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What is Americanism?


AmericanismThis article was originally published in the January 9, 1995 issue of The Birch Log.

There has to be a definition of Americanism somewhere. Yet it is quite obvious that many Americans would be hard-pressed to come up with one. A housewife might offer that it is a combination of patriotism and love of tradition. That's good, but not very specific.

A young radical might insist that Americanism is oppression of the little guy by the big guy. A retired school teacher might point to the marvelous opportunity and good will that has always characterized this nation. And a fifth grade idealist might answer: "Americanism is loving your neighbor."
All of which is to say that the term means many things to many Americans. But there is a definition that is historically accurate and ever so pertinent in these troubled times. If it were better understood, all of us would have a more certain future.
The Source of Rights
When our Founding Fathers had enough of British oppression, they broke away with the marvelous Declaration of Independence. In it, they spelled out clearly the essence of our nation: "... men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...." What it says is that God exists and that rights come from Him, not from government. Then the Declaration tells us that government has no other valid purpose than to protect the God-given rights of the people who formed government in the first place. The clear inference is that government is to be the servant, not the master.
altThe first Americans had to fight for the definition of Americanism that they set down in the Declaration. After their victory, they wrote a Constitution the entire purpose of which was to limit the power of the government they had created. They knew well that an unchecked government would become oppressive, so they tied it down "with the chains of the Constitution," as Thomas Jefferson noted.
And so it was. Our Constitution does not limit the people; it limits the government. Because our people have been free, they have produced, invented, built, and dreamed. Millions came here to enjoy the blessings of liberty, and they helped to build the greatest nation in all history.
The greatness of this nation is traceable to this new concept of government, a system which should be known by the name Americanism. It includes the belief in God from whom all rights proceed. It affirms the innate dignity of every individual. And it insists on strict limitation of government as a fundamental guarantor of freedom.
Don't Let It Fade Away
But anyone who answers to the name American today should be concerned, since so few understand our marvelous heritage. Because Americanism is so little appreciated, we have invited a burgeoning federal government to build itself into another master more oppressive than the one from which we separated two hundred years ago. Our courts, through anti-God decisions, have even barred from the classrooms any positive statement of the truths in the Declaration of Independence, the very birth certificate of our nation.
Americans enjoy the blessings of freedom far beyond any other inhabitants of the earth. We are indeed the heirs of all the ages. But we dare not relax and merely enjoy our good fortune. As Americans, we have a responsibility to pass along our glorious heritage to the future. So let us become determined to understand and live by fundamental American principles. And let us insist that our elected and appointed officials do likewise. If they do not, they should be replaced. Taking such action is also part of Americanism.

For more on this topic by John F. McManus, click here to view The John Birch Society’s most popular and widely distributed video presentation, "Overview of America." The "Overview" video provides a straightforward explanation of government systems, basic economics, and timeless moral principles. By following them, America became the freest and most prosperous country in history.

Photo: AP Images

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