America is in a fighting mood. Hardly a day goes by without video of a fight among airline passengers or fans at some sporting event surfacing on the Internet. Mobs block subway tracks to disrupt service. Still larger mobs gather at statehouses from Montana to Florida, angry and violent enough to suspend the legislative process. Retailers lock products behind plexiglass fearing hoards of looters.
Those causing such mayhem often avoid arrest, prosecutors routinely fail to prosecute offenders, and the results are anarchic. “The lawless in spirit are encouraged to become lawless in practice,” noticed one 28-year old statehouse representative. “Having been used to no restraint but dread of punishment, they thus become absolutely unrestrained.”
Disorderly scenes today are so common, we’ve become desensitized to them. “Such are the effects of mob law; and such as the scenes becoming more and more frequent,” observed this junior legislator. “The stories of which have even now grown too familiar to attract anything more than an idle remark.”
The idle remarks on Twitter and elsewhere only exacerbate this climate as mobs grow in number and size, and the danger extends to the nation itself. “By the operation of this mobocractic spirit, which all must admit is now abroad in the land, the strongest bulwark of any government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectually be broken down and destroyed,” warned the young lawmaker.
These comments were delivered by Abraham Lincoln, who predicted in his January 27, 1838 speech to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.”
Lincoln’s remarks could just as easily have been uttered by any honest observer today. Our civil society frighteningly parallels that of the nation’s western frontier in the 1830s, just one generation removed from the Civil War.
This is not one of those civil war/national divorce columns; it’s an illustration of how history rhymes with current events. The risk to America today is less about civil war and more about succumbing to the toxicity of alien ideologies – fascism, Marxism, Maoism – and their legacies of violence, murder, and poverty.
Aside from philosophical differences between Democrats and Whigs, there weren’t many political ideologies that affected America 185 years ago. The world was largely ruled by emperors and monarchs, dictators and prelates, none of whom posed a serious threat to the United States.
“All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge,” said Lincoln. “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us.”
It is not the danger of foreign adversaries that approaches America today; it is the ideologies that define them. Variations on these doctrines are infecting the American Mind, resulting in what amounts to a cultural proxy war waged on behalf of our enemies. The comic strip possum Pogo, summed it up with the aphorism, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
The question of how we got here is difficult to answer by virtue of the many reasons over so many years. But in a broad and very real sense, we got here because we have steadily eliminated biblical precepts from our civic life.
When choosing leaders, Moses said in Exodus that we should, “look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.” It’s impossible to say but Moses may have inspired the language of Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, which lists bribery as one of only two specific grounds for impeachment.
To our peril, we are failing to select enough trustworthy leaders who fear God and hate bribes. As a consequence, we are drifting away from the truths that promote civility and decency within society. America was founded as a Christian nation, anchored in the principles of the Reformation. Presidents, legislators and jurists across the political spectrum have recognized this for centuries, and those precepts have served the nation reasonably well for the past 250 years. But today, those founding principles are vilified as ‘threats to democracy.’
This drift should be concerning to all. I don’t worry about Russia, China, or any other regime taking over America by force of arms; our home grown authoritarians are doing their work for them. Absent a timely course correction, they may bring to fruition Lincoln’s ultimate conclusion: “As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time or die by suicide.”