By Scott Lingamfelter
I am reading, thinking, and writing a lot these days. In many ways it keeps me going as I watch in shock and horror how our norms are being disrupted by illogic, whim, and dangerous ideas, all of which will do little to sustain our culture, our civilization, indeed our country. Why is this important and what are we to do to save America from those who would destroy it?
Saint Augustine of Hippo reminds us that every nation possesses an affection for some central and galvanizing idea, essentially a “loved thing held in common,” as Christian thinker Os Guinness puts it. Augustine wrote, an assemblage of people are “bound together by a common agreement as to the objects of their love” and in order to understand their character “we have only to observe what they love.” For a nation like France, that love may be their culinary excellence or their accomplished vintners. For the United Kingdom, its long-standing admiration and affection for its sustained monarchy and traditions. For Japan it could be their devotion to order, family honor, and industry. For Americans, however, our “loved thing held in common” is freedom. And our traditions and customs are important in sustaining that freedom. But they must remain uncorrupted.
The Greek historian Polybius refers to “a corruption of customs” whereby the injuries of time takes a toll on our values that, consequently, undermines the heart and soul of a nation, leading to its destruction. Drawing on this idea, Guinness describes the important relationship between customs and traditions as necessary components to sustain our fundamental constitution—our love of freedom—as embodied in our American Revolution. Sustaining freedom deters destructive counterrevolutions.
“The reason for this constant cycle of revolutions, Polybius said, lies in the fact that a nations’ constitution, though decisive for its form of government, is not sufficient by itself to sustain it forever. A constitution rests on a foundation. Or more accurately, it rests on a bedding of customs, traditions, and moral standards, from which it grows and by which it is sustained.”
It really comes down to this idea. Virtue and our need for it. Indeed, our nation’s founders were concerned that the absence of virtue would not only damage our ability to sustain freedom, but would result in tyranny and destroy society, like a whirlpool spinning downward. Historian Carl Richards expresses the founders concerns simply:|
“Tyranny was the worst fate, not so much because it deprived one of liberty, as because it deprived one of virtue.”
By every indication, America’s ability to sustain freedom is threatened as we cascade and accelerate toward a more coarse, crude, vulgar, and virtue-deprived existence that corrupts our national character, making us less worthy to govern ourselves in a manner consistent with the founding vision.
Which brings me to this. Contrary to their arguments, the far-left’s infatuation with modern imbecility is leading us to tyranny and destruction. That’s why we should reject out of hand the idea of “being woke,” the notion that we should awaken to a nonsensical framework for thinking about things that does nothing to sustain our freedom.
On 2 August 216 BC during the second Punic Wars, Hannibal met the Romans near Cannae on Italy’s southeastern coast to engage them in battle. The Romans had lost several important engagements to Hannibal but now faced him with a superior force. Yet they managed to lose that battle also through gross tactical miscalculation. They should have crushed Hannibal that day. Of the 86,400 in the Roman Army, 70,000 were killed and 10,000 were captured.
Yet Rome survived and eventually would not only defeat the Carthaginians, but also destroy their nation. In Victor Davis Hanson’s book Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power, he observes this of Cannae.
“Hannibal’s success at Cannae resembled the Japanese surprise at Pearl Harbor—a brilliant tactical victory that had no strategic aftermath and tended to galvanize rather than unnerve the manpower of the defeated.”
Just as Japan awakened a sleeping giant, so too did Hannibal at Cannae revive the spirit to survive among the Romans. The Romans would soon recruit thousands more to replace their fallen and pursue Hannibal until his final defeat. As Polybius put it:
“Hannibal’s pleasure in his victory in battle was not so great as his dejection, once he saw with amazement how steady and great-souled were the Romans in their deliberations.”
For those of us in America who love freedom, we must also rise to the occasion to challenge the falsehoods of political correctness, “woke” nonsense, and the radical agendas that threaten not only our system of free enterprise, but our Constitution – the written one – that guarantees our freedom.
And like the Romans, it is time that freedom-loving Americans show that we are “great-souled” and unvanquished.