A Series of Essays on How to Get Back to Being Exceptional

By, Greg Hornsby

The following essays constitute my thoughts on social, moral, religious, and political issues. These are all hot-button topics, but they are intertwined with regards to the general making up a society as a whole. I attempt to answer-or at least start the conversation on-the questions of what characteristics make up what I call The American Culture. How has it evolved; were the parts of its evolution in the best interest of the society; where are we presently; and where do we go from here? I hope that what you’ll find within these essays is an understanding that if we can live with common values we can be united once again, strong once again, and free once again.

Let me preface by saying that I implore you to interpret all of the topics I’ll discuss as being peaceful, respectful, and courteous to all that may find exception to my opinion. Above all, my opinion is available to all that would like to debate these questions with me or with your compatriots over a beer at your local watering hole. In general, I hope that we can start the dialog and start to ask questions about where we were, where we are, what got us here, and where do we go.

So, where are we? Do you feel divided as a society? I do. We are divided among racial lines, gender lines, sexuality lines, religious lines, and political lines. If you read as much media as I do, you feel like we are on the brink of war with the world as well as with ourselves.

We are losing our freedom. The centralized power of our federal government nibbles at our freedoms piece by piece in a slow, methodical manner. Is it not in human nature to obtain power, preserve it, and grow it? That concept is nothing new. Our founders had history books just like we do. The founders studied the writings of philosophers and political writers like Montesquieu, Thomas Paine, John Locke, Plutarch, and the Bible among others. These were the heroes of philosophy during the Age of Enlightenment. They understood human nature and what virtues were required of man to live in a free society.

The power is centralizing in our government at such a rapid pace today is because we are ignorant to the meaning of these texts. We don’t understand the language. They are indeed difficult reads. But they are invaluable to understand in order to get back on the track to a free society. We need to understand what is required of us as members of a free society. We need to understand how to govern ourselves, locally, as to not give the opportunity to a select few in a far off land we call Washington DC to tell us how to live our lives or who we are. Our culture cannot be engineered. After all, aren’t we all unique in some way? The great thing and also the worst thing about America is that we are probably the most diverse nation on Earth. We have every walk of life from all parts of the world that come to live our dream-our idea of exceptionalism.

There is a such thing as American Exceptionalism. Progressives and many others have misconstrued this term. We live (or we used to) in the freest nation on Earth. Our character, our principles, our democratic ideals, and our idea of preserving Liberty makes us exceptional. Not the fact that we think we’re better than everyone else or that the rules don’t apply to us. The idea that we afford the protection of the rights endowed to us by our Creator that ALL men are born equal and free is exceptional. We, as a society, have the freedom to choose our own paths in life in order to achieve our own versions of prosperity and happiness; that we have the right to a speedy trial and a jury of our peers; that we’re innocent until proven guilty; that we have the right to bear arms in defense of our families and a tyrannical government, from despotism, from the usurpation of the rights endowed to us by our Creator that our government is sworn to protect. That is exceptional. That happens nowhere else on Earth.

#1 Natural Law and Virtue

Law is a set of rules put forth by an authoritative body that its constituents are legally bound to follow. Natural Law is the set of principles, rules, or moral code that apply to all mankind regardless of their location in the world. It’s a moral compass that all people live by. It’s the Ten Commandments (one who can do the comparative studies of religions can find similarities in the moral code of various religions); it’s do unto others as you would have them do unto you; it’s 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.”

According to the philosophers that inspired our founders, and I agree, all men are born with these rights and it is immoral to infringe in these rights by any means. We institute a government among men to protect these rights in the inevitable event that immoral men would, indeed, infringe on the natural rights of others. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary…” (Alexander Hamilton). If we can re-learn to live by these principles as a society, it would be the first step to recovery. This means that these rights are for everyone. If you don’t agree with someone’s way of life. It is theirs to live, not yours. If we can respect each other and understand that the United States of America consists of 330 million people and not all of us are going to agree, we can disagree civilly, and we begin to heal.

All men are created equal. Yes, another often misconstrued statement. So, what does it mean? We all know that all men are not created equal. We are all unique. We all have unique abilities, skillsets, problem solving ability, sexual preference, strengths, weaknesses, etc. What all men are created equal means is that, under the law, we are all created equal. We all have unalienable rights that may not be infringed upon by other men or any government. I do not have the right to infringe upon your pursuit your own happiness. I do not have the right to kill you any more than you do me unless we are defending the right of others to live. I do not have the right to prevent or impose on your religion or your freedom of speech or free press and you cannot infringe on mine. When we respect these rights, we begin to heal.

Notice I haven’t mentioned much about the government; only that it exists to protect the natural rights that are universally accepted among men by virtue of human nature. I have only stated the WE, as members of a civil society, must adhere to the laws of human nature. We are responsible for our own behavior and we are accountable to the rest of the members of our society to do our part to maintain civility. With the immense diversity in America, we have to be especially diligent in accepting these rules and living by them. YOU have a responsibility for your own behavior. If you can’t be accountable to your family, your friends, the middle class family of four that lives six states over, or the person fighting poverty in the inner city, the ideal of civil society fails. When we become responsible for ourselves and accountable to our society, we begin to heal.

These rules aren’t learned; they are imbedded into our DNA. We are not born killers, we are not born thieves, we are not born to hate. These characteristics are learned behavior. They are passed down to our children in some fashion or another. We are products of our own environments, whether it is home, school, neighborhood, TV, church, media, or government rhetoric. It is evident that our society is breaking down because of the lack of proper teachings of these natural laws of men. When we decide that we are teach ourselves be a moral society; when we teach that we are not all going to agree on everything; when we teach that no man is superior nor are they inferior, when we teach that with freedom comes the responsibility to live by a moral set of principles, and when we demand of each other that we’re going to reverse the tailspin and start living with sound moral principles, we begin to heal. It’s called virtue and we must get it back.

I challenge each and every one of you to start building your virtue today. Shake a stranger’s hand, donate to a charity, volunteer an hour or two in your community, just nod or say hello to the person walking past you. Ditch the idea that you alone can’t make a difference. You be responsible for you. When we all gain virtue we again become a society with common principle and are again united. Only then can we deal with the responsibility and restrictions we put on the government. The idea that we live with virtue is not a partisan issue. The more virtuous we are, the less right the government has to be involved. Keep in mind that the government has no rights. It has restrictions.

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