Aristotle wrote his Nicomachean Ethics 340 years before Christ was born. Within that text, we find the Golden Mean–a call to virtue, the mean between two extremes, a deficiency of a virtuous quality, and an excess of the quality.
For example, if courage is the mean, rashness would be the excess, and cowardice would be the deficiency.
Today in America, we struggle to find a mean between Galt–a reference to Ayn Rand’s objectivism–and Gone–absolute rejection of American tradition.
Galt refers to a character in Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. John Galt attended Patrick Henry University, a fictional institution of higher learning.
Galt’s philosophy, the mirror of Rand’s, exalts the human spirit, capitalism, and atheism.
In alluding to Patrick Henry, Rand lauds his revolutionary quest for independence but rejects his faith.
And she wasn’t neutral in her renunciation of faith. She was virulently atheistic.
Not so Patrick Henry. When he argued that the colonists must go to war against the British, he declared that “An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!” Henry built his argument on a foundation of faith.
Many in the Galt camp today are gearing up for arms without God. A 2013 study claimed that 30 percent of those surveyed believed an armed revolution may be necessary to secure our constitutional rights.
We are no less divided now than we were then.
The Galt faction professes an excess of American bravado, absent the balancing influence of faith. It has moved beyond deficiency in faith to hostility.
The Galt excesses of bravado and hostility to faith eliminate the effects of faith: “Objectivism rejects the altruistic premise of self-sacrifice”–a pillar principle of Christianity.
The Gone faction in America is also hostile toward Christianity. But unlike the Galt perspective, this deficiency (of faith) and excess (of hatred for it) includes a rejection of American values. It equates Christianity, a conservative moral code, and a capitalist economy, with all the evils of slavery.
Gone urges deficiencies in order and faith and an excess of chaos. It preaches the message of critical theory–that society is comprised only of oppressed and oppressors. Every person is one or the other. There is none else.
Neither of these extremes can ever bring us to a peaceful, virtuous mean.
F.H. Buckley has written American Secession: The Looming Threat of a National Breakup. Here’s part of what goodreads.com says about the book:
“Across the world, large countries are staring down secession movements. Many have already split apart. Do we imagine that we, almost alone in the world, are immune? We had a civil war to prevent a secession, and we’re tempted to see that terrible precedent as proof against another effort. This book explodes that comforting belief and shows just how easy it would be for a state to exit the Union if that’s what its voters wanted.
“But if that isn’t what we really want, Buckley proposes another option, a kind of Secession Lite, that could heal our divisions while allowing us to keep our identity as Americans.”
Secession Lite would require a live and let live mentality. I’ve written before about the divide between city and country–the demarcation of much of our disagreement over faith, economics, and morality.
Perhaps Buckley has found a philosophical mean that could ensure freedom of conscience. For example, freedom for municipalities to respect life, if they choose. Freedom for pharmacists to refuse to provide the means for abortion. Freedom for children to openly pray in government-run schools.
Localities could be free to democratically decide what to do about crime, immigration, and education.
The idea of secession today sounds crazy. He tells us it’s not. It’s real and on the way.
Crazy is what we’re experiencing in 2020. Our divided house hovers over a chasm of chaos. And crazy will continue until we find a Golden Mean of citizenship we can agree on.
Or see our nation destroyed for its lack.