Dr. Boyd D. Cathey
All over the news these days you hear various anguished personalities, political and otherwise, with pained expressions on their faces, voices trembling, even a furtive tear or two, pleading for national unity. “Can’t we all get along,” they mumble, echoing words uttered decades ago by Rodney King. (Remember him from the violence in the streets of Los Angeles?).
But I have a question, and it seems to me to be absolutely central: “Unite around what?” What is that principle or foundation of beliefs around which we should unify? If we posit a series of beliefs, a credo, which we hold as fundamental, and if we hold that those principles and vision for a just society come to us as a precious legacy from our ancestors and from our Western Christian traditions, will there be—can there be—any agreement, any unity with those who openly and forcefully reject that foundation and those essential principles as irretrievably laced with and poisoned by racism, sexism, homophobia, and “white privilege,” not to mention hints of “fascism” and other not-so-pleasant “isms”?
The American republic was formed through a kind of understood compromise between the colonies; the Authors of our constitutional system fully comprehended that there were diverse elements and interests that must be balanced to make the new nation at all workable. But in 1787 there was enough essential agreement on fundamentals that a seemingly miraculous result was possible. Yet, those far-sighted men also feared what might happen should that which they created be perverted or turned from its original propositions. The central Federal government was counter-balanced and limited by newly and fiercely independent states which jealously guarded a large portion of their own sovereignty.
Voting was universally restricted to those considered most qualified to exercise the franchise. Universal suffrage was considered by the near totally of the Fathers of our Constitution to be a sure means of destroying the young republic: absolute democracy and across-the-board egalitarian views were considered fatal for the future of the country. Such views were sidelined to the periphery, without practical voice in the running of the commonwealth.
The American republic was, in all but name, a “Christian” republic. Certainly, the basic documents of our founding did not formally state as much. There was no formal national “religious establishment,” as existed in almost all European countries. Yet, despite that lack of national confessionality, the new nation, while demanding freedom for religious expression, professed de facto the Christian faith as a kind of understood basis of the new nation. As is often pointed out, almost immediately after adopting the Bill of Rights in 1791 (authored, ironically, by slaveholder James Madison), including the “freedom of religion” First Amendment, Congress provided for paid Christian chaplains in the new Northwest Territories. Even more confirming is the fact that nearly every one of the original thirteen colonies/new states had a “religious establishment” or religious test of some sort on the state level, and those establishments were left completely untouched by the First Amendment, which was understood to mean only the formal establishment of a national supported state church.
Above all, there existed amongst the new Americans the ability to converse and communicate with each other, using the same language, and employing the same symbols and imagery that had brought them together originally as a country. Appeals to traditional English law and the historic “rights of Englishmen,” the belief in a God of the Old and New Testament whose prescriptions found in Holy Writ informed both the laws of the state and the understanding of justice and virtue, and an implicit, if not explicit, agreement that there were certain limits of thought and action beyond which one could not go without endangering the republican experiment, formed a kind of accepted public orthodoxy.
That modus vivendi—that ability to get along and agree on most essentials—continued, sometimes fitfully, until 1861. The bloody War Between the States that erupted that year might have been avoided if the warnings of the Authors of the Constitution had been heeded, if the Federal executive in 1861 had understood the original intentions of 1787 and the precarious structural balance that the Philadelphia Convention had erected. But that was not the case, and four years of brutal war followed, with over half a million dead and thousands more maimed, and, most tragically, that essential “via media” between an increasingly powerful central government and the rights of the states and of communities, and eventually, of persons, distorted and perverted.
The resulting trajectory towards centralization, the growth of a powerful Federal government, has continued nearly unabated for 150 years. With it and with the gradual destruction of not just the rights of the states, but also of communities and persons, came the institutionalization of a large and mostly unseen permanent bureaucracy, a managerial and political class, that took upon itself the role of actually ruling and running the nation. James Burnham and the late Samuel Francis have written profoundly on this creation of a managerial state within the state. Indeed, in more recent days we have come to label this establishment the “Deep State.”
Concurrent with this transformation governmentally and politically, our society and our culture have equally been transformed. It is certainly arguable that the defeat of the Confederate states in 1865, that is, the removal of what was essentially a conservative and countervailing element in American polity, enabled the nearly inevitable advance of a more “liberal” vision of the nation. At base, it was above all the acceptance by post-war Americans of nearly all persuasions of the Idea of Progress, the vision that “things”—events, developments in thought and in the sciences and in culture, as well in governing—were inevitably moving towards a bright new future. It was not so much to the past we would now look, but to the “new” which always lay ahead of us.
And that future was based squarely on the idea of an “enlightenment” that always seemed to move to the political and cultural Left. While loudly professing and pushing for more “openness” and more “freedom,” liberation from the “straightjacket” of traditional religion and religious taboos, and propounding equality in practically every field of public and private endeavor, ironically, the underlying effect and result of this “progress” has brought with it in reality a severe curtailment of not just many of our personal liberties, but of the guaranteed rights once considered sacrosanct under our old Constitution.
I would argue, as well, that this long term, concerted movement, and eventual triumph of nineteenth-century liberalism and twentieth century progressivism, politically, culturally, and in our churches, not only placed into doubt those essential and agreed-upon elements that permitted the country to exist in some form of “unity,” but also enabled the growth of ideologies and belief systems that, at base, rejected the very foundations, the fragile creed, of that origination.
In one of the amazing turnarounds in history, the fall of Soviet Communism in 1991—hollowed out and decaying after years of boasting that it would “bury” the West—witnessed almost concurrently the exponential growth and flourishing of an even more insidious and seductive version of Marxism in the old Christian West, in Europe and the United States. A century of the ravages and termite-like devastation by liberalism and progressivist ideology had debilitated the foundations—and the requisite will—to resist the attractions of a cultural Marxism that eventually pervaded our culture, our education, our entertainment industry, and our establishment religious thought.
Older and gravely weakened inherited standards and once-revered benchmarks of right and wrong, of justice, of rights and duties, were replaced by what the Germans call a “gestalt,” or a kind of settled overarching Marxist view of society and culture which had no room for opposing views. Dr. Paul Gottfried has written extensively on this phenomenon.
That dogmatic vision now pervades our colleges and public education; it almost totally dominates Hollywood; it controls the Democratic Party and large swathes of the Republican Party; it speaks with ecclesiastical authority through the heresiarchs who govern most of our churches; and, most critically, it provides a linguistic template—an approved language—that must be accepted and employed, lest the offender be charged with “hate speech” or “hate thought.” Its goals—the imposition of a beguiling but ultimately phony democracy not just in the United States but across the face of the globe—the legislation of an across-the-board equality which is reminiscent of the kind of “equality” the pigs in Orwell’s Animal Farm “legislated”—the perpetuation of a largely unseen, unanswerable, unstoppable managerial and political class, secure in its power and omnipotence—the proclamation of the United State (and Europe) as an “open nation with no physical borders”—have been and are being realized.
It is this overlay, this suffocating ideological blanket, with its dogmas of multicultural political correctness, its anathematization of perceived “racism,” “sexism,” homophobia,” “nativism,” and other characterized forms of “bigotry” as unforgivable sins, that now has assumed near total dominance in our society. The older forms of liberalism were incapable of offering effective opposition, for cultural Marxism utilized liberalism’s arguments to essentially undo it, and eventually, absorb it.
Yet, there were and are still millions of Americans—and Europeans—who have been left behind, not yet swept up in that supposedly ineluctable movement to the Left. They are variously labeled the “deplorables,” or perhaps if they do not share completely the reigning presumptions of the Mainstream Media and academia, they are “bigots” or “yahoos,” uninformed “rednecks,” and, increasingly, maybe “white nationalists,” or worse. The prevailing utter condescension and contempt for them by the established Deep State would make the most severe witch-burner of the 17th century envious.
So, again, I ask: unify around what? Unite with whom? On what basis and on what set of fundamental beliefs and principles? Can there be such unity with those who wish your extinction and replacement?
Frankly, I don’t think so…unless millions have a “road to Damascus” conversion, or some major conflagration occurs to radically change hearts and minds.
~ DR. BOYD D. CATHEY is an Unz Review columnist, as well as a Barely a Blog contributor, whose work is easily located on this site under the “BAB’s A List” search category. Dr. Cathey earned an MA in history at the University of Virginia (as a Thomas Jefferson Fellow), and as a Richard M Weaver Fellow earned his doctorate in history and political philosophy at the University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain. After additional studies in theology and philosophy in Switzerland, he taught in Argentina and Connecticut before returning to North Carolina. He was State Registrar of the North Carolina State Archives before retiring in 2011. He writes for The Unz Review, The Abbeville Institute, Confederate Veteran magazine, The Remnant, and other publications in the United States and Europe on a variety of topics, including politics, social and religious questions, film, and music.