Questions have been raised about the loyalty of some Americans to the United States Constitution. This is a serious charge. Those who value the Constitution as a model for governance, and as a foundation for stability in a dangerous world, will remain vigilant in its defense. This is an emotional concern for many of us, and it inspires strong feelings.
Future Americans deserve wise thinking from Americans today.
A safe and prosperous future calls for careful consideration of means and ends. In other words, how will the means we employ today lead effectively to the future we intend? Emotional decisions, and especially the failure of foresight, can easily reverse our own best intentions.
It was Hayek who said, “the principle that the ends justify the means is in individualist ethics regarded as the denial of all morals.” In my view, Harry Emerson Fosdick stated this truth most clearly: “He who chooses the beginning of the road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determine the end.”
Ayn Rand drove the point home most emphatically in her own indomitable style: “An attempt to achieve the good by force is like an attempt to provide a man with a picture gallery at the price of cutting out his eyes.”
We can recognize this truth if we stop to think about it. In the midst of controversy a clear mind is priceless, but we human beings are emotional creatures.
So, let’s take a deep breath, and look at the reasons why incivility, antagonism, and especially the threat of force, will actually subvert our efforts to defend what we believe in.
I will suggest four reasons, as follows.
First, force or the threat of force subverts the Constitution itself, immediately destroying its’ capacity to function as intended. Any form of violence will effectively nullify its existence.
The Constitution provides a structure for governance that depends on civility, moral responsibility, and collaboration among stakeholders. The Framers depend on our readiness to adjust our behavior to avoid subverting the dignity and integrity of their intended purpose.
Second, hostile tactics conducted by even a tiny minority would make it difficult, even impossible, for any disciplined and rational strategies to be mounted effectively. Indeed, such actions could actually set back their own intended purpose for decades.
Why? The use of force by a militia group would harden the attitudes of most Americans toward any supposed viewpoint or philosophy. It would become far more difficult to win a fair hearing from citizens who respect the rule of law.
Third, any rebellion by force of arms pits itself against the uniformed services—police agencies. These are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and sworn defenders of the Constitution. And, they are our fellow citizens.
Members of armed militias need to think clearly about who exactly they intend to fight, and how they expect to influence hearts and minds.
Fourth, the vast majority of Americans value the historic character of the United States of America. And, they recognize the place of the Constitution in making this what it is.
If we wish to educate Americans about how the structure of governance could or should best function, this will not be accomplished by offensive acts.
We depend on civil order for the safety of our families, for safe streets, jobs, and a thriving economy. Liberty itself depends on trust and dependability.
We cannot defend what we believe in by tearing it down.
To make America strong we will need to address our countrymen with reasoned argument presented logically. Our present difficulties require that we actually hear and understand one another. This means teaching what we believe in, sharing the history of our pain, and learning to do this effectively.
Agreement is not required, but we must listen to one another with the intention of understanding and a willingness for truth-telling.
The United States will only be sustained as a constitutional republic with a steadfast loyalty to the ethical integrity, the dignity and civility the Founders expected of us.
National unity will rise above differences. The center must hold.
Note to regular readers: The blog will take a brief break over the coming holidays. Please watch for the next post on or about January 5.