The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns unity – United We Stand and Divided We May Self-Destruct. The people of the United States are more divided now than they have been since the Civil War. The Civil War raged from April 12, 1861, to May 9, 1865, and cost the lives of more than 620,000 American soldiers. It also “bankrupted much of the South, left its roads, farms, and factories in ruins, and all but wiped out an entire generation of men who wore the blue and the gray.”
The Civil War erupted after decades of simmering over slavery and central power. Congress tried several times to steer the nation away from war by passing the “Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and many others.” In the end, eleven states – South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee – left the United States of America and formed the Confederate States of America. Four long, dark, and painful years of war were followed by the surrender of the Confederate armies to the United States in April 1865 at Appomattox Court House and Bennett Place.
There are forces in the United States who are still trying to use race to divide Americans, and the chasm growing wider and deeper as time passes. Victor Davis Hanson wonders if the United States is traveling down the same road of the Roman Empire. The huge empire split in half in A.D. 286 under the direction of the Roman emperor Diocletian. The split was “administratively – and peacefully” made and involved the control of two emperors.
A Western empire included much of modern-day Western Europe and northwest Africa. The Eastern half controlled Eastern Europe and parts of Asia and northeastern Africa.
By 330, the Emperor Constantine institutionalized that split by moving the empire’s capital from Rome to his new imperial city of Constantinople, founded on the site of the old Greek polis of Byzantium.
The two administrative halves of the once huge empire continued to drift apart. Soon there arose two increasingly different, though still kindred versions, of a once unified Romanity.
The Western empire eventually collapsed into chaos by the latter fifth century A.D.
Yet the Roman eastern half survived for nearly 1,000 years. It was soon known as the Byzantine Empire, until overwhelmed by the Ottoman Turks in 1453 A.D.
Historians still disagree over why the East endured while the West crumbled. And they cite the various roles of differing geography, border challenges, tribal enemies, and internal challenges.
Hanson wrote much more about the divided Roman Empire and why one half thrived much longer than the other. The “Greek-speaking, Orthodox Christian and older civilization [was] in the East, and a “more or less polyglot and often fractious Christianity [was] in the Latin West.” The Byzantium empire “held firm against ancient neighboring Persian, Middle Eastern, and Egyptian rivals. But the West disintegrated into a tribal amalgam of its own former peoples.”
In the United States we have the divide between Red States and Blue States and even talk of another civil war. Americans who have the means, move from conservative states to liberal states and vice versa.
More conservative traditionalists head for the interior between the coast, where there is usually smaller government, fewer taxes, more religiosity, and unapologetic traditionalists.
These modern Byzantines are more apt to define their patriotism by honoring ancient customs and rituals – standing for the national anthem, attending church services on Sundays, demonstrating reverence for American history and its heroes, and emphasizing the nuclear family.
Immigration in fly-over country is still defined as melting pot assimilation and integration of new arrivals into the body politic of a hallowed and enduring America.
While red states welcome change, they believe America never had to be perfect to be good. It will always survive, but only if it sticks to its 234-year-old Constitution, stays united by the English language, and assimilates newcomers into an enduring and exceptional American culture.
On the other hand, “the more liberal blue states” are on the East Coast and the West Coast. They benefit from globalist wealth gained from trade with Asia on the West Coast and the European Union on the East Coast. “The great research universities of the Ivy League” are located in the blue states. “Just as Rome was once the iconic center of the entire Roman project, so blue Washington, D.C., is the nerve center for big-government America.”
Unlike the red states, immigrants moving into the blue states “retain and reboot their former cultural identities.” Religion is different – less orthodox with more agnosticism and atheism. The blue states on the coasts are home to “most of the recent social movements of American feminism, transgenderism, and critical race theory.”
Foreigners see blue coastal Americans as the more vibrant, sophisticated, cosmopolitan – and reckless – culture, its vast wealth predicated on technology, information, communications, finance, media, education, and entertainment.
In turn, they concede that the vast red interior – with about the same population as blue America but with vastly greater area – is the more pragmatic, predictable, and home to the food, fuels, ores, and material production of America.
Our Byzantine interior and Roman coasts are quite differently interpreting their shred American heritage as they increasingly plot radically divergent courses to survive in scary times.
But as in the past, it is far more likely that one state model will prove unsustainable and collapse than it is that either region would ever start a civil war.
Unlike the Roman Empire, the government of the United States of America was founded on a divinely inspired document known as the Constitution. President Dallin H.Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke about the importance of “Defending Our Divinely Inspired Constitution” in the April 2021 General Conference of the Church. He outlined the principles that he considers to be divinely inspired before stating the following:
Despite the divinely inspired principles of the United States Constitution, when exercised by imperfect mortals their intended effects have not always been achieved. Important subjects of lawmaking, such as some laws governing family relationships, have been taken from the states by the federal government. The First Amendment guarantee of free speech has sometimes been diluted by suppression of unpopular speech. The principle of separation of powers has always been under pressure with the ebb and flow of one branch of government exercising or inhibiting the powers delegated to another.
President Oaks then explained that Latter-day Saints [and all Americans] have a “responsibility to uphold and defend the United States Constitution and principles of constitutionalism wherever we live.” He then made an important statement: “We should trust in the Lord and be positive about this nation’s future.”
Latter-day Saints believe that Christopher Columbus was divinely guided to discover the Americas and the people who were living here. We believe that God helped the American colonists to win the Revolutionary War and inspired the Founders in writing the Constitution. Many of the writers in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ – testified that America is a land of liberty (2 Nephi 10:11) and a “land which is choice above all other lands” (Ether 1:42; 10:28; 13:2; Doctrine and Covenants 38:20).
The scriptures testify that America is a promised land unto those people who worship the God of the land who is Jesus Christ. God helped to establish the United States of America with its guaranty of religious liberty, and then He established His Church upon the land. He will not allow the United States of America to be destroyed even though terrible things may happen. America will most likely pass through some dark days, but I believe that its future will be glorious and bright.