For the National Soul, Let’s Make America God’s Again
For the first time in a long time, this November will give Americans a clear choice on perhaps the most important issue facing our country and our civilization: whether we remain a nation-state that serves its own people, or whether we slide irrevocably toward a soulless globalism that treat humans as interchangeable widgets in the world market. (Jeff Sessions, from the article In Donald Trump we have a forceful advocate for America.)
Senator Jeff Sessions opposition to the objectification implied in what he insightfully recognizes as “soulless globalism” is one of my reasons for welcoming the prospect of his swift approval by the U.S. Senate for the position of Attorney General in the new Administration. If the people of the United States were simply a nation like the nations of the past, we could also be satisfied to “remain a nation-state that serves its own people.” But Senator Sessions, and the President he will serve, profess to understand the importance of respect the original intention of the Founders of the United States. Though at first, Americans appealed to the British monarch in terms that relied on “rights of Englishmen”, but this had changed by the time their Declaration of Independence severed ties with the British people, though it meant war with the British government.
In that Declaration, they appealed to the premise that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” So, when it came to adopting a Constitution for the United States of America, advocates of ratification noted that “it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question whether societies of men are really capable of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political Constitutions on accident and force.” They dared to assert that “a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.” (Federalist 1)
For generations, this sense of the significance, to humanity, of our existence as a nation was an important part of what inspired people from all over the world to come to America. It contributed, as well, to the moral understand that would eventually bring the nation to a crisis of conscience over the issue of slavery. It gave a ring of truth to Lincoln’s bold assertion that “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free—honorably alike in what we given and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”
In every twentieth century battle for equal rights (e.g., for workers, women and black Americans) This sense of America’s mission on behalf of humanity made a critical contribution. It also helped to produce a demographic reality that made respecting that vocation an existential necessity. For by the close of the 20th century we had indeed become a nation of nation, fulfilling the principle of representation not only in our form of government, but in the composition of the citizen body whose elections inform and animate it.
Because of this existential fact, our nation cannot “serve its own people”, without taking account of the bonds of kinship, heritage and affection that bind us to practically all the peoples that inhabit the earth. Indeed, the challenge of our national strength cohesion has much to do with the skill and wisdom with which we forge the diversity of peoples we have become into one nation, dedicated to the premises of right, and decent humanity, we are obliged, by our heritage as Americans, to represent.
I strongly agree with Senator Sessions that we must reject “soulless globalism” that degrades human beings to the status of useful “things”. But what is our substantive reason for doing so? Isn’t it our sense of common dignity and decent human life? In the valiant moments of our best hope, isn’t this what we have served, defended and sought to bequeath to the future?
Conservatives are supposed to uphold the original understanding of our national constitution. We are supposed to understand that our common identity as a people is not just a matter of defined borders, the pride of power, or the fulfillment of common material desires. It is not even just a matter of the institutions, rules and procedures our Constitution requires. Such things may be the outward appearance of our body politic. But what is the soul and inspiration that permeates and binds us together? What indeed, if not the common sense of decent humanity, which God has endowed for the good of the whole. It is a whole we may all together constitute, and to which we can be restored, if we prove ourselves willing to make America God’s again.
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