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BE THE PEOPLEA Call to Reclaim America's Faith and Promise
By Carol M. Swain
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Carol M. Swain
All right reserved.
Chapter OneReshaping Our National Identity
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men ... 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 ... in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. —Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence
It is good to appear clement, trustworthy, humane, religious, and honest, and also to be so, but always with the mind so deposed that, when the occasion arises not to be so, you can become the opposite ... Let a prince then concern himself with the acquisition of a state; the means employed will always be considered honorable and praised by all, for the mass of mankind is always swayed by appearances and by the outcome of an enterprise. —Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
The audience was clearly impassioned. Panelists were divided between supporters of reparations for black slavery and pragmatists, such as myself, who rejected the idea as impractical. At one point in the discussion, a well-dressed, middle-aged black man in the audience stood up, identified himself as a successful Harvard graduate, and proceeded to tell the packed audience that nothing much had changed in America for blacks since slavery. He claimed that the country was as racist as it had ever been and would always be. I nearly choked.
I glanced at the man and then studied the faces of students nodding in gullible agreement. I thought, How could a man who has obviously enjoyed the fruits of success give America's youth such a dismal message? Unfortunately, I hear negativity like this dispensed often across America by a rainbow coalition of liberals who seem to disdain the country I hold dear.
As a high school dropout and teenage mother in the 1970s, I could see the promise of a better life glimmering before me. I trusted in the American Dream. I believed that if I worked hard enough and played by the rules, my efforts would be rewarded one day. I was one of twelve children born in extreme rural poverty, but even I could arise and make something of myself.
And I did. I earned a GED, went to a community college, and graduated from a four-year college. I moved on to graduate school, where I earned the academic degrees that allowed me to become a university professor. But when I worked in an Ivy League school, I was a fish out of water. I shouldered the disregard of the arrogant, liberal mind-set that showed little patience for a black conservative woman with a thick Southern accent. Looking back on those early years, I chuckle and say, "God has a sense of humor." Nothing else could explain this journey I'm on.
I was born in 1954 and grew up at a time when patriotism and respect for authority still mattered. Unlike many people I've encountered at elite institutions, I've always loved and been proud of my country. I embrace traditional values. I count myself among the middle-aged nerds who never smoked a joint or quite understood all the protests of the 1960s. Through it all, I developed and have sustained a sense of patriotism that now mixes with faith in God.
Today I am in the uncomfortable yet opportune position of being an African American academic who disapproves of the unbiblical direction my country has taken in recent years. I proudly wear my American flag pin, salute the American flag, and stand while our national anthem is played. I believe that America is still the greatest nation in the world. I have written this book because I care about this nation and the promise it still holds. This book sounds a rallying cry for my fellow Americans to stand up and reclaim the promises of life, liberty, and justice envisioned by our forefathers, many of whom were deeply committed to Judeo-Christian values and principles.
This book sounds a rallying cry for my fellow Americans to stand up and reclaim the promises of life, liberty, and justice envisioned by our forefathers.
People find it surprising that I take offense when I hear national leaders end their speeches with "God bless America!" This unsettles me, because a national leader asking a blessing from God assumes two things: first, that America acknowledges God, and second, that America considers itself worthy of blessing. However, we must face foundational problems that lie in these assumptions. First, our government has repeatedly taken actions to alienate itself from God. And second, which actions or attitudes in American society in recent memory would warrant God's blessing? While surveys show that the overwhelming majority of Americans profess to believe in the Judeo-Christian God, our individual actions and government policies often disregard or disdain anything holy or sacred. In recent years, we have allowed politicians, educators, media experts, and cultural leaders to persuade us to embrace behaviors diametrically opposed to biblical teachings.
The cold winds of change sweeping through Washington, D.C., and our nation are damning evidence that even though we say we believe in God, we live like atheists. We consider God to be either nonexistent or irrelevant—and certainly not in the business of distributing rewards and punishments. The solemn vows of faith that once impelled our leaders to bravery and provided the solid principles upon which our country was founded have been broken and abandoned to the wind. The virtues produced by faith in God have been banished from our borders.
For the most part, We the People have met the recent radical shifts in our nation with a collective shrug. Thus we have been complicit in not only the erosion of our constitutional rights but also the spiritual malaise that grips our nation.
Recent grassroots uprisings reflect growing disillusionment and demonstrate that we finally realize something is profoundly wrong in our beloved country. The rules of morality have changed, and we sense that the new moral relativism will ultimately result in harm, not good. A Gallup poll taken in 2010 found that 76 percent of Americans agree that moral values have deteriorated. Similarly, a Rasmussen Reports survey found 65 percent agreeing that the United States is headed in the wrong direction.
For the most part, We the People have met the recent radical shifts in our nation with a collective shrug.
Americans' acceptance of cultural relativism has opened the floodgates for many changes. Cultural relativism rejects absolute right or wrong, teaching that truth is valid only for a particular society at a given point in time. Acceptance of this worldview creates an environment in which tolerance is elevated as the highest virtue. In order to gain control and indoctrinate others, "cultural enforcers" in media, education, and government have seized responsibility to set the standards of behavior for the rest of the American people. Often these efforts are tragically well-intentioned, motivated by a desire to create a better world—a utopian society that replaces old values and norms with a better way of life.
Columnist Chris Hedges argues that a small number of elite educational institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Oxford, and Cambridge shape a disproportionate number of editors and reporters for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. These institutions also produce many Supreme Court justices, members of Congress, corporate executives, political nominees, and presidential Cabinet members. According to Hedges, who is a product of the institutions he criticizes, these universities mold students from the same "cookie cutter" and socialize them to think and act alike:
The elite institutions disdain honest intellectual inquiry, which is by its nature distrustful of authority, fiercely independent, and often subversive. They organize learning around minutely specialized disciplines, narrow answers, and rigid structures designed to produce answers. The established corporate hierarchies these institutions service—economic, political, and social—come with clear parameters, such as the primacy of an unfettered free market, and also with a highly specialized vocabulary. This vocabulary, a sign of the "specialist" and, of course, the elitist, thwarts universal understanding. It keeps the uninitiated from asking unpleasant questions.
As a university professor I, too, have observed a strong tendency of people educated at elite institutions to smirk at working-class Americans and those whose dialects and behaviors identify them as outsiders. Cultural enforcers disdain the use of biblical references as explanations for human problems. They act as if the answer to every problem lies in the secular humanist's reasoning. Americans empower this group when we weakly defer to their so-called expert opinions, even when these opinions lack sound judgment.
At less-elite institutions of higher learning, administrators and faculties often forget their unique roles as they strive to mimic the universities of the Northeast. Often I hear of institutions of higher learning seeking to be known as the Harvard of the South or the Harvard of the West, yet this is a problematic quest. Our universities rarely, if ever, challenge politically correct rules that demand religious arguments, texts, and references be off-limits in public debates because of the separation of church and state. Many of us have bowed to the atheistic arguments of cultural enforcers at elite universities, even though an overwhelming majority of Americans describe themselves as Christians and even more as believers in Almighty God.
Also highly disturbing is evidence that our nation is following a path strikingly similar to totalitarian societies. In these societies, government gains control over the media, the economy, and educational and religious institutions. Those in power possess the means to shape and manipulate information. Today in America, cultural enforcers are seeking control and deceiving citizens into supporting policies and practices detrimental to our individual and collective interests. Some Americans have awakened to the cultural forces reshaping society but feel powerless to resist. Most prominent among the people who are successfully fighting back are those within the Tea Party movement, largely composed of first-time activists, which swept the country in 2009 and 2010.
Many of us have bowed to the atheistic arguments of cultural enforcers at elite universities, even though an overwhelming majority of Americans describe themselves as Christians and even more as believers in Almighty God.
One of those fighting back is Matt Moynihan, a thirtyish Vanderbilt University graduate and married father. Moynihan cofounded the Sumner County, Tennessee, Tea Party in February 2009 and writes editorials for a conservative newspaper. The election of Barack Obama catapulted Moynihan into action. "I was never involved in politics until the fall of 2008," he said. "I saw we were losing what was beautiful about the country, what our Founding Fathers envisioned and what has made us the envy of the world ... Electing a black man fueled a celebration of overcoming racism ... [and] in the process we failed to look at the values of the individual being elected ... I don't think the Founding Fathers expected it to be this way."
George Orwell examined the process of systematic cultural change in his riveting novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Sobering—perhaps even chilling—parallels can be seen between twenty-first-century America and the country of Oceania depicted in Orwell's novel. Oceania is a totalitarian society in which government controls every facet of life, including thought. Citizens of Oceania can never be sure when or where the government is monitoring them. They are not free to create or think beyond the boundaries set by "Big Brother," their ruler. Big Brother exerts control through strategic deception, manipulation of rhetoric and language, and revision of history.
Oceania's four government agencies execute its policies. The Ministry of Love administers law and order, the Ministry of Peace conducts war, the Ministry of Plenty controls the economy and the production of goods, and the Ministry of Truth writes and rewrites the history of the nation by exerting power over the news media, schools, entertainment, and arts—all to strengthen Big Brother's grip on society.
LANGUAGE, REVISIONIST HISTORY, AND THE ROLE OF DECEPTION
In Orwell's world, language controls thought. The government manipulates and controls the context and flow of information, producing an illusion of truth. Words are regularly redefined and given new meanings that contradict what they formerly represented. For instance, the definitions of truth and justice are reinvented: "War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, and Ignorance Is Truth."
Oceania's governmental enforcers use a thought-control technique called "doublethink" to befuddle citizens into accepting government-controlled messages. New messages often contradict previously held directives. Citizens are forbidden from questioning government or holding it accountable for actions. One propaganda slogan encapsulates the government's philosophy of deception: "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."
BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU
The reality of Oceania is knocking on America's doors in the form of increased surveillance and White House authorization to assassinate American citizens suspected of terrorist links. Acting on recommendations of the Defense Science Board, the Obama Pentagon in January 2010 pushed for creation of an Office of Strategic Deception to gather and disseminate information to confuse America's enemies. That idea fortunately never left the proposal stage. But if an Office of Strategic Deception does not cause chills, perhaps other American similarities shared with Oceania produce alarm. In August 2009, West Virginia senator Jay Rockefeller introduced legislation (S.773) that would give the president emergency control over the Internet. Rockefeller's bill has been making its way through Congress.
In February 2010, Americans learned that Google, the world's largest Internet company, had entered an information-sharing agreement with the same National Security Agency that would gain control under the Rockefeller bill. This unusual agreement between the government and a private company potentially compromises the privacy of millions of Americans who use Google's search engine on a daily basis.
The reality of Oceania is knocking on America's doors in the form of increased surveillance and White House authorization to assassinate American citizens suspected of terrorist links.
In July 2010, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) published reports that Consumer Watchdogs, an advocacy group, was asking Congress to investigate reports that Google was using its roaming street view to spy on members of Congress. It was reported that Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and eighteen members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee had their homes pictured on Google's StreetView. For this to have happened suggested that their Wi-Fi networks had been scanned. Google later acknowledged that it recorded information that came across on unencrypted Wi-Fi networks. Harman's system was unencrypted.
Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security now monitors social networking and news sites, blogs, and search engines. Twitter, Facebook, the Drudge Report, the Huffington Post, Google, and the Blotter rank among its targets. Existing government-sanctioned Internet surveillance goes beyond searches for terrorists and allows the government to investigate and apprehend drug dealers, "tax delinquents, copyright infringers and political protesters."
In January 2010, the Washington Post reported that President Obama had signed off on documents that would allow the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command to assassinate US citizens living abroad if the agencies suspect an al Qaeda connection or a potential threat to other Americans. This action allows assassinations of Americans, even if they are not involved in combat situations. Assassinating an American citizen without a trial seemingly violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the long-held understanding of how the rule of law operates in a democratic republic. In Oceania, the state vaporized its enemies.
Excerpted from BE THE PEOPLE by Carol M. Swain Copyright © 2011 by Carol M. Swain. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
A Risk Well Worth Taking....................1
PART ONE BROKEN VOWS: FORSAKING WHAT WE ONCE KNEW....................5
1. Reshaping Our National Identity....................7
2. America's Religious Roots....................21
3. Abortion's Fragile Facade....................47
PART TWO BANISHED VIRTUES: RECLAIMING TRUTH AND JUSTICE IN POLICY CHOICES....................83
4. Family Matters....................85
5. Immigration, the Rule of Law, and National Sovereignty....................131
6. Moving Beyond Race and Racism....................171
7. Racial Politics: President Obama and Me....................191
8. Reclaiming America's Faith and Promise....................219
Appendix A: The Ten Commandments....................231
Appendix B: The Declaration of Independence....................233
Appendix C: The Bill of Rights....................239
Appendix D: The Constitution of the United States of America (1787)....................243
About the Author....................321