Historically America has been characterized as a civil society which has always elevated individualism. That is, personal independence and self-reliance were seen as virtuous and fundamental to who we are as a people. This facet of our culture has suffered body blows in the past, but now an all-out brawl has developed between the individual and the collective mindset and is near the boiling point. In large part, this struggle to maintain our individualism is what is causing much of our current political civil war.
So the question naturally arises: Is this a battle worth fighting?
At this juncture, we see the extreme left establishing political ghettos to categorize and label people instead of seeing them as individuals. In a manner of speaking, that political ghettoization is precisely what Hillary Clinton did when she called Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables.”
The Real Resistance
But now what we are witnessing is something more insidious from the extreme left as they endeavor to stamp out the individual altogether in favor of the collective. The only problem, of course, is that there are still very many Americans who are fiercely individualistic. These people tend to be politically conservative or libertarian, and they do not plan to go down without a fight.
The American Creed of individualism has long been part and parcel of who we are as a people. French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville saw this as destructive to a society and wrote that it drained the “virtues of public life.” There’s the French for you. But many devotees of individualism, including Adam Smith and John Locke, have argued that individualism produces a whole that is much more than the sum of its parts. Edmund Burke put it best when he said the “spontaneous collaboration of free men often creates things which are greater than their individual minds can ever fully comprehend.”
However, when you believe “what’s yours is mine” on a soul level, you cannot abide the person who values what their own labor has wrought. You not only resent what they have but you resent them as well. John Locke puts this in its basest form when he says, “All wealth is the product of labor.” This is anathema to collectivists on the left.
Taxation is Not “Giving”
Let’s take Tax Reform as an example. The left continues to cry for more and more money to take from the average American. But the individualistic American fights back because of their core belief in self-reliance and independence. This American isn’t cold-hearted or stingy. In fact, statistics show that conservatives who tend to subscribe to individualism are – year in and year out – much more giving when it comes to charity than leftists. But they want their giving to be an option not mandatory. Therefore, if tax reform involves relief for corporations and small businesses – essentially groups of people who drive the economy and employ workers – the left cannot tolerate this. To them, it is merely a tax break for the rich because the collective “rich” is a thing – not a multitude of hard-working individuals.
The King of Collectivism, Karl Marx saw everything through the lens of “class struggle.” The fundamental problem that Marxism has regarding America is that individualism trumps class – that is you can take a poor grandson of a freed slave and with a lot of hard work and self-discipline you get a Supreme Court justice. Just ask Clarence Thomas. Thus, in America, the class struggle is subsumed by the battle between the individual and the collective.
A True Perspective
There are times when it’s vital to step back from all the superficial noise swirling in the political atmosphere. This is one of them. The American political class has spent a great deal of time lately arguing about the argument rather than seeking to understand the point of the fight. If conservatives and libertarians who make up most of the individualists in America can stop for a moment and view the forest from the trees, they just might see what the collectivists on the left are really seeking.
It’s not the presidency or a House and Senate majority. They are gunning for the very fabric of who we are and what we stand for. And that, my friends, we cannot and should not abide. This is why the current political battle is worth our time and effort. We must stand and fight the collectivists on every street corner, on the radio, on television, with the power of our purse and the virtue of our cause. One at a time – as only individual Americans can – we must beat back the leftists to keep our individualism.
It is worth the fight.
A widely published columnist, Leesa previously worked in the broadcast news industry as a television news anchor, reporter, and producer at NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates in Charlotte, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC.She is the author of "Free At Last: A Life-Changing Journey through the Gospel of Luke."