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    Book Club: The Roots of American OrderChapter 10

    May 9, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    Only one week left {and, if you are like me, two chapters}! The length of this book has been a challenge for me, especially because I wanted to give it my full attention. As life has picked up its pace, this has increasingly been a challenge for me. I am so glad we did this…and I’m so glad we’re about done doing it!

    This chapter was fascinating to me. Kirk engaged with four minds who had great influence over the initial form and order of the United States: Montesquieu, Hume, Blackstone, and Burke. For whatever reason, it is Burke who I’m still pondering, and so it’s Burke I’ll be discussing today.

    I see three applications for Burke’s ideas, and these are: parenting teens and older children, taking a generational view, and choosing who and what to read.

    Parenting Teens and Older Children

    Before I write anything in this section, it should be made clear that I am completely inexperienced in this area, at least on the parenting side of it. This is not meant to be Titus-2-style older-woman advice, if you get my drift. I’m just making some connections here. I was once an older child and then, a bit later, a teen. My parents did a decent job, I think.
    I’m not saying that the state/citizen relationship is the same as the parent/child relationship, but I couldn’t help see some similarities as I read Burke’s thoughts on what happened between Britain and her American colonists. 
    I’ve been battling a cold this week, and I’ve let my preschoolers run wild. It is going to be very hard to pull them back in, and they’re the worse for it because their freedom wasn’t coupled with any responsibility whatsoever. There’s a chance that this is why I have mothering on the brain.

    Accustomed to a high degree of liberty, the Americans must be indulged in their old ways; the whole Empire would prosper by a prudent shunning of extreme doctrines.

    Burke makes it clear that part of the “problem” {and to Britain, it was a very real problem} was that America went mostly ungoverned and un-meddled-with from the beginnings of her colonization up until the time of King George III. The sorts of decisions being made by the King and Parliament weren’t taking this into account at all; no one considered how offensive this would be to American sensibilities.

    I was thinking here about children with too much freedom. Specifically, I was thinking about my children with too much freedom. Ahem. Come what may, I’m going to have to rein them back in.

    But sometimes freedom is given to older children, and then something happens and we parent-types want to take it back. At that point, we are standing on dangerous ground. Burke once said,

    When you drive him hard, the boar will surely turn upon the hunters. If that sovereignty and their freedom cannot be reconciled, which will they take? They will cast your sovereignty in your face. Nobody will be argued into slavery.

    We can substitute the word “authority” for the word “sovereignty” here, I think, and relate it a little to parenting. I assume that there were times in my teen years that my parents really wished they could be a little more authoritarian with me, places where {unlike Britain} the concern was even for me and my good, but where they chose to watch and pray rather than intervene because they didn’t want me to be tempted to “cast their sovereignty in their face.”

    I like to think I wouldn’t have done such a thing, but who knows? The heart is desperately wicked, after all.

    Of course, parenting is all in the reverse of this situation, because the goal is not a fully submitted human being, but a responsible and independent adult, whereas with Britain the goal was {or became, at least} to dominate the Americans and bring them into subjection.

    My parents were good about handing me freedom along with responsibility. So, for instance, I was free to get a job…and pay for the clothes that they were no longer going to finance. That is one memorable example. The job gave me the opportunity to become more adult, and the responsibility to provide for myself that came with it tempered much of the vice that would have come with the extra money.

    If the people are given adequate liberty, Burke reasoned, they will not risk their valuable existing rights merely for the sake of trying to obtain total freedom from all authority. 

    I think that this was the case with me growing up, though granted I didn’t have much of a rebellious streak. I was given enough freedom at the right ages that I don’t really remember chafing under the authority my parents still retained and exercised. This is a bit of wisdom I hope to keep in the back of my mind as my children grow older.

    Son E. is turning ten in a couple weeks, after all.

    Taking a Generational View

    Burke’s positions weren’t always reflective of what was popular in his time.

    The House of Commons voted down his first resolution by 270 to 78; but posterity voted with Burke.

    Now, I’m not saying that Burke took a generational view. But I think he encourages us to take one. We can look at his work over the scope of his life, see where he did not compromise with what was then the majority view, but instead held fast to what he believed was true and right and good {a rare thing in politics, no?}, and that in the long run he was even proven right.

    And he influenced the formation of an entire nation.

    Not a small thing, hm?

    His Reflections on the Revolution in France, and his later writings on that struggle, would turn against him many leaders in America–until the fierce course of the French Revolution, and then the tyranny of Napoleon, justified Burke’s prophecies.

    Prophets are never very popular inasmuch as they rarely say what people want to hear. But once again, we see that within a generation Burke was proven right.

    It can be so tempting to hold our tongues because our view is not the same as that which belongs to the majority. And there is wisdom sometimes in remaining quiet. But, conversely, there is wisdom in speaking what we believe to be the truth, regardless of the scathing commentary it might receive.

    Choosing Who and What to Read

    So many books, so little time, am I right? I have found myself pondering my book stack more and more as we become pressed for time. How do we decide what to read? I myself have always erred on the side of old books, for a variety of reasons. There is only so much time in the day, and the less time we have, the pickier we must be. This is one reason why I cut back a lot on my book reviewing. It had given me the chance to read the newer books, to stay up with the trends and fads of Christian publishing, but this was always at the expense of reading the really good books.
    I wrote far more bad reviews than I wrote good ones, and when I realized the books–as well as the writing ability of the authors–weren’t likely to get much better anytime soon, I became very, very discriminating about which books {if any} I would accept for review.
    Kirk quotes Burke as saying something that really hit me:

    We are just on the verge of Darkness and one push drives us in–we shall all live, if we live long, to see the prophecy of the Dunciad fulfilled and the age of Ignorance come round once more…Is there no one to relieve the world from the curse of obscurity? No not one–I would therefore advise more to your reading the writings of those who have gone before us than our Contemporaries.

    Read the words of the wise who have gone before us, and our time will be well spent.

    Read More:
    Buy the book and join in the conversation
    More book club posts linked at Cindy’s blog

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  • Reply Go quickly and tell May 17, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Belated Birthday Wishes, Brandy….

  • Reply Anonymous May 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    You must have highly intelligent parents. I would so like to meet them someday! Happy Birthday.

    • Reply Mystie May 10, 2012 at 8:52 pm

      I’m sure she does have very intelligent, kind, caring, amazing, marvelous parents. Parents who get all the credit for how awesome she turned out. πŸ™‚

      Birthday?! Happy Birthday!!

    • Reply Mystie May 10, 2012 at 8:53 pm

      Oh, I forgot: *hilarious* parents. πŸ™‚

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts May 10, 2012 at 9:03 pm

      This is the sort of thing that explains why my dad always says, “Mystie? I sure like that Mystie.”

      You really shouldn’t encourage him. πŸ˜‰

      Yes. Birthday. I am 34 today. πŸ™‚

    • Reply Kelly May 11, 2012 at 1:53 am

      Happy birthday!

  • Reply Trisha May 10, 2012 at 3:32 am

    A blessing of a post, Brandy. Thank you again!!

  • Reply Kelly May 10, 2012 at 1:02 am

    Now I want to read Montesquieu and Burke! Did you know that the complete collection of Burke’s works — twelve (12) volumes — is avaiable for Kindle… for free? I’m not even going to click that button. I have the entire Harvard Classics library on my shelves and I’ve barely made a dent in them.

    Oh, and, as the mom of a 23yod, 21yos, 19yod, and four youngers, your insights on parenting teens and older children are right on target. Your parents did do a good job. πŸ™‚

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