Quick, what was the first war our country had to fight? If you said “the revolutionary war” or even if you said, more accurately, the “war for independence”, hang your head. Wrong! The United States didn’t exist when we won our independence from Britain. The first war, which erupted in 1805, even before we elected our first president, lasted 32 years and culminated in a U.S. victory. Here’s a hint: The Marine Corps hymn is the oldest paean to the U.S. military, and contains the words “to the shores of Tripoli”. The oldest U.S. military monument was made to honor our men who fought and died in the Barbary Wars. The same war erupted again in 1812, when Barbary broke their treaty with us and again started raiding our ships. It is no coincidence that one of the first Federal crimes was piracy. At this time, the “Barbary” pirate bands of Tripoli, Tunis and Algiers had kidnapped thousands of European slaves, most for sexual abuse. When we think of pirates, we might have this ridiculous notion that they were like Johnny Depp or had British accents, but the most effective and brutal pirates in the world were from the Barbary states. To them, plunder of goods was secondary to waging jihad and collecting slaves for their sensual pleasure.
The pirates who sallied forth from Tripoli, Tunis and Algiers were a scourge on the economies of the maritime nations and a terror to the passengers and sailors who fell into their hands, knowing that what awaited them was sexual and physical abuse, being sold into slavery, or tortured, even while being held for ransom. Finally, the United States, Britain and France, in succession, defeated the Barbary states and set the captives free.
It is an interesting case of hypocrisy that Colin Kaepernick and Nike suppressed a shoe design based on the “Betsy Ross flag”, the flag which was carried into the battles to free the slaves of the Barbary–that is, Islamic–states. Why did they suppress it? They try to connect the War for Independence with slavery, which is no connection at all. Why not connect the flag with freeing the slaves of Barbary?
A few posts ago, I quoted G.K. Chesterton on patriotism. Our homeland, the nation which we are born into or became citizens of is not like a house that we can leave when we tire of it. It is like the love we have for our family: “It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more.”
Then there is Megan Rapinoe’s kind of love: “I’ll probably never put my hand over my heart,” the 33-year-old national co-captain told Yahoo sports. “I’ll probably never sing the national anthem again. I feel like I’m a walking protest, I feel like it’s kind of defiance in and of itself to just be who I am and wear the jersey, and represent it. Because I’m as talented as I am, I get to be here, you don’t get to tell me if I can be here or not. So it’s kind of a good ‘F you’ to any sort of inequality or bad sentiments that the [Trump] administration might have towards people who don’t look exactly like him.”
A “good kind” of F you?” Is there any good kind of hating someone enough to say F you? That’s pure contempt. Trump aside, there are some more foundational issues here. I won’t even try to judge her patriotism. You can read her comments, and Chesterton’s, and decide what kind of patriotism seeks the welfare of its object. The issues are representation, egotism and imitation. 1. Representation. When you wear a uniform, when that uniform bears the flag of your country and the logos of your sponsors, when you are on a team, when you are playing in front of fans who made financial sacrifices to be there, when you are being paid by your employer for your time and talent, you are promoting the game itself, you are a role model to those who look up to you, you are representing all of that. Whose interests come first, yours, or theirs? Your country and your sponsors want to be positively represented, your team wants victory with unity, the fans want to enjoy the game free of rancor, your employer expects you to respect their time and money—it isn’t about you or what you want to express. US soccer wants the game itself to be more popular, young girls want to emulate soccer stars. You are on their time, not yours. Your talent buys you the ability to enjoy your own time your own way, NOT the abuse of their time to signal your virtue.
2. Egotism. In four sentences she uses “I” eight times. That’s what her “protest” is about. It’s hard enough for most Americans to care about soccer, and then to witness the petulant displays of egotism? How many fans, in any country, want their kids to grow up being like she appears—petulant, selfish, egotistical, profane? Did she do the game itself any favors? She saw what Kaepernick’s protests did to the infinitely more popular NFL, how much less can US Women’s soccer afford a fan and sponsor backlash? Yeah, some sponsors, notably Nike—notice the swosh on the uniforms—may exploit the protest, but look at the uniforms they wear at other times. They have a lot of different sponsors. Women athletes complain about being paid less than men. Will this kind of activity and attitude lead to better pay?
3. Imitation.I judge my actions according to the probable effects, not just on me but on my world, by constantly asking myself, “if a million people were to do what I am about to do, would that make the world better or worse?” Apply that standard to her. Imagine that every member of the team did the same thing, spoke the same way. What would be improved? Would Donald Trump like people “who don’t look like him” any better? What a stupid statement anyway. What does she know about whom he likes? Can she read minds? Would racism, police community relations, or LGBTQ animus change for the better because every member of the team refused to sing the national anthem? Of course not. That’s the proper standard for judging yourself and your actions, unless you think your talent exempts you from any judgement.
Pete Buttigieg, Democratic presidential candidate, articulated the “perfectionist progressive” conflation/confusion of freedom with rights in his campaign-launch speech: “First comes freedom: something that our conservative friends have come to think of as their own….but freedom has been a Democratic bedrock ever since the New Deal. Health care is freedom. Consumer protection is freedom. Racial justice is freedom. Empowering teachers means freedom. Women’s equality is freedom. Organized labor sows freedom. The chance to live a life of your choosing, in keeping with your values, that is freedom in its richest sense. And we know that good government can secure such freedom just as much as bad government can deny it.”
I will call that the “positive” idea of freedom, or liberty (I use those two words interchangeably), positive as in additive (by the state). The “negative” idea of liberty is that true “rights” are endowed by our Creator, and the primary function of the state is to protect the exercise of those rights from those who would encroach on them, usually those who wish to add rights, which often come at the expense of someone else’s liberty. “Negative” liberty is inherently limited to one’s own ability to achieve his aspirations within the space allowed by the state and their own limitations. Our nation’s founders were primarily concerned with those rights which pre-exist government, and the subsequent limits upon the ability of the state to interfere with them. The more radical, “positive” conceptualization of freedom preferred by contemporary “perfectionist progressives” lacks any manner of limiting principle whatsoever, and therefore poses significantly more danger to our political discourse. Limited government is fundamentally unable to provide the never-ending stream of “rights” enumerated by the positive conception, so the removal of checks on state power is inevitable. It’s no coincidence that the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century spoke of freedom/liberty as “positive”, rather than “negative” in their pursuit of an imaginary perfect society, which always leads to the gulag or the grave for many of those not in power.
Edmund Burke, in 1790, wrote in his Reflections on the Revolution in France: “Government is not made in virtue of natural rights, which may and do exist in total independence of it, and exist in much greater clearness and in a much greater degree of abstract perfection; but their abstract perfection is their practical defect. By having a right to everything they want everything. Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Among these wants is to be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their passions. Society requires not only that the passions of individuals should be subjected, but that even in the mass and body, as well as in the individuals, the inclinations of men should frequently be thwarted, their will controlled, and their passions brought into subjection. This can only be done by a power out of themselves. What is the use of discussing a man’s abstract right to food or medicine? The question is upon the method of procuring and administering them. In that deliberation I shall always advise to call in the aid of the farmer and the physician rather than the professor of metaphysics.”
Self-government and the worthy habits that result, are THE FOUNDATIONS of a truly free society, one which protects God-given rights and the liberty to do what conscience requires, so that the fruits of those rights and habits may be enjoyed.BUT, how is self-government possible, when human beings deceive themselves constantly, strive inconsistently, fail regularly and shift the blame?My good friend and wise man, Robert Andrews, draws on the Bible for the answer(s).
Philippians 2:13: For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. “I cannot be free from the prison of self when I am constantly trapped in the self-absorbed doubts of, ‘Am I being obedient, am I maturing, am I pleasing God?’ Real freedom is living by doing what I want to do and knowing that God is, right now, directing my desires. How can that be? I have responsibilities in the world I must fulfill, in my family, job, finances, education, etc. How can I just do what I want to do? Here’s how.
“If I am late to work every day, thinking, ‘God loves me, has forgiven me fully and I can sleep in and be late if I want to,’ I will be right, but I will also be fired and have to find a new job. If I buy whatever I want with no financial planning or restraint, telling myself, ‘God will provide for us because He loves us,’ I will be right, but I may go bankrupt in the process and my family has to live in a tent. If I neglect to diligently train my children, based on the law of God in the Bible, thinking ‘I love them too much to discipline them. God will take care of them,’ I will be right, but they will suffer the struggles that children whose rebellion was never broken must face later in life.
“However, as I learn to walk by faith and not excuse my sin as I face these responsibilities, He convicts me of my tardiness, extravagance, and sloth and brings me to repentance and produces in me, by His power, the desire to be punctual, frugal and diligent. Ironically and counter-intuitively, this obedience-producing faith always is born and then flourishes out of facing and embracing my sin, weakness and failure rather than my strength and success.
“I am free! Free to obey God’s law or to disobey it, and I know His love and forgiveness for me never, ever wavers. Free to have an affair whenever I want to, to indulge in pornography whenever I want to, to lie, steal and cheat whenever I want to. Is that shocking? Yes, but the real shock comes when I find I have a waning desire to commit those sins as I walk by faith. Philippians 2:13 proves to be true. He is changing my ‘want to’s.’ If I am involved in sin, there will be consequences here on the earth in my life, but not in my relationship with God. The cross took care of all that.
“This is the true gospel, and as soon as we see this in our hearts, we are a threat to the enemy. The gates of Hell—arrayed around the government, the education system, the church, the arts, the trades, Wall Street, entertainment, athletics and every human endeavor—cannot stop our attack. By just being on site, wherever we go, the kingdom comes! We become dangerous, and Satan’s weakening hold on our culture is diminished. Jesus said, ‘And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ (John 8:32).”