The idea of America is freedom.
With the Fourth of July we have just celebrated the birth of our nation and the freedom its citizens have enjoyed throughout America’s history.
The Progressive Movement believes America to be freer than ever. It’s still waiting for a few items on its checklist: for homosexuals to be granted the right to marry everywhere, for a more dovish foreign policy, for an energy policy based on alternative fuels (with cap and trade as a restraint on hydrocarbons), and the acceptance of global warming as a first principle.
It wants to see the social disparities of our marketplace economy modulated, with far less distance between the rich and the poor.
The project of the welfare state must be completed, in all its European finery.
The Tea Party Movement, in contrast, represents a collective clutch in the gut that America has turned away from freedom as its essential idea. It’s a collection of different and disparate groups united more than anything else by this misgiving.
These groups understand that the more government gives, the more it takes away. Where government becomes the dispenser of goods and services like health care—or the rescuer of huge American corporations like AIG—it becomes the manager of these activities. Its means of management can only be bureaucratic, with all of bureaucracy’s maddening inefficiencies and impersonal character, as anyone who has ever visited a department of motor vehicles can attest.
The more government manages areas of our life, the more the needs of the collective trump the freedoms of subsidiary institutions such as the family and those of the individual. (Strangely, it even becomes the government’s obligation to keep the executives of failed corporations rich.)
Progressives are willing for the government to make such decisions, I suspect, because they believe they are in control of the government. The three other institutions that count, in their opinion, are also under their control: the media, the universities, and the judiciary. (Those howls of protest at the Citizens United decision, allowing unlimited spending on campaigns by corporations and unions, were those of a people betrayed by a supposed friend.)
Also, progressives worship intellectuals—at least of their own ilk—believing that experts are far better at solving society’s problems than people left to their own devices. There is an underlying misanthropy to such worship, a willed-distancing from our common humanity.
The last driver of progressivism is promiscuity and related pleasures such as alcohol and drugs. Progressives believe that the essence of freedom consists in being able to use the body as an instrument of pleasure. This freedom is perfected through the person being spared any negative consequences. Thus no-fault divorce, the pill, and abortion-on-demand.
Progressives denigrate the Tea Party Movement with such vitriol and lewdness because they cannot stand losing their utopian dreams on the cusp of their realization, with the ascension to power of President Obama and his progressive appointees.
Many within the Tea Party Movement believe in the “pursuit of happiness” as the Founding Fathers conceived it: as a quest for self-control, independence, and virtue. The founders knew that a people unwilling to control themselves could never make democracy work.
As we have become less willing to control ourselves, we have become increasingly willing to delegate more and more responsibility to the government. In recent campaigns we have been virtually crying out for a friendly tyranny.
The Tea Party Movement has a different idea, and it’s an idea with Christian roots. It comes from the Christian understanding of the human person as a sovereign individual with free will, who, with the assistance of grace, can live a decent life and help his neighbor as well.
There are purely libertarian participants in the Tea Party Movement who believe only in the individual, without any place for community, but in the main the Tea Party seems to take its inspiration from our Christian heritage.
Last Sunday, on the 4th of July, I listened to one of the priests at my church, Father Flanagan, deliver a homily in which he discussed the Christian and specifically Catholic heritage of our country. Applause rang out at the end—something I’ve never heard after a homily before.
Evidently, Catholics and other Christians in this country are sick to death of secularism and its false understanding of freedom as a merely comfortable life without obligations.
I wanted to let the Catholic Exchange community know that we are proceeding with our redesign and the newly-refurbished site should be up and running by the end of the summer. Please continue to support us as you have been doing. Join the “Wonderful 100”—our group of new monthly contributors.
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