America faces great perils. Many posts on this site describe these problems and urge action. Or anger, a precursor to action. The comments in reply range from disappointing to craven. Many people say that we are weak and powerless. Others urge some form of passivity — such as irony, detachment, or resignation. For the philosophically inclined there are Stoicism, Epicureanism, Hedonism. (for examples of these sentiments see the posts listed at the end).
My words have proven inadequate, so I invited a speaker of far greater experience and eloquence about these matters.
- Words from today’s guest speaker at the FM site
- Then and now – his time and ours
- Craven, cowardly, and lazy — the most popular American responses
- Suggestions for reforming America
- For more information
(1) Words from today’s guest speaker at the FM site
His words have been edited — slightly paraphrased and with the noted ellipses– to better fit our current circumstances.
No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the worthy gentlemen who have just commented on this site. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony.
The question before the us is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to among those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the American government for the last forty years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the nation.
Is it that insidious smile with which our election has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our wishes — expressed during the campaign — comports with the Administration’s actions so far.
… They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary as our government. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? … Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?
We are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The three hundred millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible. … The conflict is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.
There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the streets of Washington! The conflict is inevitable — and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come. …
This speech was given by Patrick Henry at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia on 23 March 1775 to the Virginia House of Burgesses. It first appeared in print in 1817 in Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry by William Wirt.
(2) Then and now – his time and ours
Patrick Henry wrote about the options available to a people who had exhausted all other political remedies. Only force remained. This version edits out that language, leaving the majority of text — suitable for a people at a far earlier stage in their struggle to reclaim their liberty.
The key text excised is this, the foundation for his speech: “We have no election.” We have no such excuse.
What remains is a stirring wake-up call. We have far greater tools available to us than had the Americans of 1775, yet we have made far less use of them.
(3) Craven, cowardly, and lazy — the most popular American responses
My opinion about our situation is simple.
- We are in this together. Reality/nature/God enforces collectively responsibility.
- Individually we are weak. Collectively we are strong.
- Our reluctance to take personal responsibility for the Republic is our greatest problem. Ingenuity at producing excuses does not substitute for taking action.
- What are the odds of success at fixing America? It does not matter; nobody cares (not our forefathers, not our descendants).
Judging from the comments on this site, mine is a minority view. For examples from today of the attitudes Patrick Henry spoke of in 1775, see these posts.
- Fixing America: shall we choose elections, revolt, or passivity?
- Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step
- Fixing America: the choices are elections, revolt, or passivity
- The intelligentsia takes easy steps to abandoning America
(4) Suggestions for reforming America
We are wolves on the world stage, boldly invading 3rd world nations — but sheep at home, cowering before our government. Our President begs Saudi Arabia to pump more cheap oil for us. Our senior officials plead with China to not only rollover our loans (which we cannot pay) but also lend us more so that we can continue to consume more than our national income.
We elect leaders with vast ambitions, but we cannot afford them — and they make few serious attempts to explain how they will be financed.
I believe that most of us know the dark truth, in one way or another: America is unstable. In addition to geopolitical weakness, the result of decades of unsound grand strategy, the economic foundation of the American hegemony has large cracks. We have a pseudo-equilibrium, vulnerable to a tiny shock initiating a sudden and radical change — with the end result a truly stable condition (such as I described here and here). America is like a “hanging rock” – a small push can move it to lower but firmer foundation.
Our situation is contemptible because it is unnecessary. Somewhere along the way we passed a tipping point, after which absurd and even irrational behavior by our governing elites was accepted without outrage. Massive government borrowing, Ruby Ridge and Waco, the insanity of airport security .. the list goes on and on. We greet each new indignity or foolishness with shrugs.
We can do better, as we need not accept such things. When the crunch comes, I believe we will do better. The longer we wait, the greater the rot, the more extensive the damage, and the more difficult will be our recovery.
- Let’s look at America in the mirror, the first step to reform
- Sources of inspiration for America’s renewal
- How to stage effective protests in the 21st century
- The first step on the road to America’s reform
(5) For more information from the FM site
To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp interest are: