“At issue in the Hiss case,” wrote Whittaker Chambers in his autobiography Witness, “was the question of whether this sick society, which we call Western civilization, could in its extremity still cast up a man whose faith in it was so great that he would voluntarily abandon those things which men hold good, including life, to defend it.”
In August 1948, Chambers, an editor at Time, identified former assistant to the Secretary of State and former General Secretary of the United Nations Alger Hiss as a fellow member of his underground Communist cell in the 1930s. Hiss was ultimately convicted of perjury for denying his espionage activities and sentenced to five years in jail. Chambers was further vindicated in the mid 1990’s as the Venoma transcripts, secret KGB and GRU messages during World War II, were released and confirmed that Hiss had been a Soviet spy not only in the 1930s, but at least until 1945.
In Witness, Chambers goes on to write that at issue in the Hiss case was whether his “faith could prevail against a man whose equal faith it was that this society is sick beyond saving, and that mercy itself pleads for its swift extinction and replacement by another.”
“At issue was the question whether, in the desperately divided society, there still remained the will to recognize the issues in time to offset the immense rally of public power to distort and pervert the facts?” Chambers asked.
This is ultimately the question of our time as our society is losing the power not only to distinguish between reality and fantasy, but also the ability to distinguish between good and evil.
At some point this fundamental question needs to be asked as we take a step back and look at the agenda that is being pushed, as blatant lies, delusional insanity, and outright evil have seeped into our society from the influence of a few upon the many who are not naturally corrupt. The agenda behind this push is what Chambers defined as “the dimension of treason in our time.” Chambers elaborated, “In the 20th century, treason became a vocation whose modern form was specifically the treason of ideas.”
That movement is emboldened within society today, acting under the guise of progressivism and Democratic socialism and the treason it supports is specifically that in which any idea that goes against the orthodoxy is to be extinguished. Simply put, they truly believe that there is no alternative to their ideas and they are prepared to use force against anyone who dares question them.
Yesterday’s fascists have become today’s “anti-fascists,” pummeling opponents in the street who dare to question their ideology while claiming to be victims as they remain ever on the offensive. While communists and socialists have shed their labels and evolved their tactics, their ideas now permeate throughout our intellectual and moral foundations and within the institutions traditionally established for the preservation of those foundations, but the streets as well. Although the past solutions under this movement to create a social order based on false intellectual doctrines have ultimately failed, liberals today remain steadfast in their pursuit to contaminate and eventually annihilate what remains of our forgotten republic.
We’ve reached this point in time not solely due to the “treason of ideas” to which Chambers alluded, but because we have accepted, with little fight, the decay of the principles upon which our republic was founded. In the final days of the Roman republic, Cicero made a statement that today should resonate with Americans who are worried about the decay of our republican institutions. Cicero wrote, “The Republic, when it was handed down to us, was like a beautiful painting, whose colors were already fading with age. Our own time has not only neglected to freshen it by renewing its original colors, but has not even gone to the trouble of preserving its design and portrayal of figures.” The Roman republic fell because few heeded the warnings of those like Cicero and even fewer attempted to preserve its original design. Thus, in the span of a hundred years, Rome was transformed from a republic with democratic institutions into an empire under the control of one man.
“The progressive agenda from its early days at the turn of the twentieth century until the modern day, has been aimed at placing a new cornerstone at America’s foundation,” writes Jarrett Stepman. “Rejecting both the ‘natural law’ ideas of individual rights and the carefully crafted system of federalism codified by the Constitution, progressives have radically increased state power, placed more power in the hands of the executive branch, and created the bureaucratic-administrative state that now runs rampant.”
Rome had a few great men in its last days as a republic but no movement to back them, notes Stepman. “In this regard, modern conservatives have an advantage … and should take to heart Cicero’s lament that the republic was dying because few attempted to freshen its original principles.” The disastrous result of the progressive agenda is a populous that upholds mediocrity in the name of relativism with an ever-expanding and centralized government that is unmoored from constitutional limits. Or worse.
We must turn to the voices of our Founders if we are to ever regain what was once our republic. Speaking about the conditions in which Caesar came to power in Rome, Thomas Jefferson wrote the following: “If Caesar had been as virtuous as he was daring and sagacious, what could he, even in the plenitude of his usurped power, have done to lead his fellow citizens into good government?”
Jefferson continues, “Steeped in corruption, vice and venality, as the whole nation was,… what could even Cicero, Cato, Brutus have done, had it been referred to them to establish a good government for their country?” The problems we face today are just as immense, but their solution lies in the education and enlightenment of the people and the emergence of a spirit that will serve as a foundation for independence and self-government.
The solution is in the reformation of the American mind. According to Jefferson this reformation of the mind is “to be informed, by education, what is right and what wrong; to be encouraged in habits of virtue and deterred from those of vice by the dread of punishments proportioned indeed, but irremissible; in all cases, to follow truth as the only safe guide, and to eschew error, which bewilder us in one false consequence after another in endless succession.” These are the inculcations necessary to render the American people a sure basis for the structure of order and good government.
We face a daunting task in restraining and reviving the sturdy virtues required for self-government while at the same time restoring the principles of America’s Founders to their proper role in the public and political discourse. With all the crises and chaos that consume us throughout each day, we have all but forgotten that the real heart of our own government depends upon the heart of the people. It is from that source that we must look for all genuine reform. It is to that cause that we must ascribe all our results.
In his Speech on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Calvin Coolidge eloquently defined the history in which we ourselves must rediscover. Coolidge stated that, “governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments.
He added: “Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people. The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.”
It is only through the observance of the principles laid out by our Founding Fathers in the Constitution that can save the character of our nation and restore the republic for which it stands. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.