Doug Smith: A Nation of Ideas

8 Mar


Doug Smith: Author, historian, patriot and lead contributor to Free State Patriot


“You have a republic, madam, if you can keep it.”

Benjamin Franklin

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Senator John F Kennedy wrote a pamphlet in 1958 entitled “A Nation of Immigrants.” As a fellow descendant of Irish ex patriates, I can sympathize with his sentiment, but I believe he missed the mark in a crucial way. We are not, by some coincidence, just the nation where immigrants magically appeared or washed ashore. There was a reason that Irish, and Catholics, and Anabaptists, and Puritans, and Dutchmen, and Germans, and others risked all to come to seek a home between Plymouth Rock and San Diego.

There were natural resources, and land, and room, and a man might dream of riches, but all those things drew men to this Continent before this nation was born. It is not as if some worldwide memo went out reading “All those wishing to leave their ancestral home, head for America. They need all the help they can get.” Yet that is not so terribly far off the mark. For there was, and is, something that made people yearn to come to America.

It is that which drew men to our shores that made us what we are, and who we are, not merely the men who came. (Yes, I realize that women came as well. But I refuse to engage in the tortured heshe language of political correctness. ) Proud I may be of my Celtic ancestry, and the bards, and storytellers, and politicians, and yes, drunks, (but I repeat myself) that became a part of American life, but I have to ask an honest question. If the Irish are all that, why then, is Ireland not America. Why no mass migration to Eire s green hills? What is it that made the strong, the bold, the adventurous, and yes, the moonshiner fleeing the law, come to Boston and New York?

I believe that the truth is that we are a nation of words and ideas, and not of immigrants. Oh, we have immigrants a plenty. My great, great grandfather came to New York as a farrier, and later became a farmer in Kentucky, and so brought my family to this area. But why here? Why not Australia, or New Zealand, or Brazil, or France?

Words. Powerful words. Words which form ideas and ideals a man might strive for, might live for, and would die for.

These words.

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,

And these

Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
And these

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, [promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

These are good words the express fine and high ideals. Oh, not that we, being men, achieve the perfect fulfillment of these ideals, but uniquely in the world, and on the stage of history, we formed a nation dedicated to these ideals. We sweated, bled, and yes, died, to further these ideals. Uniquely among the nations of the world, we fought with blood and treasure to free men and nations. We did not fight to further the claims of prerogatives of the Plantagenet or the Tudor dynasties, or to claim French soil for our own. We fought to free men on our own soil and correct injustices. We fought to free men on foreign soil and stop hateful ideologies. We did not keep soil won with our blood for our own and declare an American Empire, we freed people and went home.

Those ideas and ideals are the nectar to the world.

And yet.

If these ideas are the basis of what we are, we are right, and just, and prudent to insist that if men come to us, the embrace those ideals which make us uniquely who we are: Americans. We are not the Balkans: little states of very different and antagonistic peoples pressed against each other until a Serbian assassinates an Arch Duke and ignites WW1.

No, we have long embraced E Pluribus Unum. Of many, One. So if you come, look around and see who we are. Learn to speak the language. Russians speak Russian. Germans speak German. Chinese speak Chinese. And Americans speak English. Learn to act and blend with your new countrymen. Don’t expect them to change what they are into what you were. You escaped that world to come here. Become a part of this one.

We do not encourage gangs and neighborhoods that are Europe all over again, or Africa, or Asia. No little Italy, or Ireland, or Somalia. In America, Be American. This is what you wanted. This is why you came. If it is not, you made a terrible mistake.

I hope next year to visit Ireland, the ancestral home of my family. If I do, I will do so as a stranger. I will not speak the Gaelic, nor speak English with a brogue. I will be a stranger, visiting his roots. I will be, very obviously to the Irish, and American. That is what great, great grandfather wanted for his descendants in America.

So should all who come. Not because they are immigrants. But because this is where those great ideas have flourished. And we ought to jealously guard them so this great experiment does not fail.

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