A republic is not worth dying for just because it is prosperous—not if its self-satisfied citizens live like pigs. Nor is a republic worthy just because its citizens enjoy political freedom—not if those citizens dissipate their freedom in decadence, promiscuousness, and self-centeredness. Indeed, no republic will last long that ceases to strive for nobility of spirit, virtue, and self-sacrifice. Put another way, tyranny begins within the mind and the soul. If in that mind and soul there is no moral difference between the truth and the lie, and no moral difference between deeds good in themselves and deeds evil in themselves, then what is the argument for preferring liberty to tyranny? Opinion soundings show that a great many Americans no longer can express, or even recall, the ideas, specific virtues, and moral strivings on the embodiment of which this republic depends for its continuance.
Read the rest of Michael Novak, in the first of three installments, on the truths Americans used to hold.