Four score and seven years ago, we embarked upon the greatest crusade toward which we have striven these many months, to affirm a new commitment to live out our nation’s promises through civility, courage, compassion, and character, because posterity is the world to come; the world for whom we hold our ideals, as America was not built on fear; America was built on courage, so keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground, because freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction, and we will tear down this wall, so help us God.
Catchy words, right? At some point or another, I’m sure all of us have been called unpatriotic for not knowing the exact quote of some president that believed it to be America’s divine right to slaughter Native Americans and conquer the world. Ironic how a nation meant to be free expects you to memorize speeches from our dear leaders.
How is it that Theodore Roosevelt, a man who espoused the exact sentiments as Adolf Hitler, is revered by our nation and carved into Mount Rushmore? He is the father of nationalism and social Darwinism, believing the United States to be divinely Aryan. The guy carved directly to the right of him, Abraham Lincoln, was a despotic dictator responsible for the deaths of 600,000+ and was in the process of deporting blacks back to Africa. Thomas Jefferson, to the left of Roosevelt on Mount Rushmore, set the precedent for subjugating Native Americans onto reservations. In addition, Jefferson starved his own people through the Embargo Act of 1807 and also placed the country under martial law during peacetime. It’s also worth mentioning that the final caricature on Mount Rushmore, George Washington, spent 80% of his federal budget to conquer the Native Americans, and he personally marched into Pennsylvania with the military in the infamous Whiskey Rebellion. Washington was also notorious for being extraordinarily cruel towards his slaves, going so far as to rip the teeth out of them so he could wear dentures.
Yet for some reason, these four particular presidents have become deities. While our nation becomes increasingly intolerant of Jesus Christ, we oddly exalt men that marched us into economic depressions and wars that killed millions. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is praised as the courageous leader that led us out of the Great Depression and paved the way to victory in WW2. We are often ignorant to the effects of FDR’s New Deal and how they actually prolonged the Great Depression. We’re also forgetful of how President Roosevelt placed Japanese Americans in prison camps. However he was not the first president to abuse his power in the name of “national defense,” and he certainly has not been the last.
Since our nation’s founding, the size of the federal government has done nothing but grow larger and larger. It doesn’t help that two men looked upon as the fathers of our nation, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, were giant hypocrites during their tenures in office. Not even the writers of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution had much respect for civil liberties and natural rights. They were correct in foreshadowing that power does indeed go to the head.
So what about our presidents is exactly worth exalting? How many pointless wars have we been dragged into by the likes of James Polk, William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, or Barack Obama, which have done little to nothing to protect freedom? How many presidents have gone out of their way to imprison dissenters of their agendas? John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Lyndon Johnson to name a few. How many presidents have supported a centralized bank and corporate welfare? George Washington, James Madison, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln, and just about every president since Woodrow Wilson. Throughout our history, we have mindlessly elected presidents with similar ambitions into office over and over. It’s almost as if we’ve had one perpetual presidency since the ratification of the Constitution in 1788.
I will not be celebrating our presidents today. In a free society, those in power ought not to be exalted, as deification of politicians is the first step towards abuse of power. What should be celebrated are the principles espoused by the very few presidents that chose to restrain their power instead of abusing it. Grover Cleveland, in the midst of one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history, opted to let the invisible hand of the free market fix itself instead of throwing more fuel to the fire with government intervention. This in turn greatly shortened the recession and propelled us into the 20th Century where the economy would soon boom. John Tyler risked a near impeachment and a chance at a second term in office by going against the Whig party’s platform of high tariffs and an expanded money supply. Martin Van Buren, in the face of threats from abroad, chose diplomacy over aggression and thereby avoided numerous wars.
Nevertheless, government does not create prosperity. Government can only ensure that prosperity is possible by getting the heck out of our way. The men that deserve exaltation are the many entrepreneurs and inventors who have enhanced the quality of our lives. Scientists and doctors who have contributed to curing diseases and increasing the average lifespan rightly deserve praise for their accomplishments. These feats come not from government, but from free individuals. The best that our country has to offer comes because of a lack of government in these areas. You are able to freely browse the Internet, read this article, and conduct research not because of government, but because two men named Robert E. Kahn and Vint Cerf had a vision.
Instead of closing schools on Presidents Day (giving students an excuse to support federal abuses of power so they can enjoy their day off), schools ought to be teaching of the feats achieved by talented individuals. We have all heard of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but very few of us know of Edwin Armstrong, the inventor of FM radio, and surely a small percentage of Americans have ever heard of Jonas Salk, the doctor that invented the vaccine for polio. These are the men that improve our lives and make them more enjoyable. Government is not the answer, but rather a hindrance to assuring that accomplishments of the Edwin Armstrongs of America can be made possible.