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Commentary & Opinion
Tue September 25, 2012
Paul Elisha: The Greatness of America
In 1835, a mere 59 years after the American colonies became the world’s most advanced republic, thereafter known as The United States of America, our most surprising and enabling ally – France – sent its most distinguished political historian, Alexis deTocqueville, to study and report on the status of this monumental experiment in popular self-government, as stipulated: ‘of, for and by its people.’
After an intensive study, deTocqueville began his report with this surprising statement: “I know of no country indeed where the love of money has taken a stronger hold on the affections of men.” He was also struck by the seemingly overwhelming attraction of Americans to guns, bibles and money – of which money seemed to be the strongest.
He also voiced these observations: “In America, everybody feels the evil but no one has courage or energy enough to seek the cure. Society,” he noted, “is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all.” After further study, he added this: “As one digs deeper into the national character of Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world, in an answer to a single question: How much money will it bring in?”
In this critical year of our still ongoing, vital experiment in government, envisioned by its founders as determined and managed by and for its citizens, is deTocqueville’s conclusion ultimately correct? It may well be, if we accept a view he added after a subsequent visit, a year or two later: “I know of no country,” he wrote, “in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America. In America, the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion.”
We dare not allow this to become prophetic, by virtue of also allowing an assertive minority, fuelled by the wealth of a conscienceless oligarchy, to silence the rest. Over the last several decades, a clique of corporate and mercantile conspirators, spurred by profit-primed sales persuaders, has cajoled, cudgeled and ultimately manipulated prospective purchasers into a debt-dominated mob, incapable of resisting sales coercion. This ultimate act of fiduciary Fascism could provide the death-blow to what might have been human history’s most miraculous achievement; recently nullified by a Supreme judiciary, intoxicated on political power it is sworn to shun.
To his credit, deTocqueville held one last observation in reserve, from which we might all still find insightful courage. “The greatness of America,” he wrote, “lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”
If enough ordinary and aroused Americans agree and speak out with determined voices, the miraculous dream our founders envisioned may yet become a realistic inheritance, for our children to preserve and cherish.
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