For six months of the year, I am blessed to live in a beautiful home in the south of Florida. The house is nestled up against a golf course, fronting on a safe street in a lovely, gated community. Granted, it is not among the grandest of homes in size and extravagance, but it is certainly more than I might expect to have.
Despite its safe, secure location, the house is subject to various threats from time to time, almost all due to the whims of nature. It sits in the path taken by a number of hurricanes over the past few years—Charley, Wilma, and Irma since the house was built in 2004. Only minor damage was inflicted by each of those, fortunately, but the risk remains.
Flooding, loss of power, and compromises to safe drinking water are other external hazards, usually as a side-effect of those hurricanes.
However, the most insidious threats to the integrity of the house come not from outside, but from within. The greatest danger is from mould, whose major causes are humidity and condensation, which can arise from leaks, poor ventilation, and general dampness. Once it gains a foothold, it spreads rapidly.
Almost as bad is the threat from termites. Working from the inside out, they can do a great deal of damage before they are ever detected. The signs are there, of course—stiff windows and warped doors, papery or hollow-sounding wood, termite droppings, small piles of sawdust—but these are easy to miss in the early stages of an infestation.
Both mould and termites can destroy the structural integrity of a home from the inside more surely than any external threat. Vigilance is required.
I find this analogous to the situation faced today by the remarkable nation of which Florida is a part. This grand experiment in democracy, self-proclaimed as the greatest nation on the face of the earth, does face threats from outside its borders. It has engaged in two wars with foreign adversaries on its home turf (1775-1781 and 1812-1815, plus a civil war from 1861-1865), but recent attacks have come mainly from terrorists, both foreign and domestic.
With what is widely assumed to be the strongest military capability in the world, it seems safe to say the country will not likely suffer an invasion from any foe.
But what of the threats from within? The nation proudly touts itself as the leader of the free world, based on the pillars of its foundation. What are those, and where might they be found?
The US Constitution of 1789 begins with these words—
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common
defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty
to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution…
It has been amended and revised many times since then, but its basic premise has never altered. Among its most important pillars are: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the right to bear arms, freedom from unwarranted search and seizure, the right to due process of law, and voting rights.
Its whole purpose was famously summed up in 1863 as ensuring that… government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
No foreign threat has been successful, so far, in efforts to thwart the intent of the framers. The greatest reason for this is that generations of elected representatives from both legislative and executive branches have honourably carried out their sworn oath to…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic… [and] well and faithfully discharge the duties of [their] office…
It’s called integrity.
Is that changing, I wonder, in front of our eyes? Has personal interest—whether political or financial—become more important to some than defence of the Constitution? Has political partisanship on the part of some trumped the notion of duty to country? Has the job of some elected officials become, not to carry out the will of the majority of the people, but to curry favour with wealthy lobbyists and sponsors so as to ensure re-election?
The answers are for each American to decide for her- or himself, I suppose. But it is worth noting that, although some of these threats are being mounted by foreign interests, they are being encouraged and implemented by some from inside the nation.
Even the strongest tree rots from the inside out.
Benjamin Franklin, when asked by citizens what sort of government the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had created, answered, A republic, if you can keep it.
We shall see.