Liberty Expose: Advice for Protesters
Independence Day is a day for tradition, with fireworks, parades and rereadings of the Declaration of Independence dominating the holiday. But there is another minor tradition popular amongst a subset of Americans: pontificating on why the U.S. is not the land of freedom that many Americans believe it to be.
We are all familiar with them. They find contrarian hot takes to be of intrinsic importance and regurgitate the same talking points that have been made for decades by earlier intrinsic contrarians. The opinions are always the same: the United States is not an exceptional nation on a quest for equality, but rather an intensely flawed empire more prone to the banalities of the human condition than most. What is the most puzzling is that many activists and protestors – not most bust still too many - adopt this view, as if it will further their causes. From the kneeling controversy regarding the national anthem to the tenured-activist caste that dominates universities, anti-American protestors are managing to find the absolute worst way to appeal to a patriotic nation.
If they were smarter or more serious about their causes, they would use American history to their advantage. They would preach that other counties were born out of the uniting of ancient territories or the bordering of ethnic boundaries. They would capitalize on the fact that the United States is unique in that it was born by a mandate. Activists would be wise to remember that American history may have originated with the European arrival, but U.S. history began with “all men are created equal.”
It was this statement that gave America a mandate to strive for. These words were repeated at Gettysburg when President Lincoln gave his justification for why American must fight its most horrific war. It was the words civil rights leaders used to abolish apartheid in the Jim Crow south. There is an inherent brilliance in this: it appeals to the natural patriotism of Americans.
It is America that has to ask itself “does this live up to the American idea?” Other nations do not have that sense of destiny. Most nations were founded as ethnic states. Other came to be over the transfer of imperial control to commonwealth status. But for the United States, history began with ideas.
Instead of doing what civil rights leaders have done in the past, too many modern protestors express their grievances in the exact opposite fashion – to the detriment of their causes. Instead of campaigning under the notion of “we as Americans are better than this” they dismiss the American idea altogether because the U.S. has failed to live up to its own standard on too many occasions. They alienate the majority of a patriotic nation and roll back their own cause.
It is profoundly stupid, or perhaps profoundly egotistical, but either way, Middle America won’t be convinced when they are the inheritors of an irreconcilably flawed nation. The Howard Zinn-style “revolution by historical enlightenment” will never happen – thankfully.
We know what works. Acknowledging that American exceptionalism is a thing brings out the best in Americans. Even more than 240 years after the founding, the mandate of liberty still defines the politics and rhetoric of our culture. That is the golden path for activists who seek change if they’re serious about advancing their beliefs.
Or, they can be edgy and disavow the American creed. Their cause will fail, but as long as they look righteous, that might be all that matters. It is their choice.