I was taught a half-truth when I was young. I was taught that my country was bound together by a common creed, by rationality, rather than by blood or soil. I felt a vague discomfort with the world as I grew up, but school kept me too occupied and bored to figure out what was wrong.
My schoolteachers presented their lessons as simply factual. It was held that secular institutions cannot permit robust discussions of religion, and the only acceptable moral lessons were “everyone should have freedom” (freedom being ill-defined) and “Nazis were bad”. The theory was that all responsibility for moral instruction should fall on a child’s parents, but my parents were busy working when I was a child and dealing with the aftermath of divorce when I was a teenager. I suspect a similar story applies to a plurality in my generation. The ministers in my church simply recited Bible stories, praised God’s “goodness”, and told the congregation to not do bad things. There was precious little in the way of moral proscriptions that I could have used as scaffolding for reasoning.
By no means did I have a bad childhood, but life in Suburbia is lukewarm. The feeling of being adrift fed into my natural introversion and slowly isolated me.
I was offered an excellent academic scholarship for college, so I pursued a degree in physics to get the broadest technical knowledge base possible. My interests at that point lied entirely in building machines. However, something unexpected happened: My undergraduate classes, particularly in electromagnetism, prompted me to start questioning what I was learning. My appetite for abstract ideas was whetted.
After college I applied to graduate school as a matter of course, was accepted, and continued on the path laid before me. My interests were mostly unchanged, and I was certainly kept busy. I had no answers in the inevitable drunken debate about why God would allow the existence of evil. It was only after finishing my coursework that I felt that I could breathe. For the first time in nearly twenty years I did not have to worry about the next test or paper. Having also just ended a relationship, I decided to spend some time as a bachelor in order to actually sort myself out.
My life up to this point in the story had laid plenty of groundwork for the skepticism I now hold. My father has always espoused a skepticism of legal authority, and in recent years he has openly discussed his objections to church teachings with me and my siblings. I had several teachers that planted seeds of doubt as well: a biology teacher that noted the rough correspondence between the Creation story and fossil record, a history teacher that emphasized cynically following the trail of money when explaining world events, and numerous physics professors that called for narrow interpretations when discussing experimental results.
Shortly after returning to bachelorhood, I stumbled onto the Youtube videos of some now infamous Canadians. Everything started falling into place. The thought I had poured into technical details of physics manifested a philosophical framework. A little bit of exposure to the Socratic Method and a few discussions with actual substance were all it took for me to figure out what was wrong in my life.
I have been robbed of my culture.
There were stacks of books I either didn’t know existed or had been discouraged from reading. My English and History classes had been largely filled with propaganda that admonished white kids for the actions of their ancestors. The focus on slavery, imperialism, and war created the sense that there wasn’t much to be proud of. Long days of school also deterred me from reading anything besides the fiction that gave me an escape.
It became clear why I felt no connection to the Suburbia in which I lived. My family was entirely atomized by the time I was a teenager, with every relative – including my divorced parents – living in different cities. I spent weekdays with my mother and weekends with my father, meaning I must have missed out on a lot of opportunities to spend time with friends. My parents worked constantly, limiting the time I could talk with them or visit relatives. This didn’t bother me at the time, but I see now that I was quite isolated. I treasured holidays like July 4th, when fireworks stretched down the beach as far as the eye can see, but those days were few and far between.
I was cut off from many of the narratives and social interactions that could have instilled a strong sense of culture in me. This seems to have happened to a huge number of people my age, as we were all exposed to the same forces. I have started to seek out these things that I missed out on as a kid, and as a result I feel increasingly anchored. It also helps that I have started to learn more about my family through my parents in recent years.
The nature of the half-truth from my childhood has become clear. The prevailing assumption among various authorities is that mere birth inside the geographic borders of a country necessitates acceptance of that country’s creed. You may think that is correct, but you should remember that we are currently debating whether or not private monopolies are allowed to arbitrarily limit anyone’s speech. The American creed is no longer well-rooted. It is not commonly believed that a government is instituted to protect our human rights from all enemies both foreign and domestic. Instead we believe that human rights only guard us from state actors.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,”Declaration of Independence
There are plenty of reasons behind this change, but I will mark out two. Of course, the federal government and its courts built power by making minor assertions that slowly undermined American philosophy. This tyrannical encroachment was prepared for in the act of writing down a Constitution that the government can violate. The more insidious reason, and the reason that enables federal encroachment, is that the public has slowly forgotten that each generation must passionately argue for the importance of their fundamental beliefs. Without those living arguments, children will not be convinced to adopt the beliefs of their parents.
One by one, the voices that should be teaching our traditions to the next generation have fallen silent. The message of preachers has been largely subverted by simplistic Evangelical theology. The newsman built a pulpit by covering his desk in images of war and has been preaching the evils of society ever since. Fundamentalists and philosophers have been fighting to tear down both reason and scripture. Whole nations remain traumatized by their own actions in the World Wars. The common man has accepted the attitude that one collection of beliefs is just as valid as the next. Outside of smaller towns, anyone that tries to express pride in our heritage is shouted down.
The Founding Fathers made a subtle mistake when they asserted that the existence of human rights is self-evident. This has borne out the misunderstanding that human rights are obvious conclusions of rational thinking (as opposed to being the axioms of a political belief system). It was heavily implied while I was growing up that human rights are something sublime, separate, and superceding all other belief systems. We are now paying the price for this singular mistake. The zealots of human rights learned in school that they are superior, and now they wish to impose their beliefs upon everyone “by any means necessary”.
It may be that the battle lines are already drawn and we merely await the first bullet. It may be that the only task left to my generation is to document the decline of an empire. It may be that I can only advise other societies on how to avoid our mistakes. But, if there is a remedy to this problem, I know my part in it. I will write what I understand to be the truth.
Perhaps everything I write will be trivial. Perhaps what I will write has already been written by another, and in that case I welcome enlightenment. Perhaps I will even be wrong about something. Nonetheless, I am compelled to write.
I have uploaded a few essays so that you can establish a sense of what I will be writing about. I have queued a dozen more topics, so I should be able to post new essays monthly for the foreseeable future. If you find my words helpful, please consider sharing this website, donating with Bitcoin, buying merchandise from my Teespring store, or subscribing to the email list.
For the time being I will be using the alias of “Mister Shaggy”. It is surely an American dream that one day pen names will be obsolete, but that day is not today. If you believe otherwise, I can only conclude that you are well-acquainted with the underside of a boulder.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.