What are the roots of the American Left? And why it matters today.
Next we have to look at how that philosophy came to sink such great roots into our culture. It's reasonable to ask why this is important right now, just why should we care about things that happened in the late 18th century or the late 19th century or even through the 20th century. It matters because events from those years past, even that which can reasonably go back to 1789, are still making a tremendous impact on our world today.
I use that year because it was a year of two incredibly important events that continue to reverberate in our world today. In 1789 the US Constitution became the fundamental law of the land in America, it gave us the particular set up of our government as well as the laws it would function under. No one can argue that this event did not make any impact on the world at large, because of course it did and continues to do so. The other event in 1789, starting very close to the same time that the US Constitution would launch a brand new way of government and life, the French Revolution began.
I do not place the French Revolution at the storming of the Bastille. While that is something that plays well to imagery, the real beginning of the French Revolution came with the formation of the National Assembly, which took place about a month of so before the storming of the Bastille.
While on the face of it the American Revolution and the French Revolution are the same, a fight for freedom and liberty, the two events are in fact very different. That of course, is not how it is taught to Americans. What American students get primarily is that the American Revolution was "the shot heard 'round the world" and the history teachers go into the French Revolution, our buddies that helped us in our own revolution. They skim the main events of the French Revolution, and then to how the French send us Lady Liberty. By teaching the history in this way the American and French Revolution is linked in our minds as similar events in which ordinary people where seeking freedom from tyrannical Monarchs. What is taught very, very poorly is the basic philosophy behind each revolution and exactly the role that the great mass of both Americans and French who were not involved in the actual politics played. If you doubt what I am saying ask children that are old enough to have been taught this history who John Locke was and what did he write about.
When I did this myself a few months ago I was actually fairly shocked by what my two older kids said. The oldest is 21 and has a couple years of college under his belt, the other was 17 at the time, now just turned 18. She was in her last year of high school. I asked both of them who was John Locke and they could not tell me. I asked them if they knew who Jean Rousseau was and no they did not. Nor did they know Voltaire or Adam Smith. In short they did not know anything to speak of about those who provided the Enlightenment philosophies, they knew about the Enlightenment in a fairly superficial way but the not the philosophies that drove it. Which is an incredibly sad commentary on the school system today. I graduated in 1981, an eon ago to my kids, yet I was taught the basics of the main Enlightenment figures. My children defended their lack of knowledge to the school not have having enough time to teach history in depth. In fact neither of my children who are old enough to have gotten through high school even got any further in their history classes then the Korean War. What little they know about the Vietnam War and it's era is the asides they got in their history classes and the much more knowledge they have gained by simply talking to me. Yet is not the Vietnam era terribly important to us as Americans now?
The year 1789 gave us two different philosophies about government. One historians label Capitalism and the other Socialism. One primarily English/American, the other primarily French/West European. There is something of a problem however in those easy labels. Capitalism is an economic system, and while Socialism can be called an economic system, it is also a cultural system. Is Capitalism a cultural system? I would argue it is not. Under Capitalism one may function under a particular economic way of life while maintaining various cultural norms under that one system. Socialism on the other hand demands that all live under a specific set of cultural norms. It is this difference that has led to the "culture war" of America today.
To even the casual observer America has become very split, yet when one looks at voting there is a near 50/50 split between parties. I would argue that is because there are only two parties, and each party holds both moderate factions of their particular ideologies. America is trying to find a balance and depending on who seems more balanced there is a shifting, sometimes small sometimes large, between the two parties. Read this from Powerlineblog and it will be easier to understand what I am saying.
What the boys at Powerline are missing is the simmering culture war underneath it all. It is my belief that the culture war is being fueled specifically from the idea that socialism is a very specific culture and not simply an economic way of life. In other words for socialism to win in this country as an economic way of life, the foundation of this country, its very culture must be hacked out in order for socialism to florish as both culture and economic way of life.
To see how this has been taking place and how it matters today is what I am going to be writing about to a large extent. Right now I can so only on the surface because all the materials I need will include original source material as well as multiple other things. Some of that material must come from places like the Library of Congress, the FBI through Freedom of Information as well as collections of private papers held in University Libraries as well as other places. So bear with me as I go about this task that I feel is vitally important.
I will leave you with what I have written as something to consider. I have to get ready for work and can't go further at this time, and since I work 12 hour night shifts for the next four days I will likely not have too much to add for those days. But please come back and see where I am going with all this and the case I will be building for some time. We will be looking at the institutions that drive our culture, the people who have done so etc... and yes please, what happened more than 100 years ago does very much matter. It matters to your own life and lifestyle, it matters to what is happening in our churches, in our government, in the bed of our very culture. Americans are going to have to make some choices in the future and that cannot be done unless we have all the information. Stay tuned.