It’s the Fourth of July, and the day that the nation pauses to watch hot dog eating competitions and set many things on fire. It’s also the day for celebrating the birth of America, and patriotism abounds. But many people are wrapping themselves in the flag every day, in a way that has to have our nation’s founders cocking their eyebrows a bit. After all, when they fought for a free, independent country, was this what they were bargaining for?
Yes, according to many conservatives, who seem to think they have a direct line to the founding fathers. Despite the recognized historical religious ambivalence of most of the early founders, today’s politicians are obsessed with forcing the U.S. into a biblically based government that has never in actuality existed.
We’ve come a long way in the 238 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed. Some may even say we’ve gone too far. Former Senator and potential GOP presidential nominee Rick Santorum may believe so. In a recent television interview he opined that maybe it’s better to only allow some people to vote than give the right to everyone, harkening back to the days where only white, male property owners had the ability to decide on the direction of the country.
“Were we ready for an election when the United States was formed to have everybody in the United States vote? Well, our Founders didn’t think so,” he stated, according to Raw Story, while discussing democracy and voting in the Middle East. “They limited the people who could vote in an election. Now you could say that’s horrible, that’s terrible. Well, maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But it was a decision that was made to make sure that there was some continuity and stability within the government that was consistent with the values the government was founded upon.”
Santorum’s supporters note he wasn’t saying we should return to limited voting here, although his reference to keeping a country’s government “consistent” with its foundational values make you wonder. This is, after all, the man who said women are too delicate for combat and it’s best to keep them out of the frontlines because men would stop to protect them rather than fight.
Santorum isn’t alone in knowing what’s best for the country and its citizens, or proclaiming loudly what rights and values are good for Americans or are repugnant. Some, however, are more forceful — and offensive — in their declarations. Neglecting the country’s long, shameful history with slavery, Michigan Republican Congressman Tim Walberg bemoaned the country’s fascination with non-morally sound things (of which he also includes sports, bizarrely), telling the pastors of the Family Research Council’s Watchmen on the Wall conference that Americans are slaves to their obsessions. “Behold, we are slaves today, and as to the land which you gave to our fathers to eat of its fruit and its bounty, behold we are slaves in it,” he said, according to Huffington Post. “Powerful, tragic, real words. Does that bring to mind any other great nation in your frame of reference?…Just to jog your thoughts about that possible other nation that this could be a reference to: Slaves to materialism. Slaves to violence. Slaves to pornography. Slaves to debt. Slaves to sexual perversion. Slaves to gluttony. Slaves to drugs and drunkenness. Slaves to pleasure. Slaves to recreation. Slaves to sports. Slaves to selfishness. Slaves to laziness. Slaves to humanism. Slaves to government. Behold, we are slaves today, and as to the land which you gave to our fathers to eat of its fruit and its bounty, behold we, Americans, are slaves in it.”
Set aside the shudder that would go through many of the nation’s founders at the thought of congressional lawmakers appealing to and addressing groups of pastors on how to best guide America, would they, having sought independence and a land where a citizen’s freedom and enlightenment ruled over all, be happy to see its leaders pleading for a nation that turns away from recreation, humanism and even basic pleasures?
There’s a massive divide in our country, and it’s not within our people itself as it is between a handful of lawmakers determined to undo the progress we have made as a nation and a community and a handful of politicians who want to return to an idyllic version of the founding of our nation. They want a return to biblical values and birth of a nation ideals not because it was what the founders created, but because it was a land in which they had and would continue to amass the most power by virtue of being male, rich and in control of business and legislature.
Our founders wanted progress and innovation. These lawmakers, instead, simply want to return to 1776. No wonder we are a country at battle with ourselves.
Photo credit: Latinos Ready to Vote