Tomorrow, for the third consecutive year, I will be officiating at the frog jumping contest for Orland’s Old Fashioned 4th of July celebration. If I still lived there, I believe that would put me next in line for mayor. With its potato sack races, egg tossing contest, and ladies’ hat competition, Orland’s celebration is a festival of classic small town Americana. In many other ways, too, little Orland remains a bastion of American tradition and culture.
Now then, I realize that the American Revolution was not a slam dunk as a moral proposition. It’s hard for me, a traditionalist, to celebrate armed rebellion against a lawful monarch whose “abuses” pale in comparison to those of our own federal and state governments. Nevertheless, good things did result from American independence, and those good things are worth celebrating.
Today our nation is undeniably at a crossroads. The American people have changed fundamentally in just three generations. They believe things that would shock their ancestors – not things of peripheral importance, but things that mark the essence of a culture. They have, by and large, rejected even the “laws of nature and nature’s God”, instead making war on nature, on biology, on legitimate authority, and on reality. They have embraced a philosophy of greed and hedonism and therefore of exploitation and abuse, though few will admit the truth of it. Liberty, in the minds of most Americans, is primarily validated by extreme or licentious behavior that must be protected at all costs. When you think of freedom, do you really think of Abraham Lincoln or Mother Teresa? Or do you first think of a person of ambiguous gender covered with tattoos and body piercings? Maybe you think of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. Either way, I rest my case.
Meanwhile, our duly elected president and his radical leftist thugocracy in Washington (spit!) has done more to undermine authentic freedom in this country than anyone dreamed possible. Unfortunately, his opponents are factionalized and sadly lacking a convincing narrative. Libertarians and constitutionalists, though prominent and well-funded, are faced with the structural impossibility of their dreams ever materializing. Catholics, evangelicals, and other cultural conservatives, while perhaps more institutionally realistic, are socially and politically marginalized.
Furthermore, Americans are tired of politics and political activism. The best of them are just too busy with raising families, work, religion, and real life; the rest of them (and by far most of them) are lost in boredom, in pursuit of “self-actualization”, or in the bread-and-circus culture of non-stop entertainment. It seems likely that the next election belongs to the candidate with the simplest, shortest, and sweetest possible message. What can “independence” mean in this dismal context?
Cardinal Dolan’s reflections on Independence Day merit some pause:
It has been observed that perhaps the most revolutionary words an American can utter today are those which open the Creed: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty…” God, not I, is sovereign; the Lord, not the state, is almighty; God’s way, not mine, is normative; the Lord’s designs, not my puny plans, are definitive. To rebel against God, then, brings, not liberty, but slavery; to obey the Lord leads, hardly to shackles, but to genuine freedom.
So, maybe I should be wishing you all a “Happy Dependence Day.”