An American Epilogue

From the Hill, one alumnus sees a country forever seeking a father.

In Genesis 12:1, the Lord says to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” Shown by God’s call, and in this ancient passage written at the birth of writing itself, I believe this departure to be a fundamental inclination for all humans. At Trinity, many of us know this same feeling of leaving home in search of a calling that has brought us here. It is this feeling that matures into independence, giving birth to the energy and ideas which launch us into our own ordained calling.

After Trinity, I found an answer to this calling in the departure from Texas to Washington. Seemingly through faith alone, I resigned to take up a life participating in the industrious rhythm of Capitol Hill, the result of which would be a fundamentally drastic change of mind in how I view the American state, my world, and myself.

I have met firsthand the representatives we elect, from representative Jim Jordan to Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Trinity graduate Rep. Michael McCaul. I was there for the announcement of Katy Hill’s resignation. I stood before the coffin of the late representative Elijah Cummings to bid the congressman goodbye. Of all the diverse (and oftentimes fiercely independent) men and women who serve in Congress, I have seen a common spirit which pervades and emanates from them all: a strong, binding mandate of conscious and unquestionable faith bestowed upon each member through the consent of the governed.

In the days of the Roman senate, the plebeians, like ourselves, would elect representatives, the tribunes, to voice their popular will and to protect the sovereignty of the people. The tribune after ascension to power was then considered divinely ordained, his body holy and sacrosanct in carrying the voice of the people.

While not literally divine, the modern representative holds an ordained duty: to reflect the people’s will. All representatives become leaders in their own way. We commemorate the great members of our country’s creation as founding fathers, and our representatives today still measure against that example.

Aristotle affirms Homer’s supreme view of Zeus, calling him the father of gods and men because he is both their king and kin, like elder to younger, like father to child.

The state is the highest form of community, consisting of nothing more than of the towns and households as Aristotle put it. The Aristotelian view of the household follows the natural rule of the father as leader and herald presiding over the wife and children; so then, it can be understood that ruling and being ruled are so fundamental to the human experience that they become the natural framework of our own family unit. In this Aristotelian understanding, dominion over the wife is different from that over the children as there is a constitution (marriage) between husband and wife, one in which there is joint leadership with one leader. We might compare this relationship to a constitutional state that sees the citizens move between ruling and being ruled, as all citizens are equals.

Our founding fathers worked so that we would not rule in a father-children household but in a father-mother household as citizen equals. However, our own impulse fights against this system. We “endeavour to create a difference of outward forms,” as Aristotle says, or we voluntarily depart from our equality. We see this transcendence from citizen to ruler in the commoner-turned-king of Egypt Amasis who, according to Heroditus, took a simple foot pan as a symbol of the common person and molded it into an idol of a god, symbolizing how he was a man who became their divine ruler. We in the United States see ourselves as inheritors of a nation bequeathed to us by the founding fathers, which in turn invites the allure of a birth right ruler. In Thomas Hobbes’ writings, there are two forms of dominion: those created by conquest through despotic dominion, and those by inheritance from parent to child in paternal dominion. With the key to dominion being inheritance and citizens as inheritors, the potentiality of a forged American dominion is possible. In short, our commonwealth of equality among citizens is always vulnerable to the human inclination toward crowning a national inheritor and god-ordained strongman as sole ruler. Tragically, our own independence is the very tool that can enable our republic’s dissolution in our collective desire for an immaculate leader.

The heavens themselves beckon us to sovereign rule. The paternal and fatherly aspects inherent to leadership evoke the righteous dominion of the gods. Aristotle affirms Homer’s supreme view of Zeus, calling him the father of gods and men because he is both their king and kin, like elder to younger, like father to child. St. Thomas Aquinas himself affirmed the natural law view of “inclinationism,” that people are inclined to a singular ultimate purpose and end, which, to his reasoning, was to know God. We carry a deep urge to know our creator and ruler, our herald and protector, and to know him as a child knows his father.

More than any other spot, every tourist in DC wants to see the White House. They wait in a 35 minute jam-packed line through the East Wing where they clamor to see the furniture, walls, and paintings of the President’s historic home. I have to reject hopeful tourists over the phone for this tour more than any other. No matter who occupies the Executive Mansion, the intrinsic awe of the Presidency beckons the hearts and minds of countless Americans.

Our tendency will always be to seek out a sovereign ruler. Even my own journey to DC was inspired by both my reading of God’s word and my sense of personal duty to serve our leaders. Our Constitution understands and mitigates the effects of this desire by creating not only a more perfect union, but a perpetual union as well, unharmed by the scourge of despotism. As we seek national perfection, we also unknowingly sleepwalk towards our republic’s dissolvement as we voluntary become a dominion ruled by a singular paternal sovereign. I can only pray that, as in many troubled times in the nation’s past when destruction seemed real, our rescue will come in due time, and that our own union of states founded on liberty and self-determination will endure.

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