Posted by: bkivey | 28 March 2015

Losing My Religion

Over the past several weeks I’ve attended a couple of sporting events, and as is the custom in the US the National Anthem is played prior to the start of play. This tradition dates back to the late 19th century, and became firmly entrenched during WWI. The conventional wisdom is that Francis Scott Key’s composition is a battle song, and the singing of it in the home team’s venue amounts to taking the piss out of the visitors. For most Americans, it’s just something that happens prior to play, and a chance to express national pride.

Except I don’t know that there’s a lot of national pride to be had.

My problem is with the last verse: “The land of the free and the home of the brave”. I’m not sure that either applies to 21st century America.

Nearly half of the country’s work force is on some sort of government welfare. Whether it be food stamps, or assisted housing, or health care subsidies, or any of the myriad ways well-meaning people have intruded government into private lives. If someone else dictates what you can eat, or where you can live, or what health services you can access, or has any say in how you live your life, you’re not free. You are, in fact, subservient to some un-elected government bureaucrat. The greater your dependence on welfare, the less free you are. People who depend for their entire subsistence on government programs are little more than serfs. Yet the same politicians who rely on subsistence-level constituents for their power go to great lengths to tell those same people how free they are.

It’s a big, fat, lie.

As for ‘the home of the brave’? Leaving aside the undeniable bravery of the American military, contemporary elections have demonstrated that the average citizen is far from brave. Bravery is grace under pressure; courage to speak and act for what is right, rather than what is expedient. Yet throw a few thinly meated bones to the electorate in exchange for votes, and most people fall right in line. People are selling their birthright to the greatest civilization in human history for pottage. The infantilization of the American, indeed, Western, electorate the past 80 years has shown the truth of Benjamin Franklin’s observation on security and freedom.

So while standing at a sporting event, facing the flag, I couldn’t bring myself to perform the custom of rendering honors by placing my hand over my heart. And I felt badly for not doing so.

I was raised in a military family by two Southerners. In the US , it doesn’t get much more patriotic than that. I read a lot of history, and many of the great philosophical works on self-government in my childhood. As I became more aware of the historical human condition in adulthood, I gained a greater appreciation for the United States.  The founding ideal of the US as a place where free peoples could determine their destiny limited only by their ambition and ability was and is a powerful concept,unprecedented in human history.

But this is apparently a concept that can only be embraced by the few. Recent history suggests that most folks don’t want freedom; they want security, unmindful of the natural laws that govern the universe. Those who desire freedom are being crushed by those who don’t.

As proud as I am of my country’s myriad accomplishments, I look at the flag now and there are ashes in my mouth. Rampant government spying on citizens, oppressive regulation, weakness in the face of aggression, bullying of the populace, and the general tyranny of the mediocracy.

Where we are now isn’t where we started. Change is a constant, but American society hasn’t changed for the better the last several decades; indeed, we are regressing to the historical mean. I’m gong to run my businesses, and live my life according to founding American principles, but the time is rapidly approaching where people like me will have no place here,


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