The liberties of our Country, the freedom of our civil constitution are worth defending at all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have receiv’d them as a fair Inheritance from our worthy Ancestors: They purchas’d them for us with toil and danger and expence of treasure and blood; and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle; or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men. Of the latter we are in most danger at present: Let us therefore be aware of it. Let us contemplate our forefathers and posterity; and resolve to maintain the rights bequeath’d to us from the former, for the sake of the latter. — Instead of sitting down satisfied with the efforts we have already made, which is the wish of our enemies, the necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude, and perseverance. Let us remember that “if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom.” It is a very serious consideration, which should deeply impress our minds, that millions yet unborn may be the miserable sharers of the event.

Essay written under the pseudonym “Candidus” in The Boston Gazette (14 October 1771), later published in The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams (1865) by William Vincent Wells, p. 425

Given my life in the Marine Corps, and having six kids of a pretty good spread of ages, my children have gone to schools everywhere from Kadena Air Base (Okinawa, Japan) to Catholic School in Virginia to public schools in California, Virginia, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Florida, and on-base DoD schools in several other states, including North Carolina and Virginia. Three have also finished college. Most recently, my daughters were attending a reasonably well-regarded public high-school in Hingham, Massachusetts. At one point, the younger two were complaining about a book report they had to do. This was sometime back in 2011 or so.
“What book?” I asked while we were in the car, riding back from school. One of my daughter’s held up a copy of President Obama’s book, Dreams of My Father. This was during the election season for his second Presidential bid.
I nearly spit out my coffee.
“What in the holy fu-??!” They looked at me and both said, “I know,” thinking I was referring to the injustice of the book report, or even of their preference not to be reading that particular book, but that had nothing to do with it.
“You are required to read a book written by a sitting President?!? What the fuck is this, Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book?” I took a sip and muttered to myself. “Holy shit, we’re a fucking banana republic now.”

My daughters were a little shocked at my response, needless to say, but I couldn’t believe that any U.S education system would require its students to read the opinions and ideas of a sitting President, given that he was not far away from his second election and the very group of people being required to read it were about to be – or were – eligible to vote! That borders on the insane to me. And it gets worse, down to the granular level.

One of my daughters – my youngest – has been a budding libertarian since high school. I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t have something to do with it, nor that I’m not proud. Her insistence upon questioning her teachers’ dogma, however, has caused her no little stress. On the matter of the book report of the then-sitting President, how do you think my daughter got graded when she reviewed the book unfavorably? Moreover, what do you think was the tenor of the red-ink comments, especially coming from a member of the Teacher’s Union, one of the most ardently supportive unions of the then Commander-in-Chief?

Yes, this is the education that your mandatory tax dollars buy.

To have a sitting elected official’s bullshit, personal Prop-O piece front and center in the curriculum before children-who-are-about-to-become-voters is tantamount to putting cigarette machines in elementary school cafeterias and hallways, as far as I’m concerned. The only difference is that cigarettes only poison your lungs, not your mind. And to be clear, I feel the same exact way about any other President’s bio, so we can dispense with the reflexive “BOOOOOSSSSHHHH!!!” screeches. (I have no idea if W wrote one and put it in front of kids, but if he did? Well, then fuck him, too.) You could make it a Constitutional Amendment as far as I’m concerned: No Public School System Shall Ever Require the Reading of a Biography of a Sitting Elected Official, Nor Shall Any Student Be Graded Upon Such Nonsense.

Culture as Legacy

Now, when I say these kinds of things, people think that I’m hyperventilating and losing my mind, but I’m reporting facts. People can draw what conclusions they will, but I would respectfully submit that the culture wars are not imaginary. They matter. Facebook has forever ruined the word “meme,” (and “memetics” may have done that on its own), but ideas do matter.

Newton’s Principia mattered; it altered the world in ways that we can probably never fully appreciate. So did Beethoven’s symphonies, which are nothing more than the musical effusions of one man’s mind. Slavery is an idea – a very, very shitty one – that we have thankfully discarded, although only recently for some countries. Technology is what it is today because ideas matter. This means that a country’s collective ideas about political and economic organization, about ethics, law, and how its children are inculcated with important – i.e. valuable and valued – cultural information – this is a country’s future. What gets transmitted in mandatory public education is logically and necessarily a society’s cultural bequest to its children.

This is as true of baseball culture as it is of the entire United States; the matter is simply one of degree or scale of impact. It was true of ice hockey when I played it, as well as rugby, as well as wrestling, jiu jitsu, football, and on and on. When I was getting ready to get winged in may of 1993, we had to put in for aircraft selection. This had already followed our selection of either Fixed-Wing, Props, or Helos for Marines coming through primary flight training. I had taken helos and now was going to select for one of four different models the Marine Corps flew: the CH-46 medium transport helicopter, UH-1N (“Huey”) utility helicopters, CH-53E large lift helicopters, or AH-1W SuprCobra attack helicopters. I was asking an instructor about the selection process and he said to me: “Ya know. Everyone has a theory about how it comes out but I’ve now reconciled myself to the fact that it’s God. You get put right where you belong. Every community has its own unique culture and you find out very quickly if you fit or not. If you don’t, you’ll know it and you’ll ask for a transfer. If not, you’ll leave…but I’ll be damned if somehow it doesn’t seem to work out right the vast majority of the time.” I don’t know about the Almighty’s hand in selection, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t seem like we all wound up right where we were disposed to be.

What we believe in any given culture, small or large – our collective values – what we revere, is exactly what we will propagate and get. It can be courage and honor for soldiers, or physical dominance for athletes; cacophonous noise in music or the subtlety and complexity of jazz (not my bag, by the way, but it requires extraordinary talent to play well); or even in the esthetic we have for beauty, between a fit woman or the dysmorphia of models. We’ll get, culturally, exactly what we esteem and transmit, along with the consequences. And that is exactly why I rail against socialism, or laws and courts that give immunity to government officials, or unconstitutional (and dumb) gun control legislation, or socialism-dressed-as-environmentalism (i.e. “climate change“) and the redistributionist policies that come out of that, or the horrors of asset forfeiture and Prohibition (including the drug war), or socialism-dressed-as-healthcare (i.e. Obamacare) – none of which has worked, nor will work, as claimed. I point these out not just because the premises upon which they are based are frequently fallacious, nor because they have predictably horrible outcomes, but because all of these have now become a large part of American culture – and accepted as such.

Now, I don’t expect people’s love of power over others to disappear any time soon, but if the American Experiment is to survive and endure, it’s going to have to take a lesson from the military on culture and figure out how to convey the self-sustaining notions necessary to ensure the survival of ideas that we hold transcendent. And that right there – the claim that there are transcendent values and concepts, like Truth, Integrity, Freedom, Property, Individual Liberty, the Rule of Law, and a host of other “intangibles” that are necessary precursors to a truly liberal and civilized society – is the starting point for the discussion. Unfortunately, we can’t seem to even get past that initial point. We need to stop apologizing for past transgressions, being slaves to the guilt of multiculturalist nonsense, and lay claim to those values that are at the heart of any ethically sound society: We once did.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… 

…when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

That great document should be the touchstone of American culture, not simply a crusty piece of parchment with justifications for the American revolution. A framed copy of that document hangs on my wall. Every now and then I like to take a look at where we are now, by comparison… It feels me with both a sense of purpose and of dread. Things do not look good.

For example, when I read the complaint that the King “has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance,” I can’t help but look at my paycheck and laugh…. oh wait, never mind, in light of the Covid19 lockdowns, I don’t have a paycheck! I’d like to cry, but I have my Faith to sustain me. I’ve made this point elsewhere publicly and everyone always loses their minds in response, but I’ll repeat it here: setting aside the issue of ownership of other human beings for the moment – which is evil, always and everywhere – but setting aside that particular aspect of Slavery, and considering that terrible institution only as a mathematical issue, Slavery is simply a one-hundred percent marginal tax rate.* You work under the threat of the lash all week and get exactly $0.00 of what you’ve done.

*Or close enough for our purposes.

After digesting that, the corollary becomes clear, too: you are economically free – which is what really matters in an otherwise free society – only to the extent that you get to keep the market rate of your labor or the market rate for your property. If the government takes 50% of the fruits of your labor, you are 50% free. That is the inescapable reality of the socialization of anything and everything. Compulsory insurance? At least with cars you can choose not to drive, but now with the Justice Roberts’ abandonment of any need to protect individual liberty – the original purpose and raison d’etre of the judiciary – we are now bound by fictitious obligations to “society,” for which we must pay, and this is merely by being born in the United States. Because in Justice Roberts’ world as long as it’s called a tax, Congress can do whatever it wants to you.

The colonists complained that the Crown “has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation” and I laugh after the recent treaty with Iran. I don’t even care about the particulars – in fact, I think we will ultimately benefit by engaging in free trade with despotic countries, both in an overall reduction in human misery and suffering, as well as a concomitant reduction in resentment and anti-American sentiment, which the governments of closed countries can foment when contact with American goods, services, and – most importantly – American culture, are cut off. No, my objection is how the Constitution has been stomped on by the last President, this President, and all of the previous ones in acts of Executive arrogance that we accept as “the norm.” The Climate Change Treaty also comes to mind. In fact, the entire idea of an “Executive Order” makes me cringe.

American Culture, Where Art Thou?

Our forefathers resorted to violence in response to the Stamp Act and a tax on tea and we sit idly by and watch orders of magnitude worse with nary a peep. Without any central government, bound only by cultural values, people of the various (and frequently fighting) Thirteen Colonies banded together in support of Massachusetts after the passage of the Intolerable Acts. By comparison, we are now divided into special interest groups, states with and without lockdowns, and we lobby against each other for a piece of the ever-increasing tax pie that government collects from all of us, with K street lobbyists largely determining which “more equal” pigs gets access to the federal trough.

  • “For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent…” (Nothing need be said here, but it’s worth pointing that there was no income tax in the United States until 1913; somehow we managed to accomplish quite a bit without it).
  • “For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury…” (U.S. citizens have been held without bail or trial for years in the War on Terror, and even killed by President Constitutional-Scholar-Drone-Strike with barely a sound from the “press” or the judiciary.)
  • “For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments…” Covid19 lockdowns, mandatory closure of businesses, churches being fined for holding services… anyone? …Bueller?

I’m not a revolutionary by heart. Hell, I’ve spent most of my life working for the federal government in some form or another, but I wonder how long this goes on for before the straw finally breaks the camel’s back. My contention – no, rather, my unfortunate, but unswerving, conclusion is that unless we revive our essential cultural values, the necessary soil in which individual Liberty may prosper, we will one day be worse than dead: we will be slaves by our own choosing, by vote.

Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say “what should be the reward of such sacrifices?” Bid us and our posterity bow the knee, supplicate the friendship and plough, and sow, and reap, to glut the avarice of the men who have let loose on us the dogs of war to riot in our blood and hunt us from the face of the earth? If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom — go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!

Samuel Adams speech at the Philadelphia State Assembly, 1 August 1776

Imagine if you can the country and culture in which such words were not merely spoken, but followed by actions that led to the independence of the colonies and the establishment of this (once great) Nation. If the total number of dead were a justification for the cessation of rights, then there would be no United States at all. Imagine if every day the colonial papers had published a running toll of the dead in every battle against the British, if instead of public advocacy for Freedom, we had public advocacy for subservience…

Never mind, you don’t have to imagine: it’s what we have now.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Abject Lesson on Patreon.