The modern mantra is that we are just a collection of irreconcilable groups, or tribes, to which we must cleave, for which we should fight, grieve, divide, and define ourselves. Truth: Americans are nothing of the sort. We are united by ideals. We are The Liberty Tribe.
How often have you heard it said, we are devolving into a collection of tribes, ethnic, racial, religious, demographic, socio-economic, pernicious? The modern mantra is that we are just a collection of irreconcilable groups, or tribes, to which we must cleave, for which we should fight, grieve, divide, and define ourselves. Truth: Americans are nothing of the sort. We are united by ideals. We are The Liberty Tribe.
The whole notion of tribes, lifted from anthropology to justify societal divisions, is a misfit for America. Yes, technically, the DNA of Americans differs broadly – more than any nation in history, as do our various family, community, cultural, and individual preferences.
But that is the point. The breadth of our anthropological differences is our glue, the invisible force that binds us, the very magic of our magnificent – and magnificently free – society.
The reason we are so different and should celebrate the power of differentness is that we live by a higher view, something beyond traditional tribal affinity, connectivity, ethnicity, skin, belief, or habit. We are bound – the first Nation ever to so daringly define ourselves – by an idea, liberty.
George Washington’s Farwell Address, which students used to study, after saying the Pledge of Allegiance, memorizing state capitols, understanding historical events, is a guiding star.
By handing power back, when he might have been a lifetime president or king, he spoke volumes. Doing so, he added words to sustain us, help us understand what it all rested on.
In a sense, although he did not adopt modern words like tribe or identity politics, he gave us the magic that should help us understand and sustain ourselves. He gave us unchanging truth.
Washington said: “Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.” In other words, you all know what I mean, we love our personal liberty – and my saying so adds nothing to that love.
He continued: “The unity … which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize.”
Again, he reminded all generations – love of liberty binds us.
Then he issued a warning: “It is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed…” These are Washington’s own, prescient words.
He offers concrete guidance: “It is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”
Have you ever heard anything so clear? Have you ever heard a political statement more true, heartfelt, prescient? What was this wise leader saying to us? What was Washington pleading to his and future generations in that final speech 225 years ago?
He was saying: Understand yourselves as one people, as a people united by love of your differences, by a determination to preserve the right to have them, as a nation defined by love of liberty, not attachments to language, geography, origin, religion, or any other divider.
If you hold the banner of liberty high, your limit is the sky. If you drop it, for what modern pundits would call “tribalism,” for some other definition of happiness, you will lose it. This is the essence: America’s survival depends on an eyes-open, unifying love of liberty, nothing less.
And so, when you hear partisans and politicians, media and maddening dividers, agitators and self-inflated activists arguing for “tribalism,” applauded abroad “covertly and insidiously,” stop.
Ask yourself who we are, who you are, what you value most in life, easy associations, the passing fancy of sameness in a cluster, a common agitation, aggravation, sense of things not being right, someone to pat you on the back for your sameness – or your liberty?
In the quiet of the night, is your highest value not the love of what you and your family may be, do, say, believe, where that extraordinary freedom may yet take you and take them? Is it not honoring the concept of differentness because you understand that you are luckier than anyone in the world because you are a member … of the Liberty Tribe? That is my tribe, American.