By James Revels
Years ago, President Lincoln said, “If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we live forever or die by suicide.”
The enemy within is our greatest threat. This country will not be destroyed by some foreign foe, our destruction will come from within. On Jan. 6, the wisdom of this sage observation became reality. “The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes, they always dwell within their own borders, and from these internal enemies civilization is always in need of being saved,” wrote William James.
Today, we are a divided nation. We found agreement and unity when facing foreign foes, but when the enemy is within, we cannot find common ground, because the enemy is us. The assault on the Capitol, the heart of our democracy, was not planned and executed by a foreign foe, it was us. “Among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist,” wrote Edmund Burke.
As we prepare to celebrate the 245th anniversary of our independence, liberties and freedom, following a year-long struggle to conquer a global pandemic, we all must reexamine what it means to be an American. The challenges ahead are real and prodigious, requiring skillful political leadership, courage, insight and integrity.
“Being an American means you have committed yourself to some basic values and personal ethics that harmonize with eternal principles of freedom, liberty and self-government,” wrote Paul Skousen. The reign of the 45th forced us all to recognize that bigotry, hatred, racism, sexism and xenophobia reside deeper in America’s soul than we care to admit. It was this election that exposed the extent of the divide that has existed for years.
The cancer of racism resurfaced in ways we assumed were no longer relevant. That election also represents a radical moment of awakening for us all.
I find it ironic that a private company found it necessary to do what our elected Republican senators refused to do, hold the 45th accountable for his unlawful behavior. This means all is not lost in our fight to preserve democracy. Some institutional safeguards still work.
The Un-United States of America is Trump’s America, but Trump’s America is not the America recognized and supported by a majority of citizens, as demonstrated by the most recent election results.
Trump’s America is not my America. In my America, which I spent most of my adult life defending, truth is real and convincing, and unsuppressed access to voting is the benchmark of America’s greatness as a nation.
In my America, there are consequences for lying, and character and integrity matters. In my America, I am judged by the content of my character and all men are created equal. There is no place, in my America, for an uncouth, lying, racist con man, pretending to be presidential.
Being an American means we must acknowledge our history, failures and seek to achieve the values we all cherish. We are renowned for our ability to solve complex problems, because we are willing to improvise, to think outside the box. We are also willing to do things others are not. It is this spirit that will defeat the enemy within.
“Democracy is a process, not a static condition. It is becoming, rather than being. It can easily be lost, but never is fully won. Its essence is eternal struggle,” wrote William H. Haste.
Democracy is worth fighting for. Long live democracy. United we stand, because a house divided against itself cannot stand.
The Old Soldier!
James Revels is a retired Army colonel and former columnist for the El Paso Times who lives in East El Paso.