The Idea of Equality in America

Given what is occurring in our society and culture, the ever increasing frenzy and hysteria associated with what is called “the women’s movement” and the ever-changing, always-increasing “racism test,” a review of the basics, a return to and familiarity with our history, is incumbent on us if we are to survive as a nation.

Yet, the real problem is that American history, that is, American history that is not completely warped by a predetermined progressivist ideology, hardly exists today as a subject taught in most US colleges and universities. And on the high school level, one is fortunate these days to find a teacher who is not convinced that “race” and “sex” are the only factors that actually shaped our nation, or who is not so cowed by political correctness that he or she doesn’t fear to deviate from the new ironclad template.

This disastrous situation in education should be self-evident to most observers of academia, but it is not…and apparently not for many conservatives and Republicans.

Wonder why and how so many millions of Millenials now ardently believe extreme socialism is the way of the future? Or, why an innocent college prank from forty years ago brands you as a “racist” or “sexist” for life? Or, why most students now believe the United States at its founding was dominated by “white racists” who imposed a “toxic [white] masculinity” on these shores?

Look to our schools and colleges.

Just this past week I attended a legislative reception for North Carolina legislators hosted by the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans. Outside, surrounding the host facility were shouting and screaming demonstrators, mostly Millenials, from several radical leftist groups located in central North Carolina, including the Workers’ World Party, the Hillsborough Progressives Taking Action, and Antifa of North Carolina.

Their praxis is to attempt to shut down opponents of their world-view. On an increasing number of college campuses the concept of “free speech” for those who dissent from the far Leftist viewpoint is no longer acceptable. The Yale [University] Daily News [February 8, 2019] now advocates spying on “white boys” so that when these “privileged” males reach fame, the silly words or pranks they committed in college decades before can be used against them: “I’m watching you white boy. And this time, I’m taking the screenshot!” wrote the editorialist. And the student newspaper of Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, asked: “should white boys still be allowed to share their ‘opinions’? Should we be forced to listen? In honor of Black History Month, I’m gonna go with a hell no.”

At the reception as legislators and their wives got out of their cars, the screaming Leftists would approach them, hurling epithets and demanding to know why they “supported racism and the KKK.” Additionally, they had cameras filming each and every guest, shouting “we know who you are and where you live, and we are coming for you!”

This, then, is what your college dollars—the tuition you pay—have produced. And this is the result of the bounty and largesse of such globalist financiers as George Soros and those like him, who bankroll these folks and their mob demonstrations. 

This is the result of an educational narrative that dominates our educational system. And it is a fundamental template that is now shared not only by the frenzied revolutionary Left who get up in the faces of conservative legislators and attempt to shame them or scare them into silence or compliance, and who will follow them to their homes, but also, in effect, ironically by nearly all of the major conservative voices we hear on Fox or read in such publications as National Review.

You read that correctly….

That narrative is that America was founded on an “idea,” and that idea was “equality for all.” America, according to both the Progressivist Left and the Neoconservatives who dominate the “conservative movement,” is a “propositional nation,” based on the nebulous idea of “equality.” But, according to this version of our history, from the beginning that “idea” was perverted by evil white men and even more, by evil slaveholders who prevented America from living up to its ideals. 

That is not only inculcated into the minds of our children and students, but also is propagated as fact by the near-totality of our political class, whether in Congress or via the media.

Of course, Mainstream Conservatism attempts in its own way to rescue the idea by prattling on about “equality of opportunity” and that the Left has taken the concept “too far.” Yet, by accepting this as our original foundational principle, they inevitably fall to those who carry it to its logical extreme, and, thus, end up enabling them and, in a way, normalizing their narrative.

That this nation is founded on the idea of equality is historically false. And converted into policy it means the end of this country, the death of the republic, and the triumph of the far Left, enabled by a pseudo-conservative opposition that accepts the fundamental precepts of the Left.

Among the voices who have demurred and who have demonstrated the falsity of this view and its eventually fatal results for what remains of our republic have been such historians and authors as George Carey, Mel Bradford, and Barry Alan Shain.  Bradford back in 1976 warned presciently in a long essay in the pages of the Modern Age quarterly (Winter issue, 1976) of the incompatibility of the Neoconservative “propositional nation” vision with the inherited traditions and decentralized republican constitutionalism of the Founders and Framers. In that stand-alone essay, “The Heresy of Equality,” Bradford laid bare the clear intentions of those who came together to form the American nation, while giving the lie to the Neocon narrative that the republic was founded on universalized propositions—“ideas”—of equality and liberal democracy. Those notions, he pointed out, were a hangover from their days and immersion in the globalist universalism that owed its origin to Marx and Trotsky, and to the Rationalist “philosophes” of the 18th century, rather than to the legacy of kinship and blood, an attachment to community and to the land, and a central religious core that annealed this tradition and continued to make it viable.

What Bradford revealed in his research about our original Constitution was ultimately distilled in his superb volume, Original Intentions: On the Making and Ratification of the American Constitution (Athens, GA, 1993). It remains a primary source for anyone interested in how we got our Constitution and what it means.

Along with Bradford, Colgate University historian Barry Alan Shain has confirmed in his well-documented The Declaration of Independence in Historical Context: American State Papers, Petitions, Proclamations, and Letters of the Delegates to the First National Congresses (2014)  that our old republic was not founded on abstractions about “equality” or “democracy,” or some fanatical zeal to “impose our democracy and equality” on the rest of the globe, or that we were “the model for the rest of the world,” to paraphrase the neoconservative writer Allan Bloom. We were a country founded by those who had left the old world in family and community, from England and Scotland, from Germany and France, and eventually from other countries, in search of better lands for them and more opportunity for them and their children.

Historian David Hackett Fisher’s impressive study, Albion’s Seed: British Folkways in America (1989), details and traces that quest, a quest that carried with it the beliefs, the blood, and the culture of those immigrants from the old world to the new. Unlike the Puritans of Massachusetts, most of the new Americans did not come to these shores to establish some “new City of God,” some new “Shining City on a Hill.” Their goal was not to establish an egalitarian Utopia. Rather, they brought with them their customs, their folklore, their music and arts, and their religion which were uniquely theirs, their inheritance. And as they moved West across the Appalachians and across the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains they carried that culture with them, giving body to the American nation.

My father’s own family originally came to Philadelphia in 1716, having passed a few decades in County Monaghan in what is now Northern Ireland, and before that from Ayrshire, Scotland. Coming down the Great Wagon Road they made their way to old Rowan and Mecklenburg counties in North Carolina by the 1740s, from which they spread out, a few finally reaching the California gold fields in 1848, some founding a town that continues to exist even today, Catheys Valley, close to Yosemite National Park.

And what is fascinating is to scan a phone book from 1950 for Catheys Valley and compare it with the parish registries from old Ayrshire and Monaghan counties from three centuries before: the family surnames in large part remain the same. Those people who departed Scotland in the early 1600s left in family, and they remained together when they came to America. In the Colonial Period they established small, largely autonomous communities which gave being and form to the colonies that became fiercely independent states which, in turn, created the American confederation.

Robert W. Ramsey’s study, Carolina Cradle: Settlement of the Northwest Carolina Frontier, 1747-1762 (1964), maps the “Scotch-Irish Settlement” in Rowan County, North Carolina, in the 1740s. And those recorded surnames are in the main the same as a century before and as two centuries after in places like Catheys Valley. Like other immigrants my ancestors came as part of an already-existent society. The concept that they were somehow possessed of a mission to “remake” and democratize the world and that they were in the vanguard of a globalized and Utopian egalitarianism, would have struck them as the antithesis of their shared beliefs.

But that is what we are told is the mission of America, that is what our schools and colleges teach, and that is what we have failed to accomplish. And it is the door ajar that has permitted the growing extremist Left to seize the initiative and apply these “propositions” in such a way as to facilitate their success on the road to converting the republic into what will be an authoritarian state that will make present-day Venezuela look desirable. For “equality” is a chimerical goal. In the hands of ideologues it becomes the cudgel to enslave those who disagree, the triumph of the savage pigs of Orwell’s Animal Farm, who accomplish their evil under the rubric of equality: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others!”  Inherently, the Leftist revolutionaries recognize this: Power is the ultimate goal, complete power over us and power to transform what is left of this nation into something that even Orwell’s pigs might find unimaginable.

About Boyd Cathey

Boyd D. Cathey holds a doctorate in European history from the Catholic University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, where he was a Richard Weaver Fellow, and an MA in intellectual history from the University of Virginia (as a Jefferson Fellow). He was assistant to conservative author and philosopher the late Russell Kirk. In more recent years he served as State Registrar of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. He has published in French, Spanish, and English, on historical subjects as well as classical music and opera. He is active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and various historical, archival, and genealogical organizations. More from Boyd Cathey

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