James Montgomery Flagg Illustration
“Wake Up America!” Poster
1917, Library of Congress
I’m afraid there is no easy way to put this. You, and the representatives you have been electing are killing me! It’s been slowly progressing since the late 1800’s, but I fear I am reaching a point of no return, a point where I will become irreversibly terminal, and it is for this reason I need you to listen to me now before it’s too late!
As always develops in the relationships between offspring and their parents, the time has come for us to have a serious conversation. You see, I feel that my time on this Earth is coming to an end. And before I pass, there are things that absolutely must be said!
I call you my child although you are grown, matured, and independent far beyond childhood. I write this with full respect for your self-sufficient nature and your adult demeanor, but I can still call you ‘my child’ because you are. I am America and you, the beneficiaries of all I am, are an American – you are my child.
It is not unusual for one to have misconceptions and false judgments about one’s parents even into adulthood, and so it seems we need to be frank with one another about who I am, my past, my nature, as well as my hopes and dreams for you and your future.
There are times I honestly feel you didn’t know me, and haven’t for some time. Let me set you straight on something before we begin. I am not a country! Let me repeat that. I am not a country! I am found primarily in The United States of America, but nevertheless, I am not a nation, nor am I any particular government. I am not even a geographical location, although all of those things have been attributed to me at one point or another.
I am an ideology, a state of mind, and a way of thinking. I am neither Democrat, nor Republican. I have no political affiliation and I am not subject to one specific religion or another. Don’t take that to mean I’m Godless! Your government, press, and powers-that-be may be agnostic or atheistic, but my parents brought me up with a full understanding and appreciation for The Creator, and it is to Him that I am pledged to protect you. We will talk more about that later. I am greater than any political party or interest group. I have outlived, (and hope to outlive) every President, Congressperson, and Supreme Court Justice. Natural disasters and man-made tragedies have struck the United States time and time again, yet I live on uncompromised and unabated. My cities may fall into ruins, my population may be decimated through causes natural or not, but unless I am forgotten, I will still survive. I am an extraordinary entity consisting of ideas, beliefs, resolves, and character. I am of no race, but a beautiful bright light made up of all the colors of the rainbow. I have been described as a shining city upon a hill and a thousand points of light. My ideology is neither conservative, liberal, nor moderate but made simply of the love and adoration of the Divine human creation. I cannot be killed, but if I am forgotten I will surely die!
I am America
Who am I?
I need to set you straight about my youth. Although my character and essence were being formed for nearly 300 years before, I was technically conceived on July 2nd, in the year of our Lord 1776. The announcement of my impending birth was given two days later and you now celebrate that day as Independence Day. Fifty-six brave and somewhat eccentric men conceived me in that hot, humid Philadelphia summer. My fathers represented a multitude of different cultures, backgrounds, and social classes. Not true “diversity” by today’s standards, but for the late 18th Century they were a very eclectic mix of traders, writers, lawyers, cobblers, landowners and so forth. My parents were so diverse that those of the north couldn’t fully understand the dialects and drawls of my co-parents from the south. My southern fathers were primarily farmers and my northern parents were mostly traders. One was Catholic and many were Masons and Protestants. Over half were preachers or held degrees in religion. They were collected from thirteen separate geographic areas, held different ideals and dreams, different priorities and beliefs, different trades and incomes, but eventually they would all come together to give me my start in this world.
These highly knowledgeable and respected men recognized that the society, the culture - the very nature of the colonists they represented were different than any population in history. On this point, my grandparents (the British) were in enthusiastic agreement! In their eyes, the colonists were brash, uncultured, rude, ill mannered and terribly violent. Even the exceptionally gifted and intelligent Doctor Benjamin Franklin was considered “beneath” the standards of English society. At a Privy Council in London on January 29th, 1774, Dr. Franklin was defending himself, and the prosecutor spat the word “American” at him as though it were the most base of insults! This much was true; the colonists were British only on paper. Their souls and minds were of an entirely new and different sort – they were Americans! My fathers therefore proposed a new nation be created, one that reflected the new ideals, dreams and state of mind of the new world - a mix of ideas, beliefs, resolves and character that was already in the air and running through the blood of the colonists. All that was left to do was to give it a name and an identity, and that’s what happened when I was conceived in the summer of 1776. Ever since that summer, my character has most readily been personified in the immortal phrase “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
As you can imagine, it was not exactly a wanted pregnancy by the grandparents back in England. Revolutions may seem commonplace today, but before I was born, it was absolutely inconceivable for a colony or group of colonies to break away from a mother country. It just wasn’t done! Certainly there were revolts against the Roman Empire in one province or another, but the idea of leaving your mother country and starting an entirely new and untested form of government was, in a word – revolutionary! It took eleven whole years before I would actually be identified as a country. In that time, over 25,000 men would die to make sure I wasn’t aborted or miscarried. Of the signers of the Declaration, nearly every one had their property seized and destroyed by the British. Nine died during the war either through hardships or in battle. Five were captured and imprisoned. All of my parents were considered traitors by the British and had bounties placed upon their heads, the heads of their spouses, children and even their business associates and friends.
On September 17th, 1787 I was born. My birth certificate, which I still cherish, is called the Constitution. According to my fathers, the pregnancy was not an easy one. I was nearly stillborn. During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, disagreements between my fathers grew so great; it seemed they couldn’t agree on anything! It was only after heeding the advice of Dr. Franklin and taking three full days to do nothing but pray for guidance that they could finally come together and create what has become the longest surviving Constitution in history.
There are a few issues I wish to go over with you however. While in some cases, you have exceeded my hopes and dreams, in others you have either built away from the foundations my fathers laid or have disregarded the ideals of the American family all-together!
No parent likes to chastise a child, and I will do my best to be as patient and understanding as I can. I am only telling you these things because I feel firmly that as you continue to deny the very ideals and foundations on which this family was based, you will wake up one day and will no longer be living in the greatest, most free, most advanced country in the world. I am America, and I don’t want you to lose me.
What is “American” and “un-American?”
It’s sad that this even needs to be addressed. Basically, this has nothing to do with where you choose to stand on the political scale. A conservative can be just as un-American as a liberal. It has nothing to do with who you have voted for in the past, or to which party you belong. The only requirements for being an American are an acceptance of the ideals of freedom, liberty, and rule of law on which I am based, and the willingness to protect and defend those ideals. One can even be against the government in Washington DC and still be a true American through and through! In fact our brave men and women in the Armed Forces pledge to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, not some individual, not some administration or regime! What is “American” is anything and everything that promotes liberty over tyranny, self-sufficiency over dependence, the individual over the collective, the choice of the person over the dictates of the state, the rule of law over the rule of men; free will, entrepreneurship and individuality. Freedom! The true test of ‘what is American’ can be determined by answering a simple question, “That would the founders do.”
“But why put such importance on your founding fathers? They lived 250 years ago, haven’t we grown, learned, and advanced beyond their primitive attempt at creating a government?”
This is an excellent question, my child. Keep in mind, however, that our founders knew more about government than most of today’s professors know about FDR. They were better versed in world history, Roman federalism and imperialism, Greek democracy, Russian, French, and English monarchy, tribalism, feudalism, oligarchies, autocracies (and every other type of governance ever tried) than most Ivy League graduates. When creating their new country from scratch they were free to choose whatever form they wished; they chose to create an entirely new type of Republic… gleaned from all the best parts of every system that had come before. Their greatest stroke of wisdom was in their reliance on the individual citizen. They realized if they divided power among the millions of citizens, no single citizen could become a tyrant. Furthermore, understanding human nature and the tendency of humans to unfailingly work towards their own best interests, they developed a system in which the counter-efforts of self-interest would keep society, the economy, and even the government in check. Their other great innovation was in forming a system based upon process rather than outcome. They weren’t as concerned with who, precisely, would lead the country, but rather the process by which that person would be chosen. This is akin to creating a detailed recipe rather than just saying, “You need to make a really tasty chocolate cake.” This founding belief (which has proven accurate) was that if the process was adhered to, the result will be assured. The process, and the foundation of that process… liberty and freedom… were what truly mattered. This trust and reliance on freedom, and this focus on the freedoms and liberties of the individual citizen are what makes America unique and exceptional! Free markets and freedom of choice within those markets are a major part of this! An American nature promotes life, liberty and an individual’s pursuit of happiness. It allows for difference of opinion without threatening to silence dissent. It recognizes that a person can rise from the lowliest of circumstances to the highest of heights through nothing more than their own hard work, faith and ingenuity. Again, I go back to Freedom and Liberty, for they are the core of everything American.
There is yet one more aspect of an American that cannot be overlooked because it is at the very heart of everything that was created in 1776! Without this final key to the puzzle, everything else is mutable, secondary and meaningless! It is the glue that bonds everything else. Without it, there is no America!
The source of human rights
It may pain you to hear this, but according to the wise men who laid this nation’s foundation, a true American must recognize that each individual is a creation of the Supreme Being, God, Allah, Yahweh, Jehovah, or however else you recognize the Divine Creator! Furthermore because of this divine birthright, you are entitled to respect and self-governance. This includes respect not only from your fellow citizens but from your government. This may seem trivial, but it’s not! My grandparents in Europe ‘valued’ their subjects based upon who their parents were, or how much gold they had, or their family associations. This meant that if an individual wasn’t rich, ‘connected’, or a member of a wealthy and prestigious family, he or she was literally worthless! Sound familiar? Today the ‘elite’ maybe politicians, ‘experts,’ television commentators, or CEO’s of incredibly powerful companies -in short, only those who can give massive campaign contributions or can ‘boost’ a campaign through favorable coverage. They are treated better, given preferential treatment and favors.
There are, in the words of Senator John Edwards “two Americas.” But unlike the assertion of the privileged Edwards, the two America aren’t the rich and the poor, but the elite and the forgotten. How sad that you have returned to the very class system my fathers fought so hard to destroy! How sad you are once again in a world where all are equal, but some are more equal than others! My parents fought and died to change all that! You must discard this double standard, this idea of the “special” and the “ordinary.” There is no such thing as a common or ordinary American, and the sooner you learn to embrace that fact, the sooner you will be the happy, prosperous nation you were meant to be!
You, the individual citizen, are worthy of great respect! In fact any citizen who is old enough and fulfills the residency requirements can be elected President. Not only that, he or she must be a citizen! If the candidate holds any title or rank in the military or elsewhere, they must give up that title and become a citizen before taking office. Only in America is the title ‘citizen’ considered the highest rank or position one can attain! Again, this is because only America recognizes the divine nature of each individual, only in America are the people considered the supreme authority over the government, rather than the other way around.
Because even to this day, no other country recognizes that rights come from God and then the citizenry gives those rights to the government, you, and our entire system is different than anywhere else. We are the exception, and this is the foundation of American Exceptionalism! In most other countries, rights are given to the people from the King, the Parliament, the Caliphate or some other government ‘on high’. Now listen carefully! Those governments can take ‘rights’ back or pass them out willy-nilly. This very core belief in other countries (that the government gives out rights), prompts other governments to give rights to some while withholding them from others. They don’t distribute favors equally or fairly because under their definition of ‘rights’ such entitlements are not a gift of the Divine Creator. They do not believe all citizens are created equal, or have to be treated equally. Only here in America is that right to be treated equally guaranteed. And it is because you are all equally divine by your creation. You have the supreme power in the United States and this unique arrangement is evident throughout all the writings and speeches of my fathers! Those who do not believe in a God maybe offended by all this, but I view them in the same light as those who may feel the world is flat, Elvis is still alive, or Saddam Hussein was a nice guy… they’re an adorable lot, but not to be taken seriously. There is an Almighty, deal with it!
Here, in America, the government can never hold any right that you do not hold yourself. Nor can the government deprive you of your rights without your permission! The government is ALWAYS the servant of the citizen (individually and collectively) and never, ever dictates to the individual! Does is sound as if I’m talking about some foreign country? It’s not! This is what it means to be American! It was defined this way by my fathers in their speeches and writings, and is still true today. ANYTHING that runs contrary to those beliefs, no matter if it is “legal,” “set in precedent,” or accepted as fact… ANYTHING contrary is by definition un-American! Sadly, many things are in place right now, both legally and culturally, that are un-American but you mistakenly call ‘American!’
State sponsored lie: “a total separation of church and state”
My children, I would never have imagined we would become a country that would even consider that there wasn’t a Divine Creator! It baffles me and would sadden and dishearten my fathers. I often hear you bastardize a phrase my father Thomas Jefferson used… the ‘wall of separation between Church and State.” When Mr. Jefferson used this phrase he was writing to the Danbury Baptists to assure them that the Government could not interfere with their Church’s beliefs and practices – NOT the other way around! He wrote of freedom of religion, not freedom from it! In fact, my fathers had no problem with each individual state having its own official religion; they only forbade the Federal government from forming a nationally established faith.
“But what is wrong with a faith-neutral stance in the courts, schools, and government?”
From my point of view, as the personification of the America my fathers created, there are two major problems. Firstly, the absence of faith is considered Atheism, and when the government removes all references to the Divine Creator, it in fact creates a State-mandated “approved” series of thoughts and beliefs. In other words, you have created, or allowed to be imposed, an established religion – that of Atheism. Atheism is the absence of religion, and the government sanctions the absence of religion in its......"