Shall It Be Sustained?

As a July 4th tradition, I’ve posted an excerpt from Stephen Vincent Benet’s poem Listen to the People.  The title I originally used for these posts was It Shall Be Sustained, which is from the last line of Benet’s poem.

Narrator:

This is Independence Day,
Fourth of July, the day we mean to keep,
Whatever happens and whatever falls
Out of a sky grown strange;
This is firecracker day for sunburnt kids,
The day of the parade,
Slambanging down the street.
Listen to the parade!
There’s J. K. Burney’s float,
Red-white-and-blue crepe-paper on the wheels,
The Fire Department and the local Grange,
There are the pretty girls with their hair curled
Who represent the Thirteen Colonies,
The Spirit of East Greenwich, Betsy Ross,
Democracy, or just some pretty girls.
There are the veterans and the Legion Post
(Their feet are going to hurt when they get home),
The band, the flag, the band, the usual crowd,
Good-humored, watching, hot,
Silent a second as the flag goes by,
Kidding the local cop and eating popsicles,
Jack Brown and Rosie Shapiro and Dan Shay,
Paul Bunchick and the Greek who runs the Greek’s,
The black-eyed children out of Sicily,
The girls who giggle and the boys who push,
All of them there and all of them a nation.
And, afterwards,
There’ll be ice-cream and fireworks and a speech
By somebody the Honorable Who,
The lovers will pair off in the kind dark
And Tessie Jones, our honor-graduate,
Will read the declaration.
That’s how it is. It’s always been that way.
That’s our Fourth of July, through war and peace,
That’s our fourth of July.

And a lean farmer on a stony farm
Came home from mowing, buttoned up his shirt
And walked ten miles to town.
Musket in hand.
He didn’t know the sky was falling down
And, it may be, he didn’t know so much.
But people oughtn’t to be pushed around
By kings or any such.
A workman in the city dropped his tools.
An ordinary, small-town kind of man
Found himself standing in the April sun,
One of a ragged line
Against the skilled professionals of war,
The matchless infantry who could not fail,
Not for the profit, not to conquer worlds,
Not for the pomp or the heroic tale
But first, and principally, since he was sore.
They could do things in quite a lot of places.
They shouldn’t do them here, in Lexington.

He looked around and saw his neighbors’ faces…

The poem is very long, and is worth reading in full. The full text was published in Life Magazine; it is online here.

Benet’s poem ends with these words:

We made it and we make it and it’s ours
We shall maintain it. It shall be sustained

But shall it?

 

The probability that the American experiment will survive has seemed, over recent years, to have been on the decline.  In my 2022 version of this post, I mentioned several disturbing news stories:

In Arizona, “F*** the Fourth” was the official July 4 message from the Pima County Democratic Party.

In California, a school board member called for July 4th boycott.

The city of Orlando, Florida apologized for a fireworks promo it had sent out, saying that people probably don’t want to celebrate because America is full of hate and adding “we can’t blame them.”

And, after 30 years. NPR…a network that does receive some level of taxpayer funding…cancelled its annual Declaration of Independence reading.

I could add dozens of similar examples.  Particularly appalling was Biden’s denunciation of the country that he leads in his address to graduates of Howard University, making the false assertion that these (black) graduates would have to be 10 times better to get equal consideration.  Tribalism, undercutting national identity, has been on the march, and this has been very largely driven by the Democratic Party and by the educational institutions that are such an important part of its coalition.

Also particularly appalling, especially in the light of Benet’s poem, is the evident contempt that so many people in positions of influence and power feel toward the majority of citizens of this country–in particular, those without college degrees, those who work with their hands, those who are rural and/or southern, those who are believing Christians.  See my post The Phobia(s) That May Destroy America, also Living in the Hate of the Common People  and Living in the Hate of the Common People, continued.  These attitudes are to opposite of the attitude toward The People expressed in Biden’s poem, and, to be fair, the opposite of at least the stated attitudes of the traditional Left.  The Biden administration, and Democrats generally, are happy to tax non-college people to pay off the loans of college graduates who are better off financially than those being taxed on their behalf.  This is ‘privilege’ of the kind that existed in the French nobility prior to the Revolution.

Yet the same people who express contempt for The People are very often the same ones who today wrap themselves in the Spirit of 1776 and claim to be defenders of Democracy.

I keep thinking of the words of the British general Edward Spears, describing his feelings in the aftermath of Munich:

Like most people, I have had my private sorrows, but there is no loss that can compare with the agony of losing one’s country, and that is what some of us felt when England accepted Munich.   All we believed in seemed to have lost substance.

The life of each of us has roots without which it must wither; these derive sustenance from the soil of our native land, its thoughts, its way of life, its magnificent history; the lineage of the British race is our inspiration.  The past tells us what the future should be. Â When we threw the Czechs to the Nazi wolves, it seemed to me as if the beacon lit centuries ago, and ever since lighting our way, had suddenly gone out, and I could not see ahead.

Yet it was only two years after Munich that Britain demonstrated its magnificent resistance to Nazi conquest. Perhaps the United States of America will similarly rediscover its spirit.

There are indeed some hopeful signs. Numerous individuals have shown courage in standing up against the Cancellers. Parents in many states are now asking pointed questions about what has really been going on in their schools. The consequences of extreme Left prosecutors and ‘defund the police’ are making themselves clear.

In my 2022 version of this post, I mentioned this Harvard student who dared to criticize pervasive anti-Americanism in her senior speech.  This took some courage. There have been many other examples of personal courage.  Like former Levi’s executive Jennfer Sey, who walked away from a strong shot at being the next CEO of the company in order to be able to continue expressing her concerns about the effect of Covid lockdowns on kids–and the costs she faced weren’t only matters of career and of finances:

I was called every name you can imagine — murderer, racist, eugenicist — for advocating for open public schools. I lost my city. My friends. My community.

But she kept her integrity, and has forged new friendships and is building a new business.

Many more:  Andy Ngo, who has taken considerable physical risks to report on ‘Antifa’ and similar groups.  Dr Judith Curry, who left academia in order to be able to pursue scientific truth on climate without overwhelming political pressure.  The basketball player Enes Freedom Kantor.  JK Rowling.  Abigail Shrier, who has dared to write about the role of social pressure in teenage transgender behavior.  Heather MacDonald. Numerous black conservatives and other blacks who have let themselves in for incredible racial abuse by departing from their expected support for the Democrats and their agenda.

May not be as dramatic as standing against the Redcoats with a musket, but this kind of courage is critically important at the present time.

One extremely positive event has been the takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk, who has not only eliminated the heavy-handed censorship but also allowed publication of the dismal details of what was going on there before.

On the very negative side is the outbreak of almost incomprehensible levels of anti-Semitism–and support for the Hamas barbarians–on America’s college campuses.  Note that this is almost entirely a phenomenon of the universities–especially the ‘elite’ universities–and certain large cities.  It’s not those rural people and Christians who have been perpetrating this atrociousness: it’s those who consider themselves to be educated and enlightened.  And here also, there is pushback from courageous individuals, such as professor Shai Davidai of Columbia.

These anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, and pro-barbarism events have caused many individuals–some of them quite wealthy–to break with the Democrats…and with the Ivy League academic establishment.

I can’t change the title on these 4th of July posts back to It Shall Be Sustained yet…but i believe that there is a reasonable chance for the future.

The 2022 version of this post is here, along with the comments.  Apologies for the weird typography, it is something caused by WordPress changes.

9 thoughts on “Shall It Be Sustained?”

  1. Let’s keep in mind that we are approaching our 250th Anniversary, the Semiquincentennial, in a couple of years. For those of us who (dimly) remember the Bicentennial both the significance of the celebration itself and the troubling times in which it was celebrated seem to have a resonance for today.

    The notion of whether this Republic can long endure is not a new one. There was Franklin’s quip “A republic if you can keep it” The lines in the Star Spangled Banner “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave” weren’t so much about the flag as much as the condition of the country that it represented. Then there are the lines in the Gettysburg Address, engraved on the south wall of the Lincoln Memorial. “that these dead shall not have died in vain…. and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” To this day I find those words chilling, our survival has always been much in question and the threat was always recognized from within as much from without

    Ask those who criticize America whether they believe the Declaration of Independence was wrong or simply not fully implemented. For most of our history, I believe the critics will claim the latter. Now I believe for the critics it is the former. Too many people, dominating one of our parties in their view of History as progress, the see the foundations of our Republic while good for their times as quaint relics that need to cast aside in favor of bigger ad better things. Those relics are shackles placed on a wonderful tool of collective effort called government that can deliver a bright and beautiful future guided by reason and Science.

    For many people, especially in our educated classes which want to lead us into that future, this is an appealing vision. It represents progress while critics who point to the dangers of tyranny are dismissed as an enemies of progress, who are stuck in beliefs developed before indoor plumbing. That’s why the fight to preserve the Republic has also always been a desperate one

    The current danger is marked by the fact that so many things that were once dismissed as conspiracy theories have been proven true

    Don’t think any of us can escape the current danger. There is no place to run, no comforting place to hide. Not running away in secession, dismissals of the enemy as green-haired DEI freaks, or comfort in decadence or despair. As Lincoln and the Founders remind us, we’ve been here before and in worst spots. Be like them; brave in thought and action, strategic in planning, gracious in friendship. It’s a good time to be alive.

  2. Every aspect of Orwell’s Big Brother is now in place in America — comprehensive surveillance, censorship, state propaganda, newspeak, wrongthink, thoughtcrime, the Big Lie, political prisoners, endless war, Two Minutes of Hate, and Goldstein played by Orange Man.

    Plus, horrors even Orwell didn’t imagine — open borders, invasion by illegals, the deliberate importation of criminals and mentally ill by government, rampant crime aided by the government, sex trafficking of women and children, abortion after birth, and sexual grooming of children.

    Big Brother is evil. The morally decent patriots in America still outnumber those who embrace and celebrate evil. But far too many regular people have yet to realize the full scope of the horrors the Democrats are imposing on us.

    We need to call evil what it is, and we need to call it out.

  3. Note — we cannot recover the constitutional republic without honest elections. Democrats have a long, sordid history of election fraud going back many decades.

    The 1960 election was stolen. The 2000 election was almost stolen. The 2020 election was stolen. I continue to be stunned by prominent supposed conservatives who pretend they aren’t convinced that 2020 was stolen. There are none so blind ….

    The theft of elections is an existential threat. Anyone who even pretends to care about America has a duty to examine the evidence and learn as much about the issue as possible. It’s simply too important. The dishonesty of the 2020 election casts an enormous shadow over every aspect of political life today.

    Isn’t it curious how these agnostics on the issue refuse to examine the mountain of evidence? I don’t think we should let them get away with ignoring it. Make them make an informed decision. It cannot be finessed.

  4. Elections used to be conducted with painstaking, obsessive transparency most places. Every step of the process subject to audit, seals and numerous observers from both sides. Those places where this wasn’t the case, and even there, the forms were observed while the mechanics of insuring the outcome were very much on the low-down.

    The outstanding thing about 2020 was just how inept all the fiddling was. Obviously, the fix was in with the attention of the media firmly fixed in another direction, any other direction. They were effective in intimidating those with the inclination of crying foul with the supposed enormity of calling a sacred election into question. As if questioning the election undermined its legitimacy rather than the complete lack of any answers to those questions. If it walk like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s a fraudulent election.

  5. I find the most discouraging thing about elections is how little anyone, including Republicans, care about electoral integrity. Put the specific events of the 2020 Election aside and simply ask why would anyone think that mass mail-in voting and ballot harvesting is a good idea?

    Personally, the real moments of departure happened after 2020. There was the Democratic response to the modest efforts by Georgia to tighten up gaping holes in the election laws including the hack President of the United States traveling to Georgia and calling ti Jim Crow II. Then there was Maricopa County in 2022 where voters at 1/3 of the voting centers were unable to cast ballots due to problems with tabulators. While there was an investigation the response by County officials was unacceptable calling it an opportunity for continuous improvement as if they were discussing developing a new iPhone rather than citizens exercising a fundamental right that the County has overseen for 100+ years.

    When looking at matters of public policy, especially for new initiatives, its easy to spin reasons for actions. However the best guide is to start with examples which provide standards for exploration. You want to institute mail-in balloting to lower barriers to participation? France bans mail-in balloting yet in their 2022 Election participation was at 73% and delivered same day results… what problem are we trying to solve here and why cannot we have a system that functional? Maybe there are good reasons for that, but somebody needs to explain why France can do things and we cannot.

    Another place for this is the post-Bruen regime of concealed-carry. Blue states, such as Maryland, are responding to that case by implementing very restrictive concealed-carry laws which will end up being thrown out in court. When I have asked various lawmakers the reason for these restrictions they point to the need for public safety, I point out that there are numerous examples of states that implemented concealed-carry with very few restrictions and saw little to no increase in gun crime including Arizona. One time I did this, the conversation quickly degenerated and I ended up asking said politician if they were just being stupid or dishonest and that his mother must be very proud of him that he was the type of politician our Founders warned us about. I should cut back on the caffeine

  6. I await the obvious(not really) reason that keeping voter rolls cleared of the deceased is somehow an attempt to keep minorities from voting.
    In Georgia the government provided a mobile registration bus that traveled the state to register voters who were unable to make it to the registration office.
    Still certain people claim that picture ID is a mechanism to stop minority voters from casting their ballots. And that is what is reported by the media, not the mobile office and how many have been provided with ID.
    It is too bad that the desire for power seems to make people amenable to stupid sounding ideas, and perfectly able to ignore things that contradict their pre-determined viewpoint.

  7. The outstanding thing about 2020 was just how inept all the fiddling was.

    The Democrats showed us in Arizona, in 2022, the new improved cheating. The Secretary of State, who is in charge of running elections, was the Democrat candidate for Governor. She declined all opportunities to debate her GOP rival candidate. Then, on election day, voting machines that had worked perfectly the day before, suddenly became unworkable in GOP districts. Such a mystery !

  8. Mike K., to add insult to injury after the report regarding the 2022 election debacle was released Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates stated Continuous improvement is what we do at Maricopa County, so I welcome this report…”

    I never realized that the conduct of elections, something that we have been doing in North America for the past 400 years, was something that elected officials consider still in the beta stage. I knew Bill back in the day, I guess it’s true what they say about politics, that it makes you into a weasel.

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