Best-selling author Douglas Murray spoke at the UNC Free Speech Alliance kickoff event last week co-sponsored by the Common Sense Society on the Chapel Hill campus. The title of his address was “Free Speech in the West.”
We will settle for free speech at Carolina to begin with. The rest of western civilization can come next.
As he ruminated about various falsehoods about America’s past which have been propagated by the activist left and mainstream media types, he posited one profound and troubling question for everyone to consider:
“Where would people turn if America no longer existed?”
It may seem like an idle comment from an idealistic apologist for the Great American Experiment ― but it is not. As much as the radical left wants to tear down America and every historic proponent of American values in the past, Murray pointed out they never provide any vision for what they want to replace our current democratic republican form of government and capitalist economy.
Where would such rebels, revolutionaries and nihilists get their ideas and philosophies for setting up the Second America if they succeed?
We already know they would turn to the writings of Karl Marx. BLM and any number of far-Left socialist activist organizations in America openly confirmed their reliance on communist ideology until they erased it from their websites. Their words and actions, however, can’t erase what they really believe.
Would these rebels turn to China for inspiration for the New America they envision? If any culture’s history confirms Winston Churchill’s observation in the House of Commons in 1945: “The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries”, then it is most definitely China. Hundreds of millions of Chinese have been murdered by the communist leaders of China since World War II. “Human rights” and “civil justice” are two treasured American values one never hears associated with Chinese history which spans close to 5000 years.
How about Russia? Vladimir Putin reminds the world on a daily basis how ruthless Russian tsars, princes and communist dictators have been throughout history. Russia is headed toward becoming a third-world country with an annual GDP far below Texas and declining birth rates which may cut its population by 30% by 2050.
No sane person wants to leave America and live in Russia. For good reason.
How about Germany, the economic powerhouse engine of the European Union? Murray pointed out Germans are the only people with words that connote the sense of “the weight of history” such as Vergangenheitsbewältigung (reckoning with the past) and Gesellschaftsgeschichte (the history of society). It is hard to look towards German thought and philosophy as models for a New America when they can’t even understand how and why their parents and grandparents allowed a maniac like Hitler to gain power and exterminate six million Jews ― and no one stopped him.
Anyone want to live under strict Sharia law as many Muslim theocracies do? Limited, if any, rights for women; persecution of homosexuals; strict religious dictatorial control by the ruling mullahs and ayatollahs ― if you want to live under those conditions, count me out.
How about any of the basket-case socialist or communist economies such as North Korea, Cuba or Venezuela? I asked a young Venezuelan who emigrated to the US in 2016 what he thought of the 155% annual inflation rate now happening in his home country. “Well, it is not too bad ― last year, it was 350% and in 2019, it was 35,000%. So by comparison, today looks pretty good.”
None of these examples from other countries or cultures are very appealing to the average American. None of them represent the treasured values of freedom we take for granted in America under the banner of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In 1995, I went to Estonia to speak to their newly-formed independent government. I took along a copy of James Madison’s “Notes on the Constitution” to give to the leader in the Estonian parliament. His eyes started to well with tears. He thanked me profusely for the gift and then said: “You Americans will never know how important the gift of freedom America represents to us Estonians. Without your example of hope, we would never have survived these many decades of Soviet oppression. We always wanted the freedom Americans had.”
We don’t know how exceptional America is because we have never lost our freedoms to a dictator or socialist control. We have to follow the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln when he sent this message to Congress a month before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation:
“We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.”