Reflect on how the nation coalesced for a time after the attack at Pearl Harbor–or even more recently, after the attacks of 9/11. As a nation, we were unified with a love of country, a patriotic fervor, and a determination to overcome all obstacles and enemies that stood in the way of our perpetuity as a free and prospering nation. Flags, patriotic bumper stickers, and unifying messages on signs and placards were virtually omnipresent. Such unity is predictable from people filled with the American spirit when we feel we are at risk and fighting for our survival.
I would submit that we are still fighting for our survival, and the risks are no less onerous or menacing now than they were in 1941 or 2001. But even more than those exogenous threats to our physical existence, the policies of governance today, which are so intuitively antithetical to those upon which the nation was founded, are a fulfillment of Thomas Jefferson’s fear. As he said, “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” The greatest threat unraveling America today is domestic, and ideologically driven.
There is nothing erudite or chic to those who harbor antipathy toward America. It may indicate some deep psychological maladies, but it’s certainly not “cool.” Not only is it possible to love America and all she stands for while still being critical of politicians and policy, but I think that’s what is meant by dissent being the ultimate form of patriotism: a devotion to America and a commitment to her perpetuity so great that we speak out in opposition to those policies that we’re convinced challenge the unique position America bears as an ensign of freedom to the world.
There are some incontrovertible facts about America that must be recognized across the entire political spectrum, for they are historical verities. For example, we all should recognize that for the first time in history, a nation, even this nation, was created by people, for people, based on a series of principles and tenets recognized to be God-given, not government bestowed. As James Madison said regarding the patriots who founded this nation, “Happily for America, happily, we trust, for the whole human race, they pursued a new and more noble course. They accomplished a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of human society.”
For the first time in history, a group of agrarian subjects united to throw off the tyranny of their monarch and establish a new nation founded in the notion that rights are not simply granted by the ruler, but by God. And that since they were granted by God, they were inalienable, meaning that they were unable to be separated, surrendered, or transferred. And that among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is the essence of American exceptionalism.
Even those who engage in national self-loathing, lamenting America as the cause of all the world’s grief, must recognize the power behind a country founded on the principle that for a government of free people to be legitimate, its powers must be derived from the consent of the governed.
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