First Principles

Twilight of the Founders

In our arrogance, we imagine that it is we who are disdainfully rejecting America’s Founders. They would want nothing to do with us.

You can tell about the soul of a people by looking at who they honor. It used to be that America, more or less universally, admired its founders. But Americans today increasingly fancy themselves more evolved than George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. We imagine that these founders have been “found out.” Their great secret—their hypocrisy and “racism”—enables us, indeed requires us, to tear them down. It’s time to leave them in the past now, and find new heroes.

But where is this rage of pride leading? No sane, healthy society would elevate a person like George Floyd, and yet it would be difficult to name a person more revered in the country today. 

While many Americans are still unable to have funerals, Floyd received a send-off fit for a statesman. And that was just the start of his strange apotheosis. Having first become an angel, he has taken on more godlike proportions. In cities across the South, his colossal, digitized visage lights up the sky.

While it’s bad form to speak ill of the dead, we may make exceptions when the departed are wrongly beatified. This perverse exaltation reflects a timidity and self-loathing that increasingly defines the American soul, qualities revealed by months of acquiescence before unprecedented attacks on the freedom and dignity of the American people. 

These attacks are part and parcel of a radical effort to transform the country politically, historically, psychologically, and culturally. No less than Barack Obama expressed the necessity of starting over again, calling John Lewis a “founding father” of “that fuller, fairer, better America” that could very well take “centuries” to build.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, few men have a better claim to inclusion in the pantheon of this new America, whatever that entails, than George Floyd.Floyd, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, is an omnipresent figure who has played a corresponding role in ushering our creepy, despotic “new normal.” Arguably the most powerful doctor in human history, it is heresy to question Fauci’s mere utterances. Despite obvious evidence of his political motivations, he receives the unyielding adulation of millions of Americans. He is benevolent, unfireable. Even his mistakes are somehow proof of his perfection.

These new founders aren’t necessarily good founders, but they are the founders we deserve. An America with more confidence, self-respect, and jealousy of its liberty would not have lifted them to such prominence.

The original American Founders appealed to “manly firmness.” What would they make of Americans today?

Over the last few months, Americans have faced an unrelenting barrage of commands and insults. We have been ordered to give up work, business, and religion—to suspend human relationships under penalty of law. We have been ordered to hate ourselves, to celebrate the erasure of our heritage, and welcome whatever price America’s “guilt” requires. We have seen Americans denied the basic protections of law. 

To be sure, many protest these things, although many are too afraid to do so publicly. Others may be just credulous. But countless others have been active, willing participants in their own disenfranchisement. For many Americans, it seems, the highest virtue is to be perceived as obedient to unelected bureaucrats and their elected intermediaries, or else appropriately sensitive to the call of “social justice” and its advocates. No matter how arbitrary, absurd, or humiliating, the orders of these two classes of rulers must be followed, and with zeal.

A pandemic of self-righteousness and fear has turned many into willing subjects of the elite. For these, no activity, no matter how “essential” or sacred, that has not received the sanction of “experts” can be countenanced. What’s most remarkable is how many Americans have accepted living under these conditions indefinitely. There is no command too degrading or irrational for them to accept, and some go even further than is demanded. 

Perhaps you have seen people walking around in face shields lately. Eager to obey, they are just as eager to inflict punishment—gratuitous punishment—on those who contradict the superstitious authority of “science.” A deep distrust in the ability of ordinary people to use common sense, to think for themselves and direct their own lives, has led to a large part of the public identifying with an aristocracy of scientists, embodied in the august figure of Anthony Fauci. At bottom is a terror at the thought of risk and of the responsibilities of citizenship, which are readily abdicated to bureaucrats.

The whole spectacle is obscene and un-American, but it does not begin to capture the full extent of America’s abasement. Enjoined to honor as some kind of martyr a career criminal who pointed a pistol at a pregnant woman’s abdomen, many Americans have obliged that command as well. 

The deification of Floyd is a remarkable achievement of the politics of ritual humiliation and a spectacular victory for the new cultural revolution. With stunning rapidity, Americans over the last few months have been led to reject their heritage and accept Black Lives Matter as the nation’s conscience. 

The country has descended into ecstasies of self-flagellation that only intensify, with no sign of stopping. Americans kneel in penance for their skin color, while elected officials surrender entire cities to mobs of racial extortionists. America is condemned, its history rewritten, almost without opposition. An entire race has been judged as essentially evil. Some have been prosecuted for defending their property while white. None of these incursions have found any kind of organized response. Rather, they are advancing. Americans now support kneeling to protest the national anthem.

So what is this new America that we are all being told to welcome and celebrate like? It combines the worst features of unaccountable aristocracy with mob tyranny. In it, people with lots of letters after their name, and the so-called protected classes (sometimes both), tell everyone else what to do. Anyone who disagrees with them is a bad person who must be destroyed. 

What about the countless people in the middle: people who don’t have Ph.D.s and can’t claim victimhood under the rules of the new game? Simple: they have no part in our politics today, except perhaps to foot the bill. 

Whatever you’d like to call this, it isn’t freedom.

America’s proper founders understood that republics, no less than any other form of government, are not built to last forever. They require people to be patriotic, brave, and guarded of their liberty. But for decades, Americans have lost confidence in America and in their own ability to govern themselves. Self-rule was exported to a class of “experts,” while generations of schoolchildren were taught to hate America and its past. 

Finally, Americans have lost their courage and their esteem for their own capacity to be self-governing. Many seem eager to lighten the burdens of self-governance and follow orders. Others seem, strangely, to enjoy being told how racist and awful they are.

In our arrogance, we imagine that it is we who are disdainfully rejecting America’s Founders. They would want nothing to do with us.