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What Is Behind the Disintegration of Civility in America? – Part I
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What Is Behind the Disintegration of Civility in America? – Part I

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The last few months have been noteworthy in terms of lack of civility and the increased prevalence of violence motivated by political or cultural viewpoints in the United States.

We have seen the most obvious smear campaign in modern history with the attempt to block Judge Brett Kavanaugh from confirmation to the US Supreme Court. Even now we see various newly elected US Representatives with plans to somehow impeach the man from this post.

We have seen a never-ending barrage of attacks against the President, most of them led and condoned by many major media outlets, The New York Times and Washington Post and CNN acting as the ringleaders. Never in modern history has a duly-elected President faced such expressly biased and dishonest opposition.

This behavior holds at all levels. In Colorado Springs on October 20, a young man who was “doxxed” and discovered to be a very politically conservative Orthodox Christian was attacked brutally by members of “Antifa.” He was attacked with knives as well as fists, and he suffered a broken orbital bone and his face was really beaten badly.

For political preference.

We have Maxine Waters advocating confrontation of Republicans in public establishments, AND some people do it. Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, his home and family, were recently threatened by Antifa racists.

What is worse is that there are those who justify such actions as “right” or “deserved” because these parties that do the attacking are “aggrieved” by the “other” political side of the issue.

We hear about and read repeated charges of racism – that President Trump is a racist, or that people who want to close the US-Mexico border are racist and haters of brown people, and even most recently the charge that “nationalism” is just a longer-form word for racism.

This is absolute nonsense. The United States is not a racist country, and it has not been a racist country through most of its existence, even more certainly since 1964, and racism is something that is generally ridiculed by most of the younger generations. The idea that people of non-Caucasian races are somehow inferior to Caucasians is all but dead, and as the last remaining oldsters pass on this idea fades into nothing more and more each day.

This is the reality. But yet, we read and hear all these things.

Why is this happening? Why are people in the United States acting so completely insane?

The answer is not a comfortable one to receive, let alone consider or apply, and in our common understanding from within American society, it may seem absurd. However it is true. In order to properly present it, though, we must look back through history.

How Americans thought of America in her pioneering days

In the late 19th century the great push West was still underway in the United States, with European-American settlers as well as freed slaves pushing into territories like Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakota Territory (now the states of North and South Dakota). Many settlers were opportunists and were known to live extremely wild lives, even as criminals, who fled to the open lands of the West to flee the long arm of the law back in the settled Eastern states.

But there were many settlers who were of a different sort. Peaceful, quiet and religiously adherent, these people became the ones who settled and built towns and led lives in peace as much as possible with the continuing presence of the Indians who still were present in significant numbers.

It is a great blessing to anyone who takes interest in American history to observe some facts about these people and their character:

They had significant understanding of the Republic that is the United States of America. They understood its founding principles, they knew the history of the settlement of the New World and the Revolutionary War against England, as well as the War of 1812 and the principal arguments behind the Civil War. All this was taught strongly in schools, to the point where students of less than fifteen years of age were required to know all of this information by heart.

But knowledge alone of the nation’s history was not enough. And Laura Ingalls Wilder, a young girl growing up in the Dakota frontier had a realization that completed her understanding of what America is and how she works.

This realization happened after the recitation of the Declaration of Independence and the singing of “My Country, ‘tis of Thee” (both Fourth of July traditions at that time) and especially a verse that is hardly known today. Ingalls wrote about this (emphasis added):

“My country, ‘tis of thee

Sweet land of Liberty

Of thee I sing…

Long may our land be bright

With Freedom’s holy light

Protect us by Thy might

Great God, our King!”

The crowd was scattering away then, but Laura [the writer featured herself in her works] stood stock still. Suddenly she had a completely new thought. The Declaration and the song came together in her mind and she thought:

God is America’s king.

She thought: Americans won’t obey any king of earth. Americans are free. That means they have to obey their own consciences. No king bosses Pa; he has to boss himself. Why (she thought), when I am a little older, Pa and Ma will stop telling me what to do, and there isn’t anyone else who has a right to give me orders. I will have to make myself be good.

Her whole mind seemed to be lighted up by that thought. This is what it means to be free. It means, you have to be good. “Our fathers’ God, author of liberty –“ The laws of Nature and Nature’s God endow you with a right to life and liberty. Then you have to keep the laws of God, for God’s law is the only thing that gives you a right to be free.” – Little Town on the Prairie, pp. 75-76.

In other words, the liberty and freedom American were given to enjoy comes uniquely from a relationship with, and obedience to, God! And here it is not given in an expressly religious context, but rather as a simple relational one.

In order to understand the nature of the US at present, we must consider this as an operating principle for the country in the past.

Part II will explore what has happened since Laura’s time.

Author: Seraphim Hanisch