Let me ask readers a question. What's more important: freedom and its undergirding principles, or the entity meant to protect it? A word of caution: be careful how you answer that question, because the way you answer marks your understanding (or lack thereof) of both freedom and the purpose of government.
Thomas Jefferson–and the rest of America's founders–believed that freedom was the principal possession, because liberty is a divine–not human–gift. Listen to Jefferson:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men." (Declaration of Independence)
Jefferson could not be clearer: America's founders desired a land in which men might live in liberty. By declaring independence from the government of Great Britain (and instituting new government), Jefferson, et al., did not intend to erect an idol (government) that men would worship. They created a mechanism designed to protect that which they considered to be their most precious possession: liberty. In other words, the government they created by the Constitution of 1787 was not the object; freedom's protection was the object.
Again, listen to Jefferson: "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men." In other words, government is not the end; it is the means. Government is not the goal; it is the vehicle used to reach the goal. Nowhere did Jefferson (and the rest of America's founders) express the sentiment that government, itself, was the objective. Listen to Jefferson once more:
"That whenever ANY FORM OF GOVERNMENT becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." (Declaration) (Emphasis added.)
Jefferson is clear: people have a right to alter or abolish ANY FORM OF GOVERNMENT that becomes destructive to liberty. To America's founders, there was no such thing as a sacred cow when it came to government. Government had but one purpose: "to secure these rights." When ANY FORM of government stops protecting sacred, God-given liberties, it is the right and duty of people to do whatever they deem appropriate to secure their liberties–even to abolishing the government.
To America's founders, patriotism had everything to do with the love of liberty, not the love of government!
Today's brand of patriotism (at least as expressed by many) is totally foreign to the fundamental principles of liberty upon which America was built. I'm talking about the idea that government is an end and aim in itself; the idea that government must be protected from the people; the idea that bigger government equals better government; the idea that criticism of the government makes one unpatriotic; the idea that government is a panacea for all our ills; and the idea that loyalty to the nation equals loyalty to the government. All of this is a bunch of bull manure!
When government–ANY GOVERNMENT–stops protecting the liberties of its citizens, and especially when it begins trampling those liberties, it has become a "destructive" power, and needs to be altered or abolished. Period.
Can any honest, objective citizen not readily recognize that the current central government in Washington, D.C., long ago stopped protecting the God-given rights of free men, and has become a usurper of those rights? Is there the slightest doubt in the heart of any lover of liberty that the biggest threat to our liberties is not to be found in any foreign capital, but in that putrid province by the Potomac?
Therefore, we must cast off this phony idea that we owe some kind of devotion to the "system." Away with the notion that vowing to protect and prolong the "powers that be" makes us "good" Americans. The truth is, there is very little in Washington, D.C., that is worthy of protecting or prolonging. The "system" is a ravenous BEAST that is gorging itself on our liberties!
Patriotism has nothing to do with supporting a President, or being loyal to a political party, or anything of the sort.
Is it patriotic to support our country (which almost always means our government), "right or wrong"? This is one of the most misquoted clichés in American history, by the way. Big Government zealots (on both the right and the left) use this phrase often to try to stifle opposition by making people who would fight for smaller government appear "unpatriotic."
The cliché, "My country, right or wrong," comes from a short address delivered on the floor of the US Senate by Missouri Senator Carl Schurz. Taking a strong anti-imperialist position and having his patriotism questioned because of it (what's new, right?), Schurz, on February 29, 1872, said, "The senator from Wisconsin cannot frighten me by exclaiming, 'My country, right or wrong.' In one sense I say so, too. My country–and my country is the great American Republic. My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." (Source: The Congressional Globe, vol. 45, p. 1287)
Schurz then later expanded on this short statement in a speech delivered at the Anti-Imperialist Conference in Chicago, Illinois, on October 17, 1899. He said, "I confidently trust that the American people will prove themselves . . . too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: 'Our country, right or wrong!' They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of TRUE patriotism: 'Our country–when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.'" (Source: Speeches, Correspondence and Political Papers of Carl Schurz, vol. 6, 1913, p. 119) (Emphasis in original.)
Amen! In a free society, genuine patriotism demands that our country be RIGHT, as our nation's policies and practices reflect the values and principles of its citizens. To feign some kind of robotic devotion to a nation without regard to sacred principle or constitutional fidelity is to become a mindless creature: at best, to be manipulated by any and every Machiavellian that comes along, or, at worst, to be a willing participant in tyranny.
As to loyalty to a President merely because he is President, Theodore Roosevelt may have said it best:
"Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth–whether about the President or anyone else."
Hence, freedom-loving Americans cannot afford to become infatuated with Washington, D.C. We cannot allow these propagandists on network television to distort the meaning of true patriotism in our hearts.
Patriotism means we love freedom. It means we understand that freedom is a gift of God. It means we understand that government has only one legitimate function: to protect freedom. It means that our love of liberty demands that we oppose, alter, or even abolish ANY FORM of government that becomes destructive to these ends. And it means that we will never allow government to steal liberty from our hearts.
As I asked at the beginning of this column, What's more important: freedom and its undergirding principles, or the entity meant to protect it? The right answer is, freedom and its undergirding principles. If you understand that, then you rightly understand that the current government we find ourselves under is in desperate need of replacement. And whatever, however, and whenever that replacement reveals itself is not nearly as important as that liberty is preserved.
On the other hand, if you mistakenly believe that government (the entity meant to protect liberty) is more important than liberty, you are both tragically deceived and pathetically impotent to preserving freedom. You may also have identified yourself as an enemy of freedom.
As for me and my house, we will stand with Jefferson's Declaration of Independence–in whatever form it may present itself in a modern world bent on dismantling our liberties. In other words, I pledge no loyalty to any government that seeks to destroy our freedom–including the current one!