Perspectives: We now live in ‘America-That-Was’

OPINION – One of my favorite indulgences is an informal ritual that has developed between my co-workers and me.

Once or twice a week, we sit down for lunch together and watch an episode of the iconic sci-fi TV show “Firefly.”

The show is set roughly 500 years in the future, in a time when humans have taken to colonizing other planets and moons because our own planet has been outgrown and used up. The native planet of mankind is now simply referred to as “Earth-That-Was.”

Taking in the scenes of what is currently unfolding around us, I can’t help but wonder if we’ve reached the point where the America we think we live in has become “America-That-Was.”

We still wax romantic over the idea that America is essentially what we’ve always believed it to be, but reality is getting harder to deny. The republic given to us by our Founding Fathers was founded upon the goal of liberty.

Unfortunately, that republic is no longer ours.

In a republic, power is carefully limited. It is also separated and divided among the republic’s governing bodies so that the temptation to abuse power is limited. Those who govern are limited by law, and their primary purpose is to secure and protect the natural rights of the people who have delegated temporary authority to them.

This means they absolutely may not rule by whim – the hallmark of tyrants.

It’s no exaggeration to say that those in power today recognize no effective limits on what they may rightfully do. The fact that neither presidential candidate for the two major parties has voiced a syllable of concern on this matter is further evidence that nothing will change with this election.

Angelo M. Codevilla brilliantly quantifies our nation’s final stages of transition from republic to empire in his essay “After the Republic.” He writes:

In today’s America, a network of executive, judicial, bureaucratic, and social kinship channels bypasses the sovereignty of citizens. Our imperial regime, already in force, works on a simple principle: the president and the cronies who populate these channels may do whatever they like so long as the bureaucracy obeys and one third plus one of the Senate protects him from impeachment.

This departure from sound principle reflects the kind of ambition and psychopathy that has always been part of the darker side of human nature. It’s why voting for the greater or lesser versions of Caligula will not steer America in a more positive direction.

What we see in our ruling class is a deeply unflattering reflection of what we the people are willing to become.

Codevilla explains:

All ruling classes are what Shakespeare called the ‘makers of manners.’ Plato, in The Republic, and Aristotle, in his Politics, teach that polities reflect the persons who rise to prominence within them, whose habits the people imitate, and who set the tone of life in them. Thus a polity can change as thoroughly as a chorus changes from comedy to tragedy depending on the lyrics and music. Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm was arguably the world’s most polite society. Under Hitler, it became the most murderous.

One thing America’s founding generation understood with great clarity was the inseparable connection between virtue and liberty. Their personal writings are replete with this understanding.

As we complete the transformation from America-That-Was into whatever it is we’re becoming, notice how any emphasis on virtue has largely disappeared from public discourse.

Instead, those who seek a place at the table among the ruling class via elections tend to measure national well-being in other ways. They prefer to couch their messages in economic criterion, the ability to project force and the promise of distributed goodies purchased with the sweat of the productive.

There is no acknowledgment of the necessity for self-control, both individual and collectively, that lies at the heart of authentic freedom.

Those who see the unpleasant writing on the wall may still have reasons to be optimistic.

The one area where each of us still has undeniable influence is within our homes and our families. I just spent a week traveling abroad with my grown-up kids and disconnected from mainstream and social media.

Unplugging from the artificial blizzard of official angst and misinformation freed my mind from needless, fear-based distractions.

Not only did the world begin to appear much more normal, I also had priceless opportunities to connect with family while focusing on what really matters. It was a powerful reminder that the world changes most easily right where we’re standing.

A prime concern that should be on the mind of anyone with a functioning conscience is how to utilize our personal influence without further legitimizing the abusive, self-serving behavior of the ruling class.

Is the ideal of America-That-Was dependent upon our political process alone? How do we carry it forward?

The answer to these questions will be found closer to home, friends and community than most of us realize.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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11 Comments

  • voice of reason October 10, 2016 at 9:25 am

    You sound like one of those people who longs for the days of “John Wayne’s America”, when in reality John Wayne’s America never existed.

    • Brian October 10, 2016 at 11:57 am

      No, that isn’t what he sounds like AT ALL. He sounds like someone who thoroughly understands the principles this nation was founded on, which were the reason for it’s greatness. He also understands what will be lost when those principles are abandoned.

      He’s like the engineer on the Titanic, that knew with absolute certainty that as soon as the fifth of sixteen compartments was filled with water that the Titanic was doomed. It was an absolute certainty.

      This was an excellent article, and right on target. The Firefly reference was just the icing on the cake. “America-That-Was” is a perfect analogy. I look forward to “finding serenity” in the Millennium. Until then, all we can do is our best to protect our family and friends (that will listen) from the unavoidable consequences of our choices and apathy.

      • .... October 12, 2016 at 8:22 am

        Are you sure about that comrade ? are you an American hacker or just an idiot trying to make the front page so we all have something to laugh at ?

  • Bob October 10, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    2 things:

    -Bush did 9/11
    -I’ll be voting straight democrat including Hilary

    • .... October 10, 2016 at 8:04 pm

      You forgot number 3 …you know. your claim that the United States Government owns big pharma

  • Roy J October 10, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    I very much doubt that we live in an America-that-was state of existence all of the sudden. It’s fairly easy to find other years in American history where the country was in a far worse state and literally tearing itself apart.

    • Brian October 10, 2016 at 11:22 pm

      We’ve had periods like the Civil War, Great Depression, and the division and riots of the 60’s. But those were each mostly single-issue divisions (slavery, racism, economy, political corruption, etc).

      What we’re facing now is systemic, and we’re facing it on two fronts.

      On the one hand the system is being abandoned: the Constitution and separation of powers are no longer honored, checks and balances are now entirely absent, the laws are no longer enforced, regulations are now just as powerful as laws, the federal government is now so massive and overbearing that the states no longer have any power, etc.

      On the other hand many, many people are morally bankrupt. Honesty and truth no longer count for anything. Self-reliance and hard work are somehow now bad things. Living on the dole is common place and generational. Gender no longer has meaning (talk about science deniers!).

      You can write it off as nothing unusual, but I strongly disagree. This goes one of two ways, depending on your views. 1) If you’re religious this is the end times described in 2 Timothy 3. 2) If not, this is the end of an empire, following the same path the Romans did.

      • .... October 12, 2016 at 8:25 am

        Maybe you can just blame the Russian Hackers for all your problems L0L !

  • Roy J October 11, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Oh brother, are you for real? History, divisions, Constitution, self-reliance, hard work, the end of the world! Quite a concoction you’ve got there, I wouldn’t drink it though, if I was you…LOL

  • dodgers October 11, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    Brian-Great explanation and comments. You are right on target with both.

  • .... October 11, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    I got new socks today

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