We are just a few days from the Fourth of July, and many who
bear witness to current cultural trends are asking the obvious question: are we
in for the most anti-American Independence Day yet?
While some will proudly fly the American flag this Fourth, others will burn it. This divisive mood has been fed by school curricula, university syllabi and corporate employee trainings that paint a dark picture of the formation of our country.
Critical Race Theory (CRT), like other forms of Marxism, insists that the primary characteristic of any society is the conflict between its people. CRT divides people into two basic and conflicting camps—oppressors and the oppressed—on the basis of physical differences.
CRT and similar worldviews insist that conflict within America is an inevitable product of its design—that America stands for and is designed to exhibit the worst examples of human interaction (i.e., that our country is "systemically racist.") Their proponents contend that any societal progress must come from fighting and even overthrowing a tainted American design, not working through it.
This is entirely backwards. America is not a flawed country with a few redeeming qualities. It is an exceptionally good country that, as a product of a flawed humanity, can and does exhibit flaws.
The battle between these perspectives is what we are currently witnessing; and indeed, it will come to a head this Fourth.
America's history is one of confronting flaws, fighting flaws and righting flaws. This process has been such a regular feature of American life that it reveals the true nature of America's design and institutions. Our progress is not complete, but the process is nonetheless possible and even encouraged by the country's design.
For every racist motive that a CRT proponent reads into the founding documents, there is ample virtue expressed therein. The Declaration of Independence insists that Americans are naturally, unconditionally entitled to equality and freedom. The result of the Founders' efforts was a country destined for a free citizenry with equality under the law.
The blueprint wasn't perfect. Reflections of antebellum society, like the three-fifths compromise, are frequently used as evidence of a flawed design. But to focus exclusively on such features would not do justice to the founding documents. The truth is that they nurtured a better society despite their historical context.
Visitors wait in line to view the original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.GETTY/ALEX WONG
America, by design a republic, recognizes individual rights that withstand the whims of government and the attitudes of the majority. The Bill of Rights promises the freedom to speak and demonstrate, to assemble and be free of government harassment, to every individual no matter the contemporary mood of the public about race, class, gender or any controversial issue. Most importantly, the Bill of Rights is not conditioned on citizens' outward characteristics. There is no three-fifths limitation on any of its rights.
To allow for the progress that was to come, the Framers designed an amendment procedure for the Constitution. And to enable citizens' "pursuit of happiness," America was developed inextricably with a free and accessible market that would ensure economic liberty. And as for the equal application of the law, judicial review developed as a noble and immutable part of American jurisprudence.
America's design shaped America's history. And America's history reflects a trend of progress towards the Founders' aspirational ideals of virtue—not in opposition to them. America fought a civil war to end slavery and a world war to defeat fascism; it begat the women's suffrage movement and the civil rights movement.
Over this history, America has developed a reputation around the world that causes many millions to immigrate. The American dream entices the most remote populations and inspires democratic revolutions abroad. American symbology—like the Statue of Liberty, the personification of freedom atop the Capitol rotunda or the blind Lady Justice that adorns every American courtroom—is synonymous with noble virtues.
Even for those who disagree, the American conceptualization of liberty uniquely defends the activist. It protects the protestor; the harshest citizen critics are free to express themselves peacefully.
Surely these are the primary characteristics of American society. And, surely, these are reflections of a good society, worthy of celebration.
It is right to acknowledge the sins of our past, but wrong to distill our country to flaws shared by all humanity. Those who would welcome a "revolution" idealize systems of government which—in practice—stifle reform and endanger dissent.
A government with no basis in natural rights—or a government that is not predicated on freedom—would mean a government of elites who define justice and allocate resources according to their own views. This would be a government destined for oppression.
The world recently witnessed the civil rights efforts in Hong Kong—and the Chinese government's extraordinary action to stamp out resistance. The effort has quieted largely without reform. China is governed by an elite. The communist party leaders define the "social good," allocate resources according to their own sense of fairness and certainly never celebrate freedom. This is no example to follow.
Whether one looks into America's original design or around the world, it becomes clear that the stars and stripes are still worth hoisting.
Bryan Griffin is an author, political commentator, Distinguished Fellow at the Herb London Center for Policy Research, and co-founder of the Emergency Committee for America.
The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.