The Civil War of Ideas

On the 158th anniversary of The Gettygburg Address, author Allen Thomas expounds on The Civil War of Ideas that we face in America today. Allen challenges us to take an honest look at our history. He explains that our failures occurred because we did not uphold the principles of our Founding and challenges us, like Lincoln, to reclaim our American Ideals.

Most everyone knows the opening of the Gettysburg Address, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation…”  Many laud the timeliness of Lincoln’s prose, and yet, on the anniversary of the notorious delivery, I find that the end of the notable first sentence perfectly frames the increasingly divisive political argument in today’s times: “A new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  The 1619 project, BLM, Critical Race Theory, and modern progressives disagree with the very premise and theme of Lincoln’s address; they argue that our nation was not conceived in Liberty and never has been equal.

So, today I pose to you, was this nation indeed conceived in Liberty?  One thing progressives correctly state is that we as a nation have not lived up to the noble but lofty standard of treating all men and women equally.  Slavery, the Trail of Tears, and Japanese American Internment camps are all glaring examples of that immense failure.  However, the cause for why we have not reached Lincoln’s noble but lofty goal does not align with the progressive ideal.  I would wager money that every failure that America has had is because we did not treat each other equally and instead abused government force to the advantage of one side.  What progressives fail to mention is that the reason all these failures of America are so terrible is because we failed to achieve the lofty goal and idea that this country was founded on.  The Trail of Tears never happens if Native Americans are treated like people.  We never create internment camps if we believe in the individual rights of all American citizens.  It is by treating people along racial lines that we have failed and become divided.  It is government force that has persuaded many men to value power over individual freedom.   What would the state of our country look like today if every individual embraced the goal of individual rights of all American citizens?

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”  While the civil war we are fighting today may not necessarily involve physical violence (just mostly peaceful protests apparently) we are indeed at war for the future of the nation.  The forces against Liberty are great and institutional, but we have freedom on our side.  We have the moral, principled and more-free high-ground.  But our country has an enormous deficit in civic knowledge, a massive misunderstanding of the proper purpose of government, and a foundational difference of understanding of human nature.  Freedom is a lofty goal, a goal that is unlikely to ever be fully reached due to human nature, but nevertheless it is a goal that is worth striving and fighting for. We must be vigilant, not in that we are right and they are wrong, for Lincoln sat hat in hand with men wounded before him, begging that the nation be united in one foundational principle: that man must be and is free.  We must never stop fighting for the goal and the soul of the country.

I leave you with the conclusion of the Address from Lincoln, begging his fellow citizens, as I beg you, to believe in the audacious idea of the individual and to fight for their right to be free.  “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”



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