A mirror, far off
reveals me as I am.
Dare I endeavor?
Dare I still my breath,
lift my head,
stand wide and firm,
relax my eyes,
and scan distant horizons,
Grant me the eyes to see!
Grant me the humility to search,
the courage to look,
and the perseverance to endure.
Grant me bold humility,
Lord of the mirror!
“The Great American Experiment has failed?”
The cleric tutor in black cassock struggled to maintain his sternly neutral face against a swelling joy at one of his pupil’s progress. He was surprised it was this one, the youngest of the ten royal Austrian princesses and princes in his tutelage. “Why, Princess?”
She watched his face closely and only the slightest of glimmers in his eyes gave away his delight amidst his aged and austere features. Encouraged she was on the right track, she felt emboldened and sat up straighter. “One great symptom is the two main parties’ nominees for President: a shrill shrew and a toddler in temper tantrum.”
He couldn’t help his excitement showing through in the twitch of his mouth. Clasping his hands behind his back to steady himself, he leaned into his pupil princess. “Symptom? Know you the cause?”
“Sloth in the populace, Father.”
“Neither candidate is principled, neither obedient to anything or anyone but themselves. Neither exhibits virtue in any discernible quantity — yet both won their party’s nomination despite other options.”
“How does that demonstrate sloth in the populace?”
Sloth exhibits itself in many forms, including avarice, lethargy, entitlement, and anger at those who disagree without understanding why. Neither party sought out or demanded a candidate with principles, morals, or virtues, and even squashed candidates with such quality.”
“True. Yet is this all not still a symptom?”
She thought silently, her head in her hands. Eventually, she looked up. “Yes. It is a symptom of the weakness in the American system of government, inherent from its founding — which is the quality of the leaders depends on the collective quality of the people — a government of the people, by the people, for the people. They lost their nation the moment they handed education of the people over to the government. It took a few generations, but the State slowly eroded the teaching of thinking, values, and virtues. You can’t have the people in power also in charge of educating the people who choose the people in power.”
“Oh?” the priest wondered, an unabashed smile glowing across his face. “Who should educate the people who choose the people in power?”
“Surely, that’s too simplistic! Oughtn’t it be a job for professionals?”
“Parents are their children’s primary educators. When they abdicate this responsibility to others they betray Right Relationship with their children and a chasm of arrogance develops between the generations rather than bonds of wisdom and respect for their elders, and hope for the future through their youngers.”
The priest stood before his pupil, hope for the future burning fresh and warm in his breast. He had taught her the pieces, but she was putting them together in her own, beautiful way. She expressed them with a wondrous, poetic clarity. He wondered how far it went. He pressed on, gently, to find out if she understood what lay at the root of the failure of the Great American Experiment. “You show great wisdom for fifteen years when you say the people in power ought not be responsible for educating the people who choose the people in power.” His pupil lit up at his rare praise. Good, he thought, she recognized it for what it is, for great praise of petty things diminishes great praise of great things. “Was the Great American Experiment doomed before it even began?”
She gazed back into her teacher’s eyes, wondering what he was getting at. Clearly he was testing to see if she saw something, but what? She closed her eyes and rested her face in her palms. He had taught her to always get to the root. What lies beneath? Why? Her statement was the Great American Experiment failed because the leaders seized responsibility for educating the populace, who were responsible for choosing the leaders, systematically usurping parents’ right and responsibility to do so. Why? What about doing that led to the symptom of failure in these two Presidential candidates?
Values. Morals. Virtues. These came best from the parents. They require humble obedience to something larger than one’s self. Public education didn’t teach them, so over a few generations of disrespecting their parents, children dismissed virtue and ultimately humble obedience to God, or at least the Truth that is larger than all of us: natural law.
The premise of the Great American Experiment was that the people would choose more just leaders than they would get any other way — but that presupposed the capacity to recognize justice. Without virtue or natural law, let alone humble obedience to it, anything could be justified as justice.
Freedom. Freedom was the ability to choose God (aka, chose justice), yet from the start of America, freedom was understood as something far less: ability to choose what I, the individual, think is best. Humble obedience to anything was removed from the exercising of freedom, leaving the door wide open for arrogance rather than humble obedience. The entire premise of self-rule requires that most individuals choose humble obedience to virtue and natural law in what they think is best. Remove virtue and natural law from the shared understanding of fifty-one percent of the populace and pride and selfishness rule instead of justice.
This removal of humble obedience to God from freedom was the result of the enlightenment philosophers Locke et al, and the progressive agenda which followed, both in America and in Europe, was a natural extension of eliminating such humble obedience. However, was that the only possible result? Had the majority of the populace retained humble obedience to virtue and natural law, they would choose more just leaders.
She looked back up at her priest teacher. “Yes, the Great American Experiment was doomed to failure from the moment of its inception because it lacked a critical check against the people in power educating the people who choose the people in power. Without that check, they aren’t really free to choose. Add in such a check and a more truly free system would exist and justice could be chosen. However, we are fallen. We are always doomed to fail, without actively choosing humble obedience to God and His natural law.”
“If you were a parent in the United States, what would you do if you were frustrated about the options you had for President?”
“I’d immediately withdraw my children from public school and ensure they were getting an education that taught them how to think critically, with logic and reason, and the importance of choosing virtue over temptation, especially of humility to God over pride of self.”
The priest smiled broadly. “Unless you were yourself blind to the poverty in such desperate need of healing.”