Four years ago this week, in an America that could not have predicted the election of Donald Trump, I wrote a column about the failing American experiment. The title, “A Republic Not Kept Is Lost,” referred to the words of Benjamin Franklin, who, when asked by a group of people waiting outside the 1787 Constitutional Convention what kind of government had been formed, said, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
I argued that we hadn’t. Kept it, that is.
Long-time readers know that the pages of this website are filled with thousands upon thousands of words about the problems posed by religious liberty (and indifferentism) as well as by Freemasonry — two of the formative, founding influences on America. We also do a good bit of talking up the Social Kingship of Christ and have even discussed the integralism that naturally accompanies it.
All of that discussion is needed. It plays an important role in developing an authentic Catholic political ethos. At the same time, the United States of America is the land of my birth — as it is for the vast majority of our readers. This is the country we were given, and however much we want to argue about its political philosophy and founding (and boy, do we like to argue about it), it’s what we’ve got to work with.
So how do we take stock of where we are today?
The political climate in America is pure poison in 2019. That’s undeniable. I suspect we can trace many of our problems to the logical consequences of our failure, as a nation, to properly understand the issues I mentioned above. Polarization seems too harsh a word to describe where things stand, and as we’ve seen, the level of disagreement on opposite ends of the political spectrum in America is septic. All too often these days, it bleeds over into actual violence.
For my part, I’ve never been less interested in trying to have a conversation about politics with…well, pretty much anyone. And to be honest, I’m far less confident about the solutions to our present problems than I’m comfortable with. I don’t have the answers I wish I did. Even in some areas where I think I’m sure what the right thing to do is, I’m a lot less confident than I’d like to be. And as has been the case for decades, some of our toughest issues — like abortion and, increasingly, the forced acceptance of LGBT ideology — seem to be the most intractable.
And yet, I still think we’re in a far better place than I could have imagined when I wrote my 4th of July column in 2015.
Three years ago, as the American presidential election campaign was reaching a fever pitch, I felt compelled to argue that for people of faith, for people who care about the decent America they still remember, Trump represented a “far from perfect fighting chance” at moving in the right direction. I was, at the time I wrote it, very worried about a number of things, enough that I felt willing to take a chance on a man of obviously dubious moral character:
I keep finding myself thinking about being a soldier under enemy fire. What if the rest of my unit were dead, and the only man left standing beside me was a known philanderer who hit every brothel he could every chance he got? Do you think it would make sense for me to choose that moment to reject him? To scoff at his covering fire? There’s a talk we would need to have about Jesus, it’s true…but it could wait until we survived the imminent danger. A sinful man’s bullet flies just as straight as a saint’s.
I have skin in this game. So do you. I expect my life to become appreciably worse under a Clinton regime. For someone like her, the things I write about — especially my orthodox Catholic beliefs — make me a thought criminal. As the father of a large family, my ability to provide will be diminished by bad economic policy, excessive spending, and tax increases. As a parent who has taken recourse to homsechooling, I can expect to have my hand forced on turning my children over to state education. As a man who has lost healthcare for his family already under the “Affordable” Care Act, I will wind up in an even worse predicament with more of the same. As an owner of guns, I expect to be subjected to greater scrutiny, and possible confiscation. As a person who recognizes the threat of Islam and the radical homosexual agenda, I will be accused of hate speech. As the father of young boys, I could lose my sons to a new world war that is even now brewing in response to a disastrous foreign policy.
I realize, three years later, how much less worried I am about these things, even as our political discourse grows more rancid by the day. It’s not even the kind of thing I think about. And that’s what tells me it’s really something. I went from a state of active, frequent anxiety about the state of things to unconscious habitual calm. It’s only upon reflection that I see how much my attitude has changed from one of doom and gloom to cautious hope and optimism. At least for now.
I have become aware how much more confidently I live my daily life, not wondering when everything will come crashing down through intentional malfeasance, or when some government bureaucrat with an agenda is going to decide I’m too much of a thought criminal and come after me.
The reality is that I make my living telling the truth about the Catholic Church and her teachings, when in countries like the UK — the one our founders unceremoniously kicked to the curb — just preaching the Gospel is a criminal offense.
So am I glad that America has her independence? You bet I am. Do I think our country is still in a world of hurt? Yes. Do I think Trump’s election signals in irrevocable trend in political demographics? I wish. (Although there’s some hope for Generation Z.) Do I think America is anywhere near perfect? Far from it. Is there any other country on Earth I’d choose to live in over the United States?
Not a chance.
For Catholics trying to find their way in a world hostile to their every belief, it can be incredibly easy to make the perfect into the enemy of the good. We love to administer ideological purity tests, comparing everything and everyone we come across with our imagined theological ideals. Sometimes, we’re absolutely correct. Some principles are non-negotiable, and we have to keep fighting for them even when it seems like a lost cause.
But as I approach the fifth anniversary of our little enterprise here in Catholic redpilling, I can’t help but be struck by a feeling of gratitude that I live in a country where I am free to do what I am doing. Ask a Catholic blogger in Old Britannia how carefully he has to parse his words so as not to run afoul of draconian speech laws, let alone the fear of being found guilty of a hate crime for calling a sin a sin.
It makes a writer like me feel that I’ve got it pretty good.
So this year, I will be celebrating America’s independence, not because I love our overindulgent, often gravely immoral culture, but in a genuine spirit of thanksgiving that for now, I still have the freedom to push back against that same darkness without constraint.
In today’s world, that’s really something. And I’ll happily take it.
To my fellow Americans: Happy Independence Day!
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.