In 1787 there was a council, a convention of nearly every prominent figure in America, this was the Constitution Convention. This convention led to the creation of a Government that has become and remained a global superpower for decades. They accomplished this by getting together in unity to try and make a government that worked, and they largely succeeded. To do this, however, they needed to have courage in unity, courage in pride, and courage in virtue, without that, they could not have succeeded.
In George Washington’s farewell address, he listed a few concerns that could lead to the crippling and potential downfall of the Constitution, three that I think are especially important our those listed previously. Unity, pride, and virtue. Without them, we don’t have a working constitution. Moreover, we barely have a functioning society when these elements are removed.
Let’s talk about unity for a second and what it involves. When the Founding Fathers were founding America as a country, they disagreed a lot. Take Hamilton and Jefferson, they practically disagreed on every aspect, except for one. They both loved America. So how could they be unified? The answer is the simple fact that before being Republicans (or their 17th-century counterparts.), Democrats, Conservatives, or part of the Green Party, they were Americans. They talked with each other, discussed things, and sometimes weren’t unified. But when they built the Constitution, they entered into unity standing for one nation.
George Washington warned in his Farewell Address that there would be many efforts, from within, and from outside to destroy our sense of unity. I’d give examples of this, but I’d say it’s pretty obvious that a sense of unity has all but been destroyed in America. It’s always the Left vs. the Right, it’s always us vs. them, but never ‘let’s work together to fix these problems.’ As the Bible put it, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” and neither can a country. Everyone, this is why the Articles of Confederation failed. Every state was thinking only of themselves and the government nearly crumbled as a result of it. George Washington had to talk down an active revolt that would have almost definitely ruined the nation. Without unity, it’s not a matter of ‘whether’ America will fail, it’s a matter of ‘when’.
Unity wasn’t the only thing the president of the Constitution Convention spoke about in his Farwell Address. He also talked about taking pride in being an American I’ll add though, don’t take your pride to the point of hubris. A good friend of mine shared an old German proverb, “Don’t pour the baby out with the bathwater.” It’s a rather fun saying, one I find amusing, but it also holds a lot of truth to it.
You see, we need to take pride in the baby that is America and its Constitution. America has done some pretty amazing things. It gave a standard of freedom unheard of throughout history. Gave a republic that has led the world for over a hundred years. Many governments base their own constitution on ours which has led to freedom. The violent crime rate has nearly universally dropped significantly over the last 50 years. America was, and is, pretty awesome. That said, taking pride in the baby doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pour out the bathwater. Understand that taking pride in America also means putting effort into fixing it. You can, and should be proud to be an American, but don’t bury your head in the sand; you’re not an ostrich. Making America better also includes understanding its faults. Slavery wasn’t abolished in the Constitution (13th amendment) until 78 years after the Constitution was signed. And even after all of that, America has treated people pretty horribly on multiple occasions. Mistreating immigrants and treating them like they were barely people, putting the Japanese citizens of America into concentration camps for their ethnicity alone during WW2. If we don’t learn from these mistakes, we’re condemning ourselves to be forgotten as well.
Taking both of these points into account is where we get to the last way we can uphold the Constitution’s spirit. That is by seeking virtue without hate. Through hate, we can accomplish nothing virtuous. We might be able to win a fight and prove someone wrong, all the while filled with hate. But after that, we’ve lost our souls in the process.
There is a saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” No matter how right you feel, how well backed up your sources are, and how obvious your side appears to be if you use it with hate you will only drill yourself into a hole so deep that only compassion can get you out. I haven’t met a single person who when confronted with someone who hates them and is yelling at them, has decided that person is reasonable and has a good point. You don’t change people’s minds and hearts by hating them.
Moreover, hate often arises from assumptions. I’ve heard many smart, but somewhat misguided people talk about how many people are out to destroy America, and are trying to undermine freedom and liberty. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who are rooting for the destruction of America, but those people are very seldom Americans. Often times those people who have been accused of trying to destroy us, simply disagree about solutions to issues. A hard truth of life is that the people who we’re fighting and arguing against are simply that, people. Whether they’re Democrats, or Republicans, part of the right or left, they’re people; and to assume they’re trying to destroy the country they also live in is short-sided.
As someone with a family on both the left and right, I’ve seen that while I often disagree with some of the methods of solving problems, they usually have very valid concerns. Many of these are things I also believe are big problems. Just because they’re different, doesn’t mean they’re any less worthy of respect.
This mentality is what America was built upon, differences. Usually, one side doesn’t have all the answers. Take a hundred sides, and you start to get a much clearer picture, especially when you don’t demonize each other. The Founding Fathers had a lot of differences in religion, political views, backgrounds, and walks of life. But that allowed them to spot different problems, offer different solutions, and work with each other.
All that said, differences can be incredibly scary. It’s human nature to distrust and fear the unknown. But I’ll tell you one thing, nothing worthwhile is ever fearless. The founding of America was filled with terrified soldiers who didn’t know if they’d make it home alive, politicians who could be tortured and executed any day, and citizens who watched their families fighting against each other. All of that was terrifying, but I personally believe the result was one of the best things in history
Fighting America is worth it. It’s terrifying, filled with problems, and sometimes feels like it’s going to crumble despite our best efforts, but I am a firm believer that if we put in the effort, then we can progress to the point where future generations look back at us and think, ‘Wow, I can’t believe how ignorant and backwater they were. I’m glad at how far we’ve grown as a nation,’ and to be completely right about us. If we want to save America’s soul, we can’t do it with hate.
To do all of this takes courage, the ability to face our fears and put our shoulders to the wheel. It takes courage to have unity. In order to have unity we need to be willing to reach out and talk to people, especially those we disagree with. When you reach out, you’ll often find that others can be pretty reasonable people. It also takes courage to be willing to take Pride in America, not out of ignorance, but through study and gladness in our progress. And lastly, it takes courage to go out and spread virtue through serving others, and not out of hate, fear, or force.
I understand that all of this seems like a pipedream, something that’s all well and good, but is just talk. It certainly can be. But doing this is also possible. You can choose to refuse to take sides and instead see yourself first and foremost as an American. You can choose to take pride in America by working to improve it. And you can choose to love others rather than trying to control them. It’s all possible, it’s even logical. The only tragedy here is when good people choose to sit by and do nothing. Saving America is very possible, and it’s very worthwhile, all that’s left for us is to sit down and do it.