1. Once again sick for much of this week. My cold went down, but a painful sinus headache remained, finally obliging me to go into urgent care to get an antibiotic prescription. So far it seems to be helping, so hopefully it’ll be gone before much longer.
2. Every Fourth of July finds me more conflicted over the celebration than the last. I really can’t condone the revolution in retrospect: I was never comfortable with the justifications for it, and now that I no longer feel obliged to defend it, I’m not going to (since I don’t think the legitimacy or value of the country rests on the justice of its founding). But at the same time I do love my country and wish the best for it.
In describing my feelings in this regard, I like to use this analogy: Say I discovered that my house has a rotten foundation so that it will almost certainly collapse if left as it is. My first move would be to try to shore up what is already there to hold as long as possible, and my second to try to find a way to fix or replace the foundation.
In any case, I would still be pretty annoyed at anyone trying to burn it down.
3. I’ve heard a number of analogies for America’s place among the nations. Personally, I see us as more or less the rebellious punk teenager of the Anglosphere; the one that had a fight with Dad and ran away from home (with help from Uncle Spain and Uncle France), and who deliberately dresses down, puts his hair up in spikes, and generally tries his best to deny his relationship to his father and siblings, but unconsciously betrays his family connections time and again.
Because at the end of the day, America is part of the Anglosphere and fundamentally English in culture. We can’t help it. Our founders were English and the most dominant cultural element for most of our history has been the English descendants (of course with a mixture of other peoples, like the Dutch and later the Irish, but the English strain set the standard). More importantly, we have the same language, which means we read the same books and inculcate the same values and thus form part of the same culture.
Heck, even our rebelling against England showed the connection, since it followed on from England rebelling against first the Church and then the King (don’t forget that good King George was himself the product of a revolution).
Think of it as England siring America, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, all of which are essentially branches of English culture. We’re just the black sheep of the family: the prodigal son of the prodigal son of Christendom.
4. Ironically enough, it’s arguably in the black sheep that the old English character runs most true, in that we’ve shown ourselves the least willing to give up our historical rights and liberties (I mean, we still do give up most of them, but not as many as the others and we make more of a fuss about it).
The reason for this, as I understand it, is as follows. Liberalism in all its forms is couched in the narrative of a newly enlightened humanity tearing down or escaping “the dark of ages past” to build a new and better world of free and equal supermen. This never works out as planned, so the liberal has to continually find more and more elements of the past (that is, of reality) to reject and naturally grows more and more radical as time goes on.
Now, the US was the first nation founded on liberalism, back when the idea was that monarchy, aristocracy, and the established church were the main things to be gotten rid of for freedom and equality to flourish among the enlightened citizens of the new republic. In the process, they set the then-current mode of it in stone, as it were, via the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Since the Constitution is almost the only concrete foundation for the American national identity (note that soldiers swear to defend the Constitution), it would be almost impossible to abolish or seriously alter it without undermining the country as a whole.
The result is that liberalism can run its natural course and completely corrode almost every nation on Earth except the one that unleashed it. It can (and logically must) run rampant here, but it has a harder time fully corruption the country owing to our having something of a natural immunity to its effects simply because our national identity is based on an earlier, saner version of it.
5. Of course, the downside to that is that we don’t really have any ability to reject liberalism either. England, France, Spain, and so on could theoretically cast liberalism off entirely and re-adopt a traditional social structure and their national identities would remain intact (probably be stronger). But America really doesn’t have a national identity apart from liberalism. Which, I think, is a great danger, since it means that as belief in the old liberalism becomes more and more untenable, our national identity will become weaker and weaker.
6. This is why it bothers me when I hear people saying things like “America is not a country, it’s a creed” as if that were a good thing. This is precisely the problem; our national identity is grounded almost wholly in a set of beliefs that fewer and fewer people believe and which never stood up well to scrutiny in the first place.
And to be frank, a creed developed by rich 18th-century intellectuals is nothing to boast about.
7. This is what I think is the most important point; we need to find something other than this creed to ground our national identity in; something objective and real, not just a set of dubious philosophical points and a messianic self-image.
Honestly, I think we’re at the point where just our shared history and heritage, the fact that it is our country should be enough. It is for me at least.
Hm, that all turned out a little more negative than I meant. Not that my opinion really matters that much, but I hope it’s clear that it’s offered in concern, not contempt. Like I say, I want the best for our country, and I hope its best days are still ahead of it. I just think that’s going to require some serious soul-searching and reconsideration of our identity and place in the world.
In any case, above all else, we need Conversion. It’s what we’ve needed from the beginning.
May God bless America and bring her to the True Faith.