"The disposition of all power is to abuses, nor does it at all mend the matter that its possessors are a majority. Unrestrained political authority, though it be confided to masses, cannot be trusted without positive limitations, men in bodies being but an aggregation of the passions, weaknesses and interests of men as individuals." ~ James Fenimore Cooper
The Roots of America's Downfall
The most striking characteristic of this website'and indeed, the fact is reflected in its very name'is its commitment to the eradication of evil at its root. Thoreau recognized that a blind lashing out at the mere symptoms of evil would never resolve our social problems.
When it comes to the United States , social critics have always lamented its state of crisis. This is just as true today as it was in the '60s, but also as it was in the 1940s (when conservative commentators were shocked at the radical immorality and other trends of social decay). In the realm of politics, strict Constitutionalists pine for the days when politicians actually had to justify federal funding for interstate highways as a measure of national defense. (This was because the U.S. Constitution says nothing about money for roads, and thus without the lame excuse the politicians couldn't pass their bills with a straight face. Back then, people still cared if the federal government did something not authorized by the Constitution.)
In today's climate, the big bad issue is of course the War on Terrorism, and in particular our invasion and occupation of Iraq . I hate to admit it, but even I (a pacifist and antiwar writer from the get-go) can't really remember what it was like only a few years ago, when it would have been absolutely inconceivable that the U.S. could actually invade another country that had not attacked it first. My shock and horror over the Bush Doctrine has subsided with time; I honestly can't get as worked up about it as I once did.
Now where did this problem come from? How is it possible that the USA , by far the greatest and most successful experiment in limited government in human history, got to the point where it literally invades other countries and seizes control of their oil reserves? And, what is even more inexplicable, how could the government have done this without causing many people to sit up and take notice?
Of course we can blame the 9/11 attacks. And then we can go back to our meddling in foreign affairs since World War II. Ultimately we can go back to Woodrow Wilson's transformation of America 's perceived role in the world. A smaller group would push the analysis back even further, and blame Abraham Lincoln for putting America on the wrong track. You could easily make the case that Thomas Jefferson was at fault for his unconstitutional Louisiana purchase .
I'm sorry to say it, but there's really no place you can stop and say, 'Aha! Up until this point, our country was great. But then unjustified aggression entered the scene and ruined it.' The sad fact is, our country was founded on violence.
Our War for Independence was not fought nobly. Although exemplary in relative terms, our 'founding fathers' did not hesitate to employ coercion. Not everyone in the Continental Army was a volunteer.
Even those individual 'heroes' of our Revolutionary lore are not so noble after all. The men who dressed as Indians during the Boston Tea Party were thieves. They acted in response to illegitimate taxation, to be sure, but they were thieves nonetheless.
Notice that I haven't even mentioned the obvious blemish of slavery. Someone could argue that slavery was not integral to our nation's founding, and with this I agree. But the claim I am making is that our Revolutionary War, and indeed the Constitutional Convention several years later, were all coercive activities, in which innocent people's rights were violated to serve the 'national interest.'
Yes, the Muslim fanatics who hijacked airplanes on September 11 committed great evils, no matter how legitimate their grievances against certain governments may have been. But let us not forget that, strictly speaking, the British would have rightly considered our own Sam Adams a terrorist.