“There are historic situations in which refusal to defend the inheritance of a civilization, however imperfect, against tyranny and aggression may result in consequences even worse than war.” – Reinhold Niebuhr
At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was famously quoted as saying “A Republic, if you can keep it” when referring to the organization of the fledgling United States. The Founding Fathers of this nation were students of history, and they understood that like Greece or Rome, Democracies and Republics seldom lasted very long. They understood the propensity for mankind to become intoxicated with power and pursue selfish ends at the expense of a free society. This is why certain safeguards like the US Constitution were put in place to protect the nation from those who would attempt to subvert it.
A collective reverence for the ideals espoused within the Constitution has served to protect its integrity for 245 years. When shortcomings were identified, like slavery or women’s suffrage, the system as designed made its amendment possible, even if at a great cost. Despite its incompleteness, the foundation of the Consitution is solid. The blood and treasure spent in its defense are immeasurable and it is our inheritance to preserve.
Recent cultural movements have vocally painted the ideas enumerated within the Constitution, such as free expression and a natural right to self-defense, as trash. Not because the ideas espoused are trash but because its potential was unrealized at the time of writing. Vocal critic Elie Mystal has used this exact word to describe it in his new book “Allow Me A Retort”. It is Mystal’s assertion that because the authors of the Constitution were slaveholders that the ideals they penned were resultingly trash. The problem with this is that Mr. Mystal holds humanity to an impossible standard based on future cultural norms, that relegates all of humanity’s ideas to the trash bin.
Modern opponents of our founding ideals are laser-focused on destroying them, and they’re starting with American culture centers like schools, churches, and the arts. They envision schools where the state school supplants the nuclear family in imparting morality and in the rearing of the children. They designate centers of free expression like the Churches as antiquated centers of bigotry. They fill the arts with vapid celebrations of debauchery and narcissism, a reflection of the population at large. This is all by design.
In 1984, KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov warned that the bulk of efforts to take down America would not be done as covert espionage, but rather by ideological subversion. He goes on to explain that despite open access to an abundance of information, Americans’ perception of reality would be “so inundated with disinformation, that they are unable to discern what is necessary to protect their way of life, their country, their families, themselves, etc.” We see this now in our disassociated culture. How can a nation that doesn’t agree on objective reality like biology, come together on ethereal ideas like freedom and liberty? They cannot.
Reinhold Niebuhr was one of the pre-eminent protestant theologians in America in the 20th century. His works of non-fiction are rated as some of the most important works on American foreign policy during this time. He began his career like many religious youths, bright-eyed, idealist, and an avowed communist. During the 1930s his thinking evolved to that of Christian Realism and he became a critic of utopian idealism as incapable of tackling the realities of an evil world.
In the post-World War II era, Niebuhr became one of the more vocal opponents of the creeping communism of the Soviet empire. It was Niebuhr’s assertion that a failure to defend an imperfect but free civilization against tyranny would result in graver consequences than war. An apropos stance for the position in which we find ourselves.
In the Bible, Christ narrates a parable of talents, wherein a man entrusts his money to three servants. Two of them reinvest what they are given and multiply it. One buries it in the ground and squanders it. In this metaphor, the recipients of the master’s talents do not inherit them merely to bury and safeguard them. They are entrusted with the stewardship of an unrealized treasure. Our treasure is the United States Constitution.
Critics who wish to dismantle our imperfect but hard-fought system must first tear down what has been built, and they endeavor to do so by revisiting our most contentious moments in history and redressing our progress. They will succeed if we are unwilling to dig in our heels and defend this hill as ours to die on. On the Constitution, we must be absolutists and it must be non-negotiable.