A Solution for a Fragmented America

A Solution for a Fragmented America

“the idea of freedom that so united us in the past now divides us.”

In his masterwork, The City of God, Saint Augustine offers a definition of a people that can shed some light on why we are so fragmented today. He states that a people is “a gathered multitude of rational beings united by agreeing to share the things they love.”

In the face of a growing social disintegration, this definition points to the source of our discord. It is not only differences in opinion about economic systems or political policies that divide the nation. Rather, it lies in the fact that we no longer unite to agree, share or love.

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Agreeing, sharing and loving are by their nature social acts that unify. They presuppose principles around which we might gather. Such activities also assume social institutions that serve as a point of reference where we might unite. Clearly the principles and social platform upon which we used to share the things we loved have declined and eroded.

What Has Happen to Freedom?

Ironically, the cause of this disunity can be found in today’s twisted notions of freedom.

If there is one thing that has always united, and can even still unite Americans, it is our love for freedom. Indeed, the mere mention of freedom has always served as an inebriating rallying cry that opens up seemingly infinite possibilities of realizing dreams. This concept is found in our myths and is intertwined in our national narratives. Soldiers fight and die for freedom.

However, the idea of freedom that so united us in the past now divides us. Freedom used to be the means by which we celebrated our diversity. Today, it splinters us up and sets us in radical discord with each other. It has become the point of contention that is tearing the country apart.

The problem is not freedom itself. It is what freedom has come to mean.

Freedom Inside a Framework

In the classical sense, freedom is not the act of doing whatever one wants. Rather, freedom has long been defined in terms of self-restraint whereby individuals avoid being enslaved by their passions. It involves choosing the means toward something judged to be good. Freedom presupposes a moral order that helps us discern the good. Freedom buttresses the rule of law; it does not undermine it.

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Perhaps a better way to understand freedom is that which allows us to live fully inside a broad framework of family, community and faith. These social institutions serve as benevolent handrails not odious fetters upon our future. They facilitate freedom and enable us to be a people by helping us unite to “share the things we agree to love.”

America was founded in this context of ordered liberty. It served as a point of unity that allowed Americans to prosper and express themselves with amazing variety. Inside this context, it is also understood that freedom is not without cost. It must often be bought with sacrifice and even blood.

Freedom Without Restraint

The traditional notion of freedom has long been in conflict with the more modern ideal that came from the Enlightenment. This concept is a freedom without rules or restraint best expressed in the rambling impressions of French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Rousseau saw freedom as obedience to the law one gives oneself. Law originates in the individual who is the supreme judge of right and wrong. Each is deemed autonomous and self-determining. The ultimate goal in life is the remaking of the “self” to achieve self-realization and self-fulfillment. There is a denial of any limits or boundaries to experience; nothing is forbidden.

This distorted vision of freedom repudiates social institutions as obstacles that inhibit individual expression. It proclaims a freedom from God and His law. It is constantly undermining its foundations by introducing elements of chaos and frenetic intemperance, which it labels diversity. This freedom denies duty and demands entitlement.

This individualist notion of freedom helps explain why we cannot be united as a people. It is because, in this lonely regime, one cannot agree to share the things we love for so little is shared or loved together. It also explains why we are so divided. In a regime where all make their own rules, there is no limit to the fantasies and illusions that serve to justify sin, vice and discord. we cannot agree to love.

A Fragmented Nation

Thus, we are fragmented because this second notion of freedom now dominates the culture. We can no longer live off the legacy of ordered liberty, a fruit of Christian civilization that has sustained our society. Our social capital has been spent. Things are breaking down.

Properly speaking, it has not resulted in the polarization of the nation since there are not two clearly defined poles. Rather what we are seeing is the splintering up of America as postmodern individualists self-identify into innumerable groups, genders and categories.

That is why the Culture War is so important. With the splintering of society, many Americans are searching for what we lost. With the grace of God, the institutions and principles of Christian society can have amazing regenerating qualities if strongly affirmed. If we are to be a people once again, we must rally around what Russell Kirk called those “permanent things” that we once loved and agreed to share.

  • Richard Hennessy

    It would be simpler to say that we cannot enjoy unity as a nation without morality and personal responsibility, which the liberal agenda won’t accept as necessary or even important.

    • Phil Alcoceli

      Mr. Hennessy, we all agree with you, but Mr. Horvat goes much deeper than you, all the way to the core of the problem: the now perverted definition of FREEDOM. Huge problems like these are better solved by going to the root at its deepest part, just like a tree is better shaken at the trunk than by its leaves. I agree with Mr. Horvat in that we have to stand again as the paragons of true freedom, proclaim it every which way possible and hold on to it for dear life in the middle of the Satanic Perfect Storm we’re in. God is on our side.

      • Richard Hennessy

        Do you not understand that freedom from morality and personal responsibility is the perversion of freedom that is discussed in the article? That was my point, which I thought could be stated more simply than the writer did by making the link more explicit.


          The way people in America or of any country in this planet has become so disunited is simply because the understanding of freedom has now a different meaning due to the liberal way of thinking:

          a) The killer # 1 in America is the abortion permitted by the law without any restrictions.

          b) The dysfunctional families start with a lack of commitment on the marriage, which anybody arrives without a real thinking about it.

          c) Because we have “freedom” people can burn their own national flag and disrespect their national anthem

          d) The respect and discipline has lost meaning along any way of lives of the people.

          e) And the roots of all above are

          – that our children are growing with the mere presence of father and mother without any filial attachment.
          – Parents have become so indifferent that giving toys to their children is the meaning of love.
          – Leaving their children to do anything without any guidance means for them they are creating freedom for their children, and where is the discipline? (a word found only in a dictionary).

          I understand that now both parents have to work to make both ends meet. For that reason they put their children in a nursery or pre-school from 6 Am to 4 PM. They forgot that from 4PM to 8PM they have 4 hours to give all the love, and discipline so they do not fall on the above described aspects of family declining. And they count with Saturdays and Sundays to make the growing up of their children much better. Of course parents have to give up their own time, but also they have to understand that is the main reason they got married in first place. If they want their children to become good citizens, they have to make all the positive influences on the first five years of their children’s life. They have to understand that the school is not the replacement of their false parenthood.

          • Richard Hennessy

            If Federal income taxes weren’t so high, both fathers and mothers wouldn’t have to work to make ends meet. One reason taxes are so high is that they pay for many things that are no business of the Federal government. If the Federal government would do only what it was intended to do, we could have lower taxes and perhaps parents could raise their own children, as God and nature intended. I believe the states would do a much better job of deciding what services are necessary and how much their citizens should be taxed to provide them. If some states decided to tax their citizens too much, people of those states could choose to move to other states where they could raise their own children, rather than pay for unneeded services.

        • Phil Alcoceli

          Do you not understand that Mr. Horvat is giving us the most PRACTICAL and EFFECTIVE way to restore unity in America? His observation is nothing short of genius. We have gotten blue on the face preaching for deacades about, like you said, “morality and personal responsibility”. That has only resulted in deaf ears and a moral decay free fall. If, like Mr. Horvat points out, we proclain the true meaning and wonderful consequences of true FREEDOM, we’ll start to see a slow but effective change. With preaching about morality you need a high horse, with preaching about true freedom you need to walk in other people’s shoes and get your hands dirty, just like Jesus.

  • Michael Cornish

    Also now the people of America dishonor God. And strive to silence anyone who would honor God. This brings a curse on a nation. Same sex marriage brought another curse on the nation. But there is hope as there is still a large remnant of believers left in America. It reminds me of when Abraham was bargaining with God about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

    • wiseprotector

      Yes, there is still a strong base of Christian belief in America, more so than in Europe. Christians of every domination must unite on fundamentals, against abortion, pornography and homosexual propaganda. But evangelicals, Lutherans and Catholics must show a united front as there is strength in unity.

  • Bill Domenico

    Discipline! Discipline! Parents no longer discipline their children. Public schools no longer discipline students out of fear of their parents. Upon graduation, students are no longer required to experience discipline by enlisting or being drafted into their country’s military service. Without discipline, there can be no order. Chaos is the ultimate result. That is why in sports, there are umpires, referees, and judges. Same is true of the moral order. No discipline, no virtue. End result is sin and anything goes! No magical formula. Just return to discipline, as an individual, a family, a community and a country. Not a small task in today’s undisciplined world!

  • Simone

    People who wish to reassert the Americam commitment to ‘one nation under God’ and to bring back adherence to Mosaic precepts, i.e., the Ten Commandments, must form a strong lobbying Organization. It must be recognised as an influential voting bloc, to which politicians will pay real attention.

  • gabrielle jones

    Thank you,Mr. Horvat,for this in -depth article. It goes right to the heart of the problem,and explains it very well.

  • Lou Soileau

    Thank you. As a people and as individuals, we have lost any sense of accountability. Call it the Enlightenment or attribute it to Rousseau, God is not real to the majority. We abandon the Wisdom of Catholicism for Luther’s exercise of personal wisdom so that we no longer answer to any higher authority – we can live immorally while claiming to follow Christ and while expecting Eternal Life. Prayer and Catholic moral behavior are our primary tools in, as one respondent said, this Perfect Satanic Storm. May God forgive us.

  • Superma

    This is an excerpt from one of my letters to the editor: Our country’s founders, respecting “natural law”, recognized that higher law. Had they appealed only to written law, they would’ve been guilty of treason. Had the 1973 Supreme Court recognized higher law, they never would’ve taken up the abortion case. Besides, justices crossed over into lawmaking; I might say, over into lawbreaking.

    Countries worldwide admire our founding and see the Christian base indispensable to republic. Christian reliance on higher law is what made our country unique and successful. Abandonment of reliance on higher law denies us our uniqueness and our success.

    I quote Pope Emeritus Benedict, meeting with members of the Curia, in the question of truth and faith in shared responsibility of Christians and the world of culture. “Alexis de Tocqueville, in his day, observed that democracy in America had become possible and had worked because there existed a fundamental moral consensus which, transcending individual denominations, united everyone. Only if there is such a consensus on the essentials can constitutions and law function. This fundamental consensus derived from the Christian heritage is at risk wherever its place, the place of moral reasoning, is taken by the purely instrumental rationality of which I spoke earlier. In reality, this makes reason blind to what is essential. To resist this eclipse of reason and to preserve its capacity for seeing the essential, for seeing God and man, for seeing what is good and what is true, is the common interest that must unite all people of good will. The very future of the world is at stake.”

    The future of the world begins here….where is our hope and influence?

    The fundamental moral consensus which united everyone is held and proclaimed anymore only by the Catholic Church. Protestants don’t have all that it will take to stem decline. Protestant churches majorly rely only on bible, do not credit tradition and magesterium.
    With my limited I.Q. but with a wisdom of age and grace, I respectfully request Christians rally with the Church in restoration of the fundamental moral consensus, hope of the future of the world.

  • rocky63

    The discussions below this one represent one of the finest, most intelligent, most sensible and important set of comments I’ve ever seen on a comment site. Mr Horvat has written an excellent piece; and the people whose posts are below mine have added significantly to the value of his writings. I am so wonderfully pleased to know that thinking persons, such as those who wrote the comments below, are still among us in this great nation.

  • Chris Lilly

    False freedom turns liberty into anarchy and tyranny!