Until recent years, I’ve always identified somewhat proudly as a “conservative”. These days I tiptoe the line between conservative and libertarian, continually distracted by the flaws in each system of belief. I’ve always had aversion to dogma, even though religion is intrinsically rooted in the days of my youth. A sort of tacit acceptance of authority intermingled with utter rage and contempt toward it. I believe that this worldview has enabled me to see both sides of many issues fairly objectively throughout life.
Despite “patriotic” sentiments and loyalties ingrained within me, I can also see the toxicity of unbridled nationalistic pride. Despite seeing clearly the many injustices history has perpetrated under the banner of my country, I am also able to see that America is largely virtuous in its treatment of people, at least from a historic perspective. Yes, we’ve gotten many things utterly wrong. That’s part of being a society of human beings, and I can pretty much guarantee that there’s no other country in the history of humanity which is void of these black marks on their heritage. Hell, just yesterday I was reading about King Leopold II of Belgium whose colonial abuse of the Congo lead to the abuse, and deaths of anywhere from 1 to 15 million people! Yeah, that’s right, freakin’ Belgium!
The reason I’ve always been inclined toward the right wing is because they’ve traditionally been proponents of “limited government” and “personal responsibility”, at least that’s what the talking points would have us believe. The idea of freedom is compelling to me, it’s probably the single most compelling idea I’ve ever contemplated. I don’t like being told what to do. I want to be the master of my own destiny. Entering into society obviously cedes some of these individual rights to autonomy to the conditions of the society itself. I like living in society. I like the conveniences and privileges that my status in American society afford me. However, as many on the Right are privy to (and many on the Left are quickly becoming aware of), we have a major problem when it comes to our society’s license when it comes to governing (or controlling if you will) its citizenry.
This needs to change.
It can be easy, whether one identifies as liberal, conservative or any other label, to look with utter disdain upon the faults of our country and, even more alarmingly, suggest that the country itself is a failure. This, to me, is a dangerous mindset. America is the product of enlightened genius. Men who put much thought, deliberation and argumentation into crafting what has been one of the most prosperous, egalitarian societies in the history of mankind. The path to this point in time wasn’t an easy one, and while I don’t accept all of the mystical mythology surrounding belief in the Cult of America (which are frequently dwelt upon by those of conservative persuasion), there’s no denying that the emergence of American society was largely beneficial to the world. It was the next tier in the continuous march of human evolution toward the ever elusive ideal of maximum freedom.
The principles our nation is built upon are a sturdy foundation. They aren’t perfect by any means, but they’re certainly well-grounded and set a great precedent to move toward future maximized liberty. The problems we face in our present day are the product of more government, more micro-management of the individual, more moral busybodies who believe that their enlightened take on life should be a standard fit for all. This is the reason we’re in the place we’re in today, friends.
This is what Americans must remember as we try to resist the forces of power based political maneuvering, and seek to reconcile with our fellow countrymen and women against the authoritarians.
We must know our history.
We must appreciate the unprecedented influence our country has had upon creating freedom and success for people from all walks of life (*cough* liberals *cough, cough*).
We must also realize that we’ve gotten many things wrong in antiquity, and that realizing our mistakes, and allowing adaptation to improve our future is necessary. We must avoid overly-romanticizing the past as many in the conservative persuasion do. The good old days weren’t as great as we’d like to believe. The founders were geniuses to be sure, but they were still men, not gods.
Historically-minded Libertarians can step in to create this dynamic. We can look back and cherish the worthy elements of our history. We can understand the unique place of our founding in time and space, but we can also look ahead to the future instead of walking backward toward it. We can be legitimately progressive (not Left wing “progressive”), not reactionary, because we’re able to understand that the past and present are two different epochs. We can be grounded by the wisdom of the founding fathers and their influences, and identify the modern parallels and dangers of human hubris exacted upon others, yet not be so paralyzed by fear of this that we refuse to make any progress whatsoever.
America can truly be great again, and not the Trump idea of great, but the kind of great that emphasized people once again accepting and embracing the ideas of self-government and self-sufficiency, but that requires a balanced understanding of society, its functions and our responsibilities within that context. We have the power to achieve this; the question remains if we will choose to do so or if we, as Americans, will continually rush away from each other and continue to violently tip the great scales of history toward whomever has the most weight on their side at the present moment.
I pray we will find the balanced way.