidency and narrowly control Congress. The security of our vote is compromised, and the few states that are even doing a fraction of what’s necessary to set things right are targets of demonization and discrimination—including from a Justice Department opposed to justice. The spirit of fascism thrives thanks to the very people crying “fascist” the most loudly, projecting their own evil onto their victims while hiding their true natures behind a rainbow flag, a white paper mask, and a black fist emblem. Lies about our politics, our social ills, and our very history permeate news, entertainment, and education, with the very social media platforms our culture has become addicted to growing bolder by the day in how they slant what we see about them. Our own military is at the mercy of generals and civilian leaders less interested with protecting the homeland than with social experimentation and second-guessing whether the homeland is worth protecting. And throughout all of the above, our courts cannot be trusted to defend our liberties.
Perhaps worst of all, while one of our viable political parties (Democrats) can only be described as evil, the other (Republicans) cannot consistently get its act together to mount a serious response to any of the above. Thankfully, some state legislatures are taking at least some action against vote fraud, online censorship, and anti-American hate in the classroom, but it’s nowhere near enough, and nationally we can count on one hand the number of politicians who even come close to recognizing the magnitude of the crisis. We have one—ONE!—genuine leader on the horizon who shows the combination of qualities we need to start setting things right, yet the online conversation among my fellow conservatives is still inundated with far too many people who are too emotionally invested with an incompetent, narcissistic failure to even consider letting go of him.
To summarize, one half of America is dominated by the bad guys, and in the other half too many of the “good guys” are still acting like it’s amateur hour.
I think a lot about the warning popularly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, that the Founders had established “a republic, if you can keep it.” Our system of constitutional self-government is not self-perpetuating; it requires routine maintenance from a virtuous, knowledgeable, attentive citizenry who understand how it’s supposed to work and why.
Can we still keep a republic? I honestly don’t know anymore. All those of us who know better can do is keep trying, keep setting the best example we can, keep articulating the problems and the solutions as best we understand them, and pray.