She’s all but lost—
This idea that won’t die,
But won’t live, either—
This Great Experiment
On whether the people
Could rule themselves
Coming down to the question
Of whether they would rule themselves—
That is, whether they were willing.
And they were not.
For they lack the clarion idea—
That spark of philosophy—
That American Fire that only ever
Burns brightly in a very few.
And we must ask ourselves why
Such a sleeping people should now
Rise to beat back a government
Long-since self-aware and sold out
To the wickedness of men
Whose names we barely know,
And whose evils, we’d rather not?
America refuses to see that rights
Cannot long survive without duty,
And that the duty is her own.
Adams was right, after all, that
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” *
And we are not that people.
They were closer to it in the beginning,
Though still imperfect.
To their credit, they had
Had their souls cleansed somewhat
By the dear cost of war in their own streets,
And were inspired anew by that
Strange hope brought on the evacuation
A a long-standing menace.
But who remembers such things now,
As even the Battle of Athens is forgotten?
And we have since reached that mark
Foreshadowed so chillingly by Franklin:
In these Sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its Faults, if they are such: because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well administred; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administred for a Course of Years, and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.
We huddle today under
The cold cloud of despotism,
Having become so corrupted
As to think it someone else’s job
To fix us.
And our Flag,
She still waves across the land,
Such as it is.
And our Constitution,
She still sits in that hallowed hall
Under the glass,
And faded in more ways than one.
And our Country,
She’s all but lost.
We were not up to the task—
Nor our resolve.
Nor our religion, more corrupt than ever,
And all but unrecognizable
To its Author and Perfecter.
And no one can tell us what to do.
Not reality, or common sense.
Not the Constitution.
Not even God.
We are incorrigible.
Worse than before.
And we have proven,
Though we’re too blind to see it,
That we were not up to the task,
For we love the principles too little
To do the work they require.
As in government,
So in religion.
They are all but lost,
As are we.
*John Adams. Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, 11 October 1798
**Benjamin Franklin. Final Address to the Constitutional Convention. 17 September 1787.