BILL CRAWFORD: Reagan defined civil society: Order with virtue

BILL CRAWFORD

BILL CRAWFORD

Last week’s column declared that it’s every patriot’s duty to work hard to keep our national fabric whole. “What does ‘national fabric’ mean?” the questioner asked.

That which binds us together as Americans – beginnings, behaviors, and beliefs – knits our national fabric.

Historians have well-captured the beginnings of America and her people – from colonists to slaves to immigrants; the behaviors that followed – from the Revolution and establishment of the Constitution, to the emancipation of slaves and the Civil War, to the emancipation of women and the civil rights movement, to the creation of the world’s greatest economy, and so on; and the common beliefs and love of country that somehow endured through it all.

George Washington said in his Farewell Address: “I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.”

Lofty language, but the stuff that leads us to proudly proclaim ourselves as Americans. The stuff that, so far, has generated patriot after patriot to keep our nation together, our people free, and our national fabric whole.

From Jefferson to Lincoln to Reagan, presidents have joined with Washington to caution that preservation of our national fabric requires us to maintain a civil society.

Ronald Reagan said, “There can be no freedom without order, and there is no order without virtue. Now, that’s a simple enough formulation, but it’s an insight found not only in the writings of Founding Fathers like Washington or great political thinkers like Edmund Burke; it is also found in a great part of our Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Order with virtue is the definition of a civil society.

It describes a society where disagreements are peaceably resolved through dialogue or the ballot box, where people disagree but get along, and where free individuals respect the rights of others.

We see the opposite of a civil society in the Middle East where sects murder sects, children and women are raped and killed, and despots rule. Once, this region was the enlightened cultural and educational center of the world.

No nation survives the breakdown of civil society.

Something to think about when politics makes us fighting mad.

Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (crawfolk@gmail.com).