Tuesday, November 13, 2012

America the Beautiful

This is a fantastic essay from City Journal (a wonderfully thoughtful site, always full of good stuff) about "The Americanness of the American Revolution".

In reading this essay-and you should read the whole thing-I was simultaneously depressed and uplifted. And thankfully, in that order.

It has a very concise assessment of the wisdom of America's Founding Fathers-and shows that though they had no utopian illusions about human nature, they nonetheless had faith that mankind was capable of great and honourable things.

So, my dear American friends-I know how upset you are about the elections. I was, too-even though I did see an Obama victory coming (the drug of entitlement is very hard to wean off).

But this article gives me some hope once again that the "Americanness" of America is still there. I still feel that spirit whenever I am in America. Don't despair!

"The American Revolution, then, was doubly limited in its aims: limited to making only a political change without altering social or economic arrangements, and determined to set strict limits to its new government, fearful that any governmental power beyond the barest minimum necessary to protect liberty too easily could become a threat to liberty itself. "

"With similar prudence and modesty, when they wrote the new constitution, the Founders nursed no grandiose illusions that they were going to change human nature by altering the structure of government."

"They had a very clear-eyed assessment of human nature. After all, their social-contract theory rested on a psychology that acknowledged what Patrick Henry called, conventionally enough, “the depravity of human nature,” with its lusts, aggression, and greed no less inborn than its rights. They tried to create a republic that would flourish with human nature as it is, with all its cross-grained passions and interests. They never forgot, as Alexander Hamilton cautioned, “that men are ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious.”

"Still, they weren’t cynics. Despite human nature’s failings, they believed men capable of virtue, as history, literature, observation, and introspection taught them."

I love that concept, and I try to live that way-not utopian about human nature, but not a cynic either.

We humans are terribly fallible beings, but  we always have the rest of today and tomorrow to improve and build and do things differently, better, bigger and with more heart and soul.