Pardon me while I clean up in aisle 1776 due to a post-July 4 propaganda spill.
The holiday may be behind us, but we need its spirit to last well into the remainder of the year more than ever. We are hanging on by a very thin red, white and blue thread these days. Betsy Ross called, and she’s unsure how many of those tattered threads are left to hold onto.
So we better be sure the memes coming out of Independence Day 2017 are the right ones, in that they are accurate and edifying instead of merely bombastic and ephemeral. And if you have spent any amount of time depicting July 4 as a specifically conservative cause – as I’ve seen quite a few do on social media, whether well intentioned or not – you might just be guilty of the latter.
To pollute Independence Day with partisanship is problematic on a number of fronts.
First, we don’t celebrate America’s founding holiday because it is inherently “conservative” in its branding. Instead, we are conservatives because we wish to conserve that which Independence Day represents. The transcendent ideals every generation since the Founding Fathers has been charged with recommitting to.
This is no mere semantic trifle. There was no “conservative” wing of the Founders. Whether ultimately on the Federalist or anti-Federalist side of the ledger when it came time to draw up a Constitution, they were all renegades who had committed their lives, fortunes and sacred honors to the very opposite of conservation. Although they made no bones about the fact they were standing on the shoulders of giants such as Locke, Blackstone, and Montesquieu; as well as the wisdom primarily of the Old Testament of the Bible. They were clearly attempting to shine a genuinely new birth of freedom into a darkness that had perplexed Western Civilization for centuries.
King George may have been mad, but it wasn’t exactly a mad notion for a king – or other aspiring potentate – to be skeptical that anything even remotely resembling self-rule could work effectively over the long haul. The mob was too fickle. Passions were too unbridled. Reason tended to obsess to the point of utopian fantasy.
None of which is wrong, but the Founders didn’t care. For them, it was high time the people of the world had a taste of the narrow gate and decided for themselves if they could, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, keep a republic or not. We take that for granted now, which is part of our problem. Because far from conserving something, the Founders were bringing a cultural and political big bang into the world.
Which is, in turn, the very sort of thing you might guess would be worth conserving thereafter: A new way of thinking, talking, behaving, and believing that had the proven power to blaze a trail in human history.
Which brings me to the other problematic reason for believing July 4 to be a conservative holiday: It’s too small-tent.
Short of the Gospel, July 4 is the celebration that speaks more than any other about how to set ALL people free. Or to put it another way, the City on a Hill was created for man—not man for the City on a Hill.
America is truly unique and undeniably exceptional, but it was never meant to be an exclusive club. Our nation’s leaders have honored its inherent obligation to be an example to the rest of the world to a fault at times. With untold blood and treasure spent meddling in affairs that were not ours to fix, but our fundamental inspiration for doing so was often in the right ballpark.
We believed we had been bestowed with a providential gift that was not ours to hoard. It was to be shared far and wide, and act as the very tonic to overcome all manner of tribalism, greed, and superstition.
Defeating the Redcoats was about more than a rebel yell. A ragtag group of 13 colonies doesn’t evict the British Empire from its shores for a tantrum or a shallow cause. It was about spreading true justice and mercy to as many people as were willing to take it for their own, like a precious seedling, and do everything required to help it thrive. Including raising the next generation of liberty’s stewards.
We are conservatives because we yearn to conserve that legacy by being those stewards, rather than tragically see it lost on our watch.
It is the Leftist who typically seeks to reverse-engineer his/her partisan idolatries upon that which historically transcends his/her subjective passions, because he/she is threatened by that which is objectively good, noble, and true. Agitprop is a mechanism of the Marxist for a reason. Let us not assist them in polluting our own stream, but isolate them publicly to their own shame instead.
And when we do, most Americans still reject that crap.
For when Independence Day becomes a partisan football for both sides, that is the day we have punted on our independence for good.