Consider this the palate cleanser of all palate cleansers after a week in which millions confused government diktats for liberty. Our friends at Hillsdale College offer this stirring and lovely version of America the Beautiful from the Hillsdale College Choir, in an inspirational video released this week. The song, first written as a poem 102 years ago, often comes up as a possible replacement for the Star Spangled Banner as the national anthem, and occasionally gets sung in its place at public events. The poem/lyrics present America as an aspirational nation, one striving to be, as Ronald Reagan put it, the “city on the hill” as we march toward the perfection of liberty and goodness.
This week, the march seems a little longer, but we struggle onward — perhaps with this ringing in our ears:
This particular verse seems relevant at the moment:
O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
Our body politic lacks plenty of self-control these days on all sides, but the last line is key. The only way to confirm liberty is to rely on the rule of law, not the rule of whim. When courts take it upon themselves to redefine the constitution based on the prevailing cultural whims rather than have legislatures address the law to conform to democratic self-government, we have begun marching down the latter road toward autocracy. When government officials levy ruinous fines over wedding cakes based on their own personal vindictiveness, we are walking back toward the “swarms of Officers [sent] to harass our people, and eat out their substance” noted in the Declaration of Independence. Our recourse is in the rule of law created by a self-governing free people, even though that does seem at times to be a nearly impossible goal.
That does not mean our best days are behind us. It just means that our hard work remains, as it always has, ahead of us. In the meantime, we’ll fly the banner of the free and remember why we sought independence from far-flung autocrats in the first place.