It Didn’t Have To Be This Way

(The audio version of this essay can be found here.)

Last week, as I write this, America celebrated the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the mission on which men set foot on the moon for the first time. The America of the postwar generation had so much potential and achieved so much greatness. Yet we look around ourselves today and wonder when the timeline shifted into a dystopian nightmare. Hordes of barbarians are crossing our southern border, and rather than stopping them, many in our government want to incentivize them. Our children are being bombarded with all sorts of degenerate propaganda, and rather than saving them, many parents are signaling their virtue by exposing them to even more. Too many rural communities are being torn apart by drug addiction, depression, and suicide, yet rather than helping them, our elites shame them for their “white privilege”. The worst part is that it didn’t have to be this way.

Abandoned School House, Dryad, Washington, 2015

In 1776, the founders of our country declared their independence from Great Britain. From the start, the New World had been filled with potential. Despite the existence of the American Indian tribes, much of North America was empty wilderness, waiting to be tamed. Colonists could escape from the overcrowded cities of Europe and begin a new life in America. For the Pilgrim Fathers, America was a new Zion, the city on a hill that all nations would look to as an example of godly living. For the Virginia planters, America was unrivaled opportunity, where a peasant from Europe could become a wealthy landowner through only the sweat of his brow. By the time of the Revolution, these colonists had already formed a new nation. Benjamin Franklin recognized the potential of America, with untapped resources and undeveloped land waiting for anyone who was willing to work for it.


The framers of the Constitution saw the opportunity to build a new country from scratch. They based their new government upon the best political theories, and the clean slate of America gave them the ability to put these theories into practice in a way that the existing governments of Europe did not. When the thirteen colonies ratified the Constitution starting in 1788, they were entering a voluntary union with each other for mutual defense and efficient governance. When the resources and talents of the thirteen colonies were pooled together, they were already as formidable as any of the old kingdoms of Europe. The Union was able to stand toe-to-toe with Napoleon at the bargaining table and came out of it with the entire Missouri basin, stretching from New Orleans to the Pacific Northwest. The Union was able to fight the mighty British Navy to a standstill in the War of 1812, gaining worldwide respect and renown.


Yet the specter of slavery haunted the new nation. The northern states had done away with slavery already, and the slave trade itself was abolished by 1807. The reason slavery held on much longer in the south while disappearing in the north was likely due to two reasons – the Puritan and Quaker ideologies were stronger up north, and they disapproved of slavery, but a more pragmatic reason was because African slaves simply did not thrive well in the cold and wet northern climate. Geography, more so than morality, was the early driver of the pro and anti-slavery positions in America.


Yet the divisions only increased as time went on. Northern states grew more abolitionist, to the point where a proposal to pay southern planters to emancipate their slaves was considered too compromising. Southern states, seeing the increasing abolitionist aims of the north, began to grow fiercer in defense of their “peculiar institution”. This all came to a head in 1860 after the election of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president. The Republican Party had been founded in 1854 with the explicit aim of stopping the spread of slavery in the new western territories. Though they claimed to not be fully abolitionist, the result was obvious. If every new state out west was admitted as a free state, then the slave states would be wholly outnumbered in Congress, and abolition would come sooner or later. Rather than wait for this to happen in the Lincoln Administration, eleven southern states seceded from the Union.


This was a crucial point in American history. Every state that had joined the Union since 1788 had done so freely, with a vote of its representatives. Should not the people of a state be free to leave that Union? Was the federal government a voluntary confederation of states, or an Empire whose lands were eternally subject to the lord of Washington DC? The southern states believed it was the former, and that secession was simply the withdrawal from a voluntary union. But President Lincoln made the choice to enforce the Union with the blood of hundreds of thousands of Americans. It’s ironic, President Trump recently drew ire from the left for suggesting that people who hate America should leave. Yet President Lincoln in 1861 used the full force of the Union armies to kill those who tried to leave. It didn’t have to be this way.


By 1865 the Civil War was over, hundreds of thousands of Americans were dead, the south was in ruins, and the concept of a voluntary union had been brutally demolished. America since then has truly been an Empire, rather than a Union of sovereign states as the founding fathers intended. Before the Civil War, it was common to call our nation “These United States,” plural, while afterward people said instead “The United States,” singular. A few decades later the American Empire even added colonies to its possessions, picking up the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico from the dying Spanish Empire. We even seized the sovereign kingdom of Hawaii simply because we wanted a naval base in the Pacific to protect our new colonies and project our power across the globe. President Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet on a tour around the world to display the new American Empire’s power to every nation on earth. In 1917 President Wilson sent a million American troops to Europe to intervene in a foreign war which did not threaten American shores in the slightest. Sure, we had some economic interests, but can those ever justify spilling the blood of thousands of American young men? It didn’t have to be this way.


When President Lincoln called for troops to subjugate the South, they came by community and by state. For example, I have an ancestor who fought with the 148th Regiment of the Pennsylvania volunteers, and was wounded at Spotsylvania. At his side were his friends and neighbors, as communities and states were kept together from training through deployment. After World War I, however, men who enlisted were mixed up to random units, and so they fought alongside soldiers from other states and other communities. Rather than having an army made of the young men of each sovereign state, the army was treated like the legions of an Empire, where your loyalty was not to your community or to your state but to the lord of Washington DC. Camaraderie, rather than being the organic bonds of family and community, were instilled during basic training. The American military began to resemble the late Roman Empire rather than the citizen-soldiers of the Roman Republic. It didn’t have to be this way.


Before 1913, the federal government raised funds mainly through tariffs. An income tax was explicitly forbidden by the Constitution, but the 16h Amendment changed that, allowing the federal government to levy taxes directly on the people. Those taxes have only grown, enabling the federal government to become an untrammeled behemoth, a leviathan that spends more money in a day than many countries spend in a year. Also prior to 1913, Senators were appointed by state legislatures to be the voice of the states in the federal government. After all, the United States was originally supposed to be a confederation of sovereign states, so it was only right that the states had a say in the operation of that government. The 17th Amendment changed that, turning Senators from representatives of the states into super Congressmen, elected just like the House of Representatives yet still serving for six years. Finally, 1913 also saw the creation of the Federal Reserve Banking System, a quasi-independent group of bankers that had enormous control over the monetary system of the nation. With these three changes, the federal government now had almost unlimited power. They had their own source of income, they could directly manipulate the economy, and states no longer had a say in its actions. It didn’t have to be this way.


The Great Depression began in 1929 after a decade of unprecedented prosperity. Herbert Hoover, far from being the hands-off, laissez-faire president that public school textbooks portray, was a civil engineer by trade, and sought to fix the economy like one would fix a broken machine. This was the opposite philosophy of his predecessor, Calvin Coolidge, who figured that American business could run itself without government intervention. Of course, Hoover’s interference only made the Depression worse, and in 1932 American voters turned to Franklin Roosevelt, who promised a “New Deal”. This New Deal, of course, was simply more government intervention: price controls, excessive regulation, civil service, social security, and more. When the Supreme Court struck down parts of the New Deal as unconstitutional, President Roosevelt simply threatened to pack the Court itself, and they soon became compliant in his schemes. Rather than standing down after two terms, President Roosevelt ran for reelection a third time in 1940. Only his death at the beginning of his fourth term in 1945 finally ended his imperial reign. A funny coincidence of history is that in 1933, new leaders took power in both the United States and Germany. Both leaders would radically reshape their nation’s economy and society, and would stay in office past when precedent dictated they should retire. Both leaders would involve their nations in bloody wars, and each of these leaders would die within mere weeks of each other, and just before the war’s end. I know comparisons to Adolf Hitler are rather gauche, but this one is uncanny. When American voters elected Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, did they realize they were setting up a dictator for life? It didn’t have to be this way.


As World War II flared up across the world, a large majority of Americans wanted to stay out. They remembered the horrors of World War I and saw no reason to send their sons to die in another foreign adventure. Yet the government saw things different. President Roosevelt very much wanted to involve the United States in this war and was using every power available to him to send money and material to Great Britain, and later the Soviet Union. He pushed Congress to give him more and more power, arming the Red Army of the Soviet Union after Hitler at the same time as imposing embargoes on the Empire of Japan, which pushed that nation ever closer to war as well. While Winston Churchill remarked that “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons,” it is hard to see the wisdom of choosing sides between Nazi Germany and Communist Russia. Sure, the Nazis were evil, as we have been taught for the past 75 years, but so were the Soviets. Stalin killed more people than Hitler, but the hammer and sickle has not been given the same stigma as the swastika has in polite society. To continue Churchill’s metaphor, by virtue of Hitler’s invasion of Hell, our media now goes as far as to say that the devil is actually a good guy. It didn’t have to be this way.


After World War II, rather than returning to the status quo ante bellum of America First, we instead projected our military and economic power throughout the world. We established bases in the defeated nations of Japan, Germany, and Italy – bases which we still operate today, 75 years after the war’s end. We intervened in Korea, Vietnam, and numerous other places. We involved ourselves in NATO, the UN, the IMF, and many other international organizations – every single one of which subtly chipped away at American sovereignty. After the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union in 1991 we doubled down on foreign entanglements rather than returning to the old ways. The result has been chaos. We spend massive taxpayer subsidies to countries all over the world whether allies or enemies, whether civilized nations or barbaric tribes. Our military is deployed in every hellhole country from Central America to the Middle East. It took eight years to win independence from Britain and four to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, yet as of this recording we have been mired in Afghanistan for nearly eighteen years, with nothing to show for it. It didn’t have to be this way!

Afghanistan War Grown Up

In the forty years leading up to 1965, immigration to America was tightly controlled. After the influx of migrants in the late 1800s, the American people decided to put the brakes on immigration until several generations of newcomers had fully assimilated. It worked – the generations that came after the 1924 Immigration Act were the generations that won World War II, created the atomic bomb, landed on the moon, and established the most prosperous society in the history of the world. Yet this was not enough for Phillip Hart, Emanuel Celler, Ted Kennedy, and the rest who pushed through the new Immigration Act of 1965. With that Act, they threw open the doors of America to everybody, falsely promising that it would not alter the existing demographic character of our society. Yet today we have massively changing demographics, while mainstream media celebrates the upcoming minority status of the descendants of America’s founders. New Americans bring with them the pretensions of their old countries, which in many cases are incompatible with the traditions and ideas that have defined America since its founding. In America today there are places where English is not spoken, where the flag is desecrated rather than honored, where socialism is promoted and hard work is denigrated, where Christianity is spat upon while Islam and paganism are triumphant. But it didn’t have to be this way.


Last June, mass media took part in the largest celebration of deviant behavior yet as they celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. In 1969, police attempted to shut down a mafia-owned gay bar in New York that was hosting illegal and deviant activities, and homosexual activists rioted in response. Homosexuals remember this as their own little American Revolution, claiming that all they wanted was freedom to live how they wanted and love whom they chose. Yet today, homosexual activists are using the power of government to force Christian bakers to create cakes celebrating degeneracy with horrific symbols. A so-called transgender person is trying to force female salon employees to wax his private parts because he claims to be female. Demonic-looking drag queens are taking over public libraries and indoctrinating children. Young boys are being brainwashed by activist parents to dress in girls’ clothing and dance for the lustful eyes of gay men. Our conservative activists did not bother stopping any of this, because they were too busy convincing Americans to sign up for endless foreign wars to give any care about the moral fabric of our society.


It didn’t have to be this way, but it is. There were numerous off-ramps from the highway to hell that we find ourselves on, but we have missed them all. We cannot go back and take the path not traveled.  We must live with the choices made by previous generations. As always, the only question before us is “how then shall we live?” When you see even conservative Christian families succumbing to the propaganda and dysfunction of our society, tell yourself that it doesn’t have to be this way for your family. Keep yourself and your family physically healthy – eat right and lift heavy things. Keep yourself and your family mentally healthy – learn new things rather than watching television all day. Keep yourself and your family spiritually healthy – shut down the propaganda that is delivered through mass media, popular culture, and the public schools, and read the Bible and the Great Books of Christendom to your children. Take responsibility for the well-being of your family rather than outsourcing it to daycare, television, or the internet. The decline and fall of America is a foregone conclusion at this point, the seeds of which have been germinating for more than a century. Don’t lament what we have lost, but focus on what we have, and what will be. Your children and your children’s children deserve to live in a society that loves God and honors the traditions of their ancestors. It is their generation that will rebuild Western Civilization. Remember the past and learn from the mistakes that are forefathers made along the way. As you observe the United States collapsing around you, remember that it doesn’t have to be that way for us.


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