April 15, 2021, will mark two years since flames engulfed the Notre Dame Cathedral fire in Paris, France. The fire in Notre Dame did more than nearly destroy an 800-year-old landmark. Symbolically, it was a manifestation of the abandonment of Western history and culture, the collapse of religious morality, and the renouncement of objective truth that has been proceeding apace in the West for decades — a devaluing of purposeful beauty that transcends class, culture, and religion.
The wounds suffered that day, amidst the smoke, the flames, and the ruins, are felt far beyond the mourners who wept at the sight. The omnipresent structure’s very architecture meant to raise the eyes upwards toward Heaven. Now, it was engulfed in smoke and flames rising into the sky; a final burnt offering to a culture that betrayed it.
On Jan. 6, America saw smoke of a different sort rising from the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. as thousands of Americans coalesced at the political epicenter of the United States. Untempered anger mixed with zeal carried a demonstration into a surreal display of chaos and violence. It was, of a sort, the latest embodiment of eight months and counting of civil unrest and mob violence.
The events of that day reflect the flames on the streets of Portland, New York City, Minneapolis, and Kenosha. The destruction was the reverberation of every toppled statue, defaced church, broken store-front, and vandalized monument. It was a lost cause, lashing out at a federal bureaucracy by people who feel betrayed and voiceless.
How does a mob turn into a riot? When does the burning of cities become a threat to the very survival of our nation?
It happens when lawmakers disregard the law and vilify those charged with our safety. It happens when engaging in street violence meets no consequence and is even lauded as a heroic effort. It happens when the government convinces us we will feel safer if we give up a little more freedom and a little more humanity. It happens when the wolves openly prey on the sheep.
But unlike the Notre Dame cathedral fire that started with a single spark, overwhelming the structure in a matter of hours, the cleaving of our country has been decades in the making.
Abortion masquerading as women’s rights paired with the villainization of masculinity and traditional marriage has greatly contributed to the accelerating breakdown of the family. Our universities and public schools are teaching younger generations to foster contempt for our history, or — as in the 1619 Project — to remake America as a nation worthy only of condemnation and eternal apologies.
Our media acts like court jesters, performing at the behest of their corporate keepers, mere entertainers for the audience’s amusement and captivation. Any real news is reported to advance an agenda or used as a club as in some deranged puppet show as analysts and experts make caricatures of themselves.
The tears shed for Norte Dame were less of anguish than of the piteous eyes of a person mourning the death of an old dog — sad but ultimately expected and accepted. The cathedral seemed more historic relic than inviolately religious. Is this also America’s fate? Has our republic, founded and built on the certainties of the equality of man, individual liberty, inherent human dignity, outlived its singular vision?
The continuous attacks on organized religion, traditional values, individualism, and objective truths by radical leftists have taken a deep toll. Generations have been conditioned into accepting cultural socialism: relinquishing moral responsibility for ourselves and each other in favor of the state. The government should not be the parent, the priest, or the proctor.
It turned from creating the space for public discourse to controlling the discourse. Those in power became more interested in using violence to wage ideological wars, either unleashing it or creating the fear of it. They became both the villain and the savior, and our nation’s principles and our liberty are collateral damage.
As we allowed the government to be the sole institution to which we pledged our loyalty, we became unmoored from our anchors of family, friends, schools, neighborhood bars, and community hangouts. Indeed, it’s easier to commandeer an unanchored boat, and political interlopers know it.
Now, we are losing our humanity. We’ve been forcibly stripped of that which makes us human: worship, relationships, connected learning, movement. The criminalization of personal interactions and the shaming of freedom is causing us to lose touch with one another.
We are told that giving up our humanity is a servile sacrifice. But the hardening of the heart hollows the soul. Those in power use an empty, fearful, chaotic world to enslave us in our inhumanity. Our political “betters” claim to be outraged by the sullying of the ivory institution but desecrate the very values that brought such an institution into existence.
In his novel “Invisible Man,” Ralph Ellison writes, “Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.”
We have to stop traveling on this path of destruction. When violence on one side is met with greater and more forcible violence from the other, we will be left with nothing. If our leaders fail to heed the voices of millions of Americans crying out for the opportunity to live free from the binds and burden of an overbearing government that picks winners and losers, our nation will resemble the burned rubble of Notre Dame.
Our political class has already proven to be cowards when charged with protecting our historic monuments, houses of worship, private property, and even the livelihoods of our children because of state-imposed lockdowns of public schools.
We can still fan the flames of liberty, not of ruin. We stand at the precipice looking out at a world that still needs a strong, deliberate, virtuous America. And it happens when we work within the framework our Founders created to enact reform, not buy into the lie that we must burn everything down to save it. That reasoning would not save Notre Dame, and it will not save America; it only hastens its destruction.
We must resist the temptation to forfeit forever what made America good and noble: that all men are created equal, and our rights are bestowed upon us by God. It is too steep a price to pay for the chance to be on the winning side of a political battle.