Wednesday, July 04, 2007
When I was studying American History in college, my professor was awe-struck by the American War for Independence. He was not so amazed by by colonies' willingness to rebel against tyranny. Plenty of people have done that. The French did it only a few years later than the Americans - with disastrous results. The Russians did it in 1914 - disaster again. Colonial Africa. Colonial Mid-East. Chaos. Bloodshed. Tribal genocide.
No what amazed and rather mystified my professor was the American patriots' ability to stop rebelling. The American Revolution was unique in its ability to go so far and no farther. Aside from the war itself, there was very little residual violence. No inter-colonial warfare. No general chaos. No campaign of terror. No violent imposition of radical social experiments on the public.
Check the rhetoric of those Founding Fathers. The American Revolution was unique in being a conservative revolution. The Patriots were calling people, not to some brave new world that none of them had ever seen, but instead to return to the law they all loved. For the Patriots, independence did not mean being able to define right and wrong for themselves, but being able to follow established law without interference.
Unlike all the other revolutions that come to mind, the American Revolution defined its end in its first principles.
Similarly, people have begun to ask my husband and I how our children have managed so successfully to become independent young people without rebelling. Our answer is that we have pointed our children to a different definition of independence than the one our culture offers. For our children, independence is not the freedom to do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. Rather, independence is the ability to take initiative to serve those God has put in your sphere.
True independence isn't a self-serving free-for-all. It is the power to follow established Law without interference - whether you are looking at nations or at individuals. And that is power indeed.