A Rising Tide
In George Orwell’s classic novel, “Nineteen Eighty-four” (1984), there is a term for the willful and specious manipulation of historical truth. In that prescient book, Orwell names that process “doublethink.” A technique in which the protagonist of the novel finds himself employed by the “Ministry of Truth,” in service to a dystopian vision of a society which has no tolerance for the individual spirit. A place where dissenting ideas are verboten.
It is believed, by anthropologists and paleontologists, that language developed even before man’s use of fire. To undermine that most essential of human interactions, posited Orwell, was at its core, an affront to the definition of Man himself. Indeed, in the novel, the main character finds himself increasingly at odds with the daily manipulation and erasure of historical truth and language in obsequious loyalty to an all powerful Big Brother. In the end, his inherent repulsion to the manipulation against his core values, labeled his “thought-crimes,” is his undoing and his punishment is the loss of his essential humanity. The book was and continues to be a cautionary tale.
Today, barely 60 years from the publication of Orwell’s work and seemingly a world away from the lessons and horrors of 20th century totalitarian regimes, we find ourselves still under assault by those who might make one last attempt at debasing the lingua franca of an open and democratic society with the repetition of half-truths and the outright redefinition of our past. These individuals are easily identified by their strident attacks on political opposition. By the casual manner in which respectable citizens and elected officials are stripped of their values with impunity. By the willful manipulation of facts and the most negative assumptions made about the motives of those in pubic office without a reasoned line of argument and evidence to back up those assertions. Finally, by a blatant disregard for civil discourse and without a respect or truthful reckoning with our historical heritage.
An example of this is to be found in the debate over our Federal government’s role in matters of religious conscience. Specifically the debate over the idea that religious institutions should be forced to comply with federal mandates which go counter to their core values. The doublespeak (doublethink) being employed, even by columnists in this very paper, is that the framers of our Constitution had little if any regard for religion in the public lives of citizens. Thus, we are given such revisionist history as: “The founders and framers did not believe religion belonged in the public square. Most of them were Deists ....” Thankfully, our cultural heritage as Americans, is still well preserved and we can still seek a better frame of reference for their true ideas from the actual writings and speeches preserved in the Library of Congress or even a simple visit to Trinity Church in lower Manhattan for example, the final resting place of Alexander Hamilton and various other representatives to the Continental Congress. From such research comes this rebuke to those who would seek to redefine the foundational spirit of this nation as nothing more than a meeting of colonial collectivists. Instead of understanding that the Founding Fathers and Framers were being mindful not to recreate a political leadership headed by their religious leadership like the Church of England and King George, the Left in America redefines those circumstances into the idea that the Founders wanted nothing to do with religion in the public sphere. The Framers in attendance at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, 52 out of 55 of which were practicing Protestants or Catholics, are now redefined by the Left as “Deists.” A term, one assumes, which is more palatable to the secularists on the Left who are attempting to make progress in separating the Founders’ actual religious values from the political discourse of today. This, they feel, will soften the battleground for future attacks on such fronts as mentioning God in public discourse or the Ten Commandments in the courtroom. By rewriting the spirit of the Constitution, they hope to use it against those who still profess a spiritual life in public for if the Founders themselves had no spiritual faith, how can the Constitution tolerate its proliferation in open society? At some point, when our past is redefined and our future predetermined by a big government instead of providence and the individual spirit, we can look back at the writings of a man like Benjamin Franklin and wonder in bemused ignorance, what it was that made these individuals so special and why their writings are so full of “out-dated” notions. One can only hope that if that day comes, those individuals busy employing doublespeak for so many years haven’t managed to burn all the history books without reading them first.
“In the beginning of the Contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine protection – Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor.
To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we image we no longer need His assistance?”
—Benjamin Franklin addressing the Constitutional Convention, 28 July 1787