1776-2015: Is Our Revolution Dead?

AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Scott Sommerdorf
AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Scott Sommerdorf

July 4th marks the climax of the American Revolution, remembered with fireworks, family, and fun. But this year, there are three other revolutions that overshadow our own.

The first is the French Revolution. Unlike the Americans, who preserved their religious institutions while overthrowing the monarchy, the French Jacobins destroyed the church to build the state. The Terror soon followed, and France was only “rescued” by a despotism more complete than the one that existed before.

There is a similar Jacobin tendency in America today. As William Kristol writes: “We see a French Revolution-like tendency to move with the speed of light from a reasonable and perhaps overdue change (taking down the Confederate flag over state buildings) to an all-out determination to expunge from our history any recognition or respect for that which doesn’t fully comport with contemporary progressive sentiment.”

Similarly, the Supreme Court’s decision to make gay marriage a “fundamental” right not only distorted the Constitution and usurped the power of the people, but encouraged an ongoing campaign against religious institutions and individuals that is undermining freedom of speech and conscience.

Two centuries ago, the French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville wrote admiringly that the early Americans had “brought to the New World a Christianity that can best be described as democratic and republican….From the beginning, politics and religion were in harmony, and have remained so ever since.” That, he believed, prevented the excesses and the abuses of power of the French Revolution. After last week, however, the harmony of politics and religion is now in doubt.

It is no accident that the same Court decided to entrench the power of the federal government–not just to carry out a staggeringly huge policy like Obamacare, but also to distort the plain meaning of the law on which that policy is based. The decline of tradition and the family only offers incidental liberties to the individual: in the long run, it emboldens the state.

The second revolution that hangs over our own is the Cuban revolution–and, more generally, the Communist revolution. Under communism, revolution is never just a moment of taking power, but describes the way power is held–and the way dissent is crushed as “counter-revolutionary.”

When President Barack Obama announced the renewal of diplomatic ties relations with the Castro regime, he cast America as the villain, in effect adopting Cuba’s “revolutionary” perspective–and neglecting the political prisoners and dissidents still struggling for the freedom that we Americans have taken for granted.

The third revolution is the Islamic Revolution. The Iranian regime that came to power in 1979 is brutal and fanatical. It runs global terrorist operations and cultivates hatred of America, of Israel, and of other Muslims. Six years ago, the regime was near collapse. Today, thanks to Obama, it is about to become a nuclear power, fulfilling the revolution’s dark purpose.

These three revolutions–the French, the Communist, and the Islamic–are all totalitarian in nature. They have always destroyed individual liberty. They have always provoked war. They have always tempted and inspired those among us–like Barack Obama–who yearned to be a part of the “change” they witnessed in other countries (from a safe distance).

And yet we have resisted them, until now, because our faith in our own Constitution was strong, and renewed in every generation.

Our freedom has persisted not, as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the gay marriage decision, because the Founders gave us “a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning,” but rather a compact that protects timeless liberties, however imperfectly, against the power of the government.

We are in danger because, in a moment of crisis, we accepted the idea that America needed “fundamental transformation”–that one Revolution was not enough.


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