But choose wisely, for while the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you.
I was reminded of this line, delivered in the soft, time-wearied voice of the Medieval knight from the third Indiana Jones movie, as I was reflecting on the remarkable string of events over the last two weeks—events that are changing and defining the nature of the 2012 election.
At the start of this period Romney looked as if he was going to walk away with the GOP nomination, and that the election would become a referendum on Obama’s economic policies. The emerging shape of the battle was reflected by two new and inconsistent reports coming from Washington. On the one hand, the CBO issued a report that should have scared the dickens out of everyone and made the case for a Republican sweep. It showed that the economy had lost more than 2 million jobs in just one month, and that the projected growth and unemployment figures would be anemic through 2013. On the other hand, the administration produced “seasonally adjusted” job numbers that magically showed a growth in jobs, and a drop in unemployment, which defied reality and made a mockery of government statistics, but which the chattering classes took as positive news and as gospel for the wisdom of Obama’s policies.
But, then the ground under our feet shifted, as foreign policy and social issues diverted everyone’s attention away from the economic debate. Every news report focused on the growing civil war in Syria, and our confrontation of Russia and China at the UN. Panetta and Obama sent mixed signals over Israel and Iran, and their words (and Israel’s intentions) became a focus of news reporting throughout the week. Progressives embroiled the Komen charity and the Catholic Church in controversies over abortion, contraceptives, and the First Amendment. Then, that never-ending source of liberal lunacy, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, gave us a double-whammy of cultural chaos:
- it reinstated the California Supreme Court’s construction of the California Constitution that changed and expanded the definition of “marriage” under California law to include same-sex couples; and,
- to do so, it determined that the people of California could not amend their own Constitution to re-instate a 3,000 year-old status quo that did not violate the federal constitution, because, once the California Supreme Court had decided to expand rights or privileges to a new class of people, the people could not change that decision.
Therefore, in one stroke the 9th Circuit stoked the fires of the culture wars and shredded the concept that the people, not the judiciary, are the ultimate source of power and authority in this country. Given these developments, and the predictable rise of Santorum in the polls in three states where, like Iowa, social conservatives make up a large portion of GOP activists, is it any wonder that Santorum, whose career has focused on these foreign policy and social issues, has risen from the ashes to upend the GOP race once again?
Before you get whiplash from all of this, let’s go back to the quote at the start of this post. We must remember that the story of America has been a story of choices made—some wise, and some not-so wise. And it now appears that recent developments are creating a new, epic choice for us to make this November. The choice will not be over the looming debt that is crushing individuals and governments alike, or what our position should be as to when or how Israel may attack Iran, or the wisdom of the Komen foundation’s changing decisions about funding Planned Parenthood, or the availability of contraceptives, or the future of religious freedom, or even the future definition of “marriage”. No, the choice is larger than all of these issues, though they each will be pieces that will fit together to ultimately form the puzzle picture in the end.
If you’ve followed any of my prior posts on Big Jolly Politics, you know I have a specific view of our history. Our Settlers—those dissident Protestants who began leaving England and the Netherlands in the 17th Century to come and start a new life on this continent, saw a “fork in the road” of human history and made a choice to go down what Robert Frost would call “the road less traveled.” They chose to come to America and begin an experiment not tried in human history—to live as free men and women in shared communities—rather than stay in Europe and continue on the age-old path of living under the thumbs of kings and bishops. Our experimental path was to preserve and promote man’s free will (the blessing of liberty) and to promote the exercise of that will to “pursue happiness” (“pursue a life well spent”, “love thy neighbor”) in local communities organized into states joined into a federal union. The paradox, as Franklin would allude to, was, whether we could “keep it” merely by depending on the preservation of a “Christian” character among our citizens.
Over the centuries, we became a people who were taught to look at our past as having been created from fundamental promises—a contract—that incorporated man’s greatest ideals. We were taught that even though the promises weren’t always properly or evenly enforced, our challenge was to fix those flaws to sustain the experiment. And we were taught that the experiment embodied in that contract was fragile, because it could always be derailed by undermining the character of the citizenry; meaning it could be derailed by one or more of four impulses:
- the impulse of man to believe in himself, and in nature, rather than God;
- the impulse of man to fight and die for false Gods;
- the impulse of some men to re-enslave the will of other men to keep the enslaved from pursuing their own impulses (good or bad); and
- the impulse of otherwise good people toward complacency and autonomy.
I believe our best leaders over the centuries recognized these enemies and rallied us against them. Since 1776, we have faced and defeated each of these enemies at one time or another. If we should ever lose this fight for the preservation of our experiment, or choose to no longer fight for our experiment when any of these impulses emerge, I believe the consequence will be both a political and a spiritual backslide, and the ensuing “darkness” will last a long, long time.
When we look around us we see evidence of that our experiment in self-government is backsliding, and I am not ready to choose to stop fighting the impulses that have brought us to this point. At some point between the election of FDR and the assassination of JFK, a core group in this country saw our nation, not as an imperfect experiment embodied in a contract to be enforced, but as historically illegitimate. These people worked quietly for decades to convince the last two generations of Americans to look at our past as having been illegitimate from the start; and to see America’s basic contract as so wrong that it needed to be reformed and replaced with a new contract that mirrored the social contract that had emerged within Europe since Bismark. To accomplish this task, they preyed on the four impulses that were always the enemy of our experiment, and have tried to rip-up the old contract. In its place, they have tried to re-assert a model of government by and for the elite that our Settlers rejected, and which has condemned a vast number of our neighbors to under-education and under-employment, and to an artificially low standard of living during a time of great wealth creation, while they have increasingly enjoyed unrivaled materialism and an autonomy from their responsibilities as citizens. Their efforts have torn deep holes in the fabric of our culture and society, and the policies they’ve implemented to create a new contract have nearly bankrupted our governments and our citizens.
What the developments over the last two weeks show is that the election this November presents another historical “fork in the road” for America—another time to choose. It presents a choice between—
- continuing the backslide to a form of society our Settlers rejected, and that thrives off a vast system of materialism, dependency and victimhood among so many of us that it has put our society on the road to societal bankruptcy; and
- re-committing our society to that experiment embodied in the original contract we inherited—a society of free men and women who believe that if our ideal promises are properly preserved and enforced, we can address all of the challenges that face us without bankrupting the system for our children.
We have a choice to make at this fork—we can’t take both paths from here, and the path we choose this year will determine the course of our history for generations to come. I for one, choose the path of the promise our ancestors made to preserve, protect and promote life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all our citizens, and of the commitment to share and enforce that promise and its benefits with all Americans; rather than the path of autonomous materialism and victimhood, and the ultimate dependency on elites, to which the other path will condemn the future.
I hope you will join me and “choose wisely” as this year unfolds toward the November election, for the stakes couldn’t be much higher.