“We are placed among the Nations, and have a national character to establish” (George Washington, 1783)
“At this auspicious period, the United States came into existence, and if their Citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own.” (GW)
“A Republic…if you can keep it.” (Benjamin Franklin)
Retired Congresswoman and 2012 presidential candidate, Michelle Bachmann, has been having premonitions of a dark end for Mankind. She thinks (and has said) that Obama is ushering in the End Times and the Rapture.
Now this is not the first time an apocalyptic sense of doom has come over a lot of Americans. It does seem Evil wins at every turn, then spends a lot of time end-zone “dancing with delight”, gloating and rubbing our noses in our defeat. I know I’ve often wished to see a giant thumb come out of the sky and just squish those people like a bug.
But I have two problems with this sort of dream:
1) On any given day, because of my own evil doings that day, I never know whether I will be one of those cast down, or taken up. With me it’s a crap shoot.
2) So, I hedge my bets by arguing for “just one more chance, Lord”. In the 1957 film “The Story of Mankind” Ronald Colman played the role of The Spirit of Mankind, whose job it was to make a defense before a heavenly tribunal against an array of historical evil characters, proving that mankind had gone to the Devil. For about eight or nine years now, I have appointed myself to this role as defense lawyer for America facing the same charges. I want to talk God out of walking away and letting us fail.
(This is how I spend my time in my closet, preparing oralis moralitas argumentum for God, unlike Bill Clinton who wasted all that time trying to convince Him that oralis inrumatis isn’t really sex.)
With the understanding then, which many of you may not agree, that God created America for a specific purpose, which I prove in a pending book, I argue that while it looks pretty bad down here, especially if He checks his Twitter feeds daily, or notices that “Christian” America isn’t lifting a finger to defend or rescue people of faith anywhere in the world at this very moment, America could actually be standing on the cusp of its greatest achievements, our greatest moments still laying ahead, not behind us… if only we had a little more time.
For instance, on matters of faith, our Professing Christians ratio is actually up, while Professional Christianity is way down. People are leaving (actually dying out, not to be replaced) the big organized churches in droves; Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists, while younger families are seeking and finding more spirituality and less “religion” elsewhere. Unlike the Roman Church of Europe, the American Catholic Church is more dynamic in matters of spiritual faith than it ever has been since the 3rd Century.
And in matters of citizenship, where most Americans for almost two hundred years, just worked to build their Houses, and paid little attention to esoteric terms such as “liberty” and “patriotism” except on July 4th, or politics outside a tax by a government they could touch, today we have the largest aggregation of involved grass roots citizens on national and political issues since those heady days of the Revolution. At no time in American history have more people known where and how all the pieces to our Republic fit. I know small business owners, even mom-and-pops with no more than high school diplomas, who can read critically a WSJ op-ed, and out-cite 90% of the editorial staffs at Reuters, AP, and the major news networks on the Constitution and American History. You never used to see “Garage-Mechanic & Constitutional Expert” on a business card, or “student of American History” on an eHarmony profile, but now you can.
So, I argue almost daily to God that these very people are why the Devil has had his minions turn up the heat so much the past few years…they are seeing their opportunity slip away, not getting closer to their grasp. And they have shaken the common man, for whom the Constitution was written, out of his lethargy. Today more Americans know about their rights, the purposes of Liberty, and the blueprint of the Constitution than at anytime in out history since the Revolution.
It’ a process, Lord. Just give us a little more time. We know what needs to be done.
We just don’t know how to go about finding who can do it. Instead of a band of citizens all engaged in the pursuit of a common purpose, we seem to have appointed all ourselves as generals-of-one.
In standing back and looking at those GOP candidates, (fourteen, listed alphabetically): Bolton, Bush, Carson, Christie, Cruz, Fiorina, Jindal, Kasich, Rubio, Paul, Perry, Santorum, Trump and Walker, I can find characteristics in each that would marry up pretty well with characteristics found in the key men of the Founding. (Yes, I know there are others, such as Lindsay Graham and Mike Huckabee, who are not listed here. In their case, I have taken it upon myself to proclaim that their only similarity with the Founders is that they also pee standing up. If you disagree, feel free to add them to your list.)
Each of this Gang of Fourteen have positive and negative characteristics. For instance, Cruz is fearless, but which often can make a man impetuous. Rand Paul is also without fear, but an easier target by the press and his enemies, in that he is more direct, and more edgy in his speech, attracting some and scaring away voters and donors, by his speech patterns alone. (I’ll have more to say about Sen Paul at a later time, for, with some work, he could give seminars to all his colleagues as how to slice and dice an interrogator while staying within the bounds of propriety.) Dr Carson has an experience problem, but is heavy on a kind of true-life wisdom in shorter supply among the others. He is closer to Ben Franklin than Madison. Jeb Bush has a Common Core problem, as does John Kasich, but both are capable governors with strong character assets. Their only test is whether they share the same “common purpose” as the others. Marco Rubio gets some of the highest policy marks of the field, but has already demonstrated some youthful stumbles. George Washington wrote his stepson Jack, who died at age 27, and who had traded on his name for a spot in the Virginia Senate, “I do not suppose that so young a Senator, as you are…can yet have much influence in a populous assembly….But it is in your power to (at least) be punctual in your attendance.”
You can make a scorecard and do this at home. Trust that we will here, too. At Pilgrim’s Corner our main criteria is congressional members’ fidelity to their promises and stated ideological (conservative) positions, and we grade them on a scale of 0%-100%. But we don’t goddam them, or their backers, for being less than 9o%, which, for some strange reason, in a campaign many voters tend to do. Need help? Go visit Fr Pilgrim’s confessional for a regular liturgical update and come away more reflective.(Amen.)
Most of all, what the Founders possessed, and the Gang of 14 have not yet proved they possess, is a genuine understanding that they must all share a common purpose if this restoration of America is to succeed. It would be helpful that all 14 agree that a “radical” (G Washington) but peaceful, Restoration is in order. So what must be agreed first, “the common purpose of this election”, is to recognize America’s peril as she stands teetering on a cliff, and to command her rescue. For candidates who cannot articulate this, it will likely be a deal breaker for them, and rightly so. That was my private complaint with Mitt Romney…that he would not call Evil by its name, even though, as a moral, religious man, he had to know it when he sees it.
What blinded him? Or muted him? Our Congress and government are filled with people who, while often good men and women, largely by being beneficiaries of a corrupt system which has led us to this precipice, have become unwitting dispensers of the rope that will one day hang us all. They can see nothing except through the lens of their own self-interests, and their status within this system that feeds them. At best, they are Tories, at worst, turncoats.
This establishment has been the other “common purpose” of American politics for over a ageneration, and we all can see now where it has led us, and who the true beneficiaries of it has been. It must not only be replaced, it must be thrown down. And it is incumbent on the majority of the 14 candidates here to adopt this objective, collectively, as their common purpose.
The flip side to this common purpose coin, as Wsahington stated in the opening quotes, is that we (the people) who also knew Evil when we saw it, and found this lacking in Romney, made him the enemy and decided to take our ball and go home, taking millions more with us…guaranteeing Evil another four-year tour-of-duty. Many of us were encouraged in this by candidates and the campaign staff, who lost to Romney.
This has to stop.
The Continental Congress gave us the Declaration of Independence, which was a composite of the best that all those assembled had to give. In the end, no more than half a dozen applied the real mortar to seal 56 signatures, but as few as two could have buried it. Only they didn’t. Common purpose. Then, during the war years, the Congress reverted to type, and was largely a dreadful and inept institution, “vast armies of idleness” (GW), only it could do little harm.
Common purpose then moved to the battlefield, the quest for national character shifting to the Army and the shoulders of General Washington, who bore that cross more nobly than any American, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln. The commanding general of all the Continental armies, and battlefield commander of one, he personally suffered and achieved what not even Eisenhower or MacArthur could have.
Then after the war, this need for common purpose shifted back to the delegates of the Constitutional Convention, which skated on such thin ice, one colony refused to attend, another took its delegation home, and in the end some of the most notable Americans in our history, Founders all, refused to sign it…because it failed to secure for the People those protections we now know of as the Bill of Rights, which finalized the Constitution in 1791. Common purpose.
So the greatest organizing document of human liberty known to Man would be born by a handful of men, including some contrarians, who would, in a few years go on to become bitter political enemies and who in truth didn’t like each other very much anyway. (And the nagging, pestiferous, scolding, self-righteous, annoying-to-all John Adams wasn’t even a delegate.) What made this all work? Right…common purpose…yet one final radical icing on a cake that had begun being baked eleven years earlier, and refreshed, in Jefferson’s words, with the “blood of patriots.”
You know the principal players, (James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington), Washington and Franklin setting the tone and the temper of the proceedings, as well as the anti-federalists, led by George Mason. But for the presence of Franklin and Washington, shillelagh law might well have ended the proceedings early. In the end 39 delegates, all cemented by a common purpose, signed the document, while a few, led by Mason refused, for which the People are eternally grateful.
I’ve been rereading Richard Brookhiser’s Founding Father, Rediscovering George Washington. (1996) which was more of a view of the character and temper of the man and the age, where, during the Constitutional Convention, he attended every session but never made a single comment in-session. He arrived on the first day, took his seat to notice that almost no other delegate had shown up, and sat there the whole day. He noted later that it was then he knew he could never stand to be a legislator, or stand to spend much time in their company.
Washington was the indispensable man, but one I cannot find in this group of GOP candidates…nor a need to, actually. What the GOP candidates can learn from Washington was his singular focus, which transcended mere politics. He built, even subordinated, his public life and ambitions around three things, never looking left or right while pursuing them: 1) winning the War on the battlefield, 2) insuring a nation would be created that could last, then 3) setting a standard for the Executive whereby it would last.
While better minds (by his own reckoning) went about as architects actually debating and framing the document that certified the work he had done by winning the war, he sat stiffly and silent in the same hall watching them do it. He (and Franklin) was the sounding board against which all the other actors played their parts. It was as if God Almighty were sitting in that chair, and everyone tiptoed so as not to offend or draw his ire. It’s doubtful they would have behaved or performed the same had he not been there.
That common purpose began with the Declaration of Independence, and ended with the Constitution, or actually, Washington’s Farewell Address and the transition of power to John Adams, and the manner in which he choreographed it for the benefit of future generations. When he sat below the new vice-president (Jefferson), then deferred to his rank when departing the podium, it bespoke the sort of common purpose we need to seek in this crop of candidates who must develop a common heartbeat to renew the Nation. Personal vanity takes a back seat.
About the important things they must all be on the same page…
…and they must convey to us, the voters that they are on that same page, lest we forget our common purpose as well and take our balls and go home, as we seem prone to do.
The other indispensable man, and who played key roles in both the Declaration of Independence and the drafting of the Constitution, was Benjamin Franklin. I have long argued that America suffers, from the boardroom to the highest reaches of government, from no longer having, or even seeing the need to have, a Ben Franklin in their boardrooms. It may be one of the most critical cultural errors of our time. Franklin was an intellectual, a scientist, an historian, but most of all, along with Washington, the only other delegate who had not gone to college (although he did found one). In both conventions, he was older than all the rest and had seen and done more than that all the rest. It was an honor for them to have him around, if for no other reason to wake up from a nap, and promptly provide a context from old Philadelphia before they were born, or a French, Latin, or Italian bon mot that fit perfectly the item they were discussing, so that everyone would slap their foreheads and say, “Oh yeah”. Then he could sit back down and pretend to go to sleep again.
If we are to rebuild our country radically, but peacefully, back to its original design, with full knowledge that the other side may still have a say in how that change will come about, the spirit of common purpose must be around at all times, so as to rub off on us, the voters, who also need a heavy dose of personal introspection and a sense of common purpose as well.
How we choose a candidate this time around, how wisely and judiciously, how we use our talents in judging horse flesh based on the big intangibles, restoring the Grand Idea, based not on policy minutiae, but on steadfastness, character, integrity, the ability to lead, and a sense of the enormity of the task lay ahead to restore the Nation…that may well be the basis for God’s final judgment…but of us, not these 14 leaders…for it was our tiny, petty minds, our my-way-or-the-highway demands for a perfect candidate, our bigger-than-life opinions of ourselves as generals-of-one, that have brought us to this place.
This chance, with such a magnificent quality lineup, will likely not come again. …so many fine people, so great a collective challenge…we cannot afford to fritter it away on tiny little ideas, and petty notions of personal infallibility.
When a final victor emerges, he or she should be the better, not the lessor, for the added gravitas he/she has acquired from the others and the knowledge that they will have their backs in the general.
So Hear me!
If we let this slip by, there may never be another chance. As I said, the Left is not a potted plant in this existential drama, and still have cards to play, even from decks we didn’t know they have hidden up their sleeves. (They both lie and cheat.) This is why we must look past petty policy issues and first to the whole character of the man.
This is just simple advice, which you don’t have to accept, but as many have borne since 2013, some will have to bear the brunt of history if they (you) fail in returning this nation to its rightful owners, and instead keep it in the hands of tyrants all because you stayed home…and encouraged others to do likewise.
What often stands between any list of candidates is not matters of policy, or even ideology, but vanity and pride. And ambition. Barack Obama comes to mind, and while he fooled us once, he divided and conquered us, the people, the second time by causing 3-4 million of us (you) to stay home over personal vanities. Americas cannot afford this again.
But for you stay-at-homes, tens of thousands of innocents around the world would still be alive, the lives of 4490 Americans lives in Iraq would not be forfeit, and 2357 more awaiting the same fate in Afghanistan. Christians would not be beheaded for public amusement, Eastern Europe would not be under the threat of a second Russian Empire, and America would not be under a terrorist threat larger than the one that brought on 9/11…if you had only holstered your whining, backbiting sense of entitlement, yes, entitlement, just like the looters and takers you profess to hate, and voted for a good man who it turns out possessed most of the characteristics that stand between life and death for us now.
If the common purpose characteristics of the Founders prevail, and an even better candidate emerges than the one which first entered the race, containing the gold of each, leaving their dross on the floor, and if they all walk away from the endeavor and stand together as the disparate Founders stood for fifteen years, when the Bill of Rights finally gave “the people their say”, then we will know the fingerprints of Founders, and the Invisible Hand are still on this process.
But if our vanity and pride should rent this last field of patriot candidates asunder, we will know that the dark hand of Satan has won the day, and…”everyone will carve for himself.” (George Washington.)
If we continue to run off Good because it is not Perfect…then I don’t believe I will have to close up my Closet, where I meet and argue with God, for He will have already left the building (with Elvis). God has not been judging our leaders, but us….about our lack of discernment and good judgment. It will be us who runs Him off.