“Well, doctor,” she asked him, “what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?”
Franklin, who was rarely short of words or wit, shot back: “a republic, madam- if you can keep it.”
Eric Metaxas has written a phenomenal book here. In an age where we must look at the founders in the worst possible light, Metaxas reminds us how unique and wonderful the American story really is. Do we have problems? Most definitely. But this book has helped rekindle a sense of patriotism in me and a new appreciation for American exceptionalism. Now, you didn’t read “nationalism”, but “patriotism”.
By nationalism I mean the mentality that says our nation is the best and what we do is best. Rather than breeding that good-‘ol-boy sentiment, If You Can Keep It, drives the reader back to the founding documents and the heart behind them to encourage patriotism.
Now by patriotism I mean a love for our country that drives us to be better, not merely a love for all things ‘merica. Patriotism doesn’t excuse the wicked actions our country has taken, rather, patriotism says we ought to be better, we ought to be faithful to who we are meant to be. We ought to know our past, we ought to know who we are as a people, as a country. We ought to be a free people and virtuous people.
My favorite chapter is definitely “The Golden Triangle of Freedom”. Metaxas passes on the brilliant observations of Alexis de Tocqueville through the hands of cultural critic, Os Guinness. Tocqueville, a French diplomat, political scientist, and historian, visited America and noted the various reasons why American liberty was so fruitful. He says “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor without faith.” This is what Guinness calls, “The Golden Triangle of Freedom”. In order for a people to be free, they need to be virtuous people, but virtue requires faith, which in America was a Christian faith. Faith, however, needs to be free, it must not be compelled and indeed true faith cannot be compelled. Each corner of the triangle pushes us to the next one as we see that liberty requires virtue, virtue requires faith, faith requires freedom. I’ve written elsewhere about the Golden Triangle of Freedom so I wont spend anymore time here, but it’s a brilliant concept!
I heartily recommend this book. Metaxas is a gifted author and his book sucked me in right away. He adds interesting personal stories and he’s very informative. If You Can Keep It is a breath of fresh air in today’s market for historical works marked mainly by the Howard Zinn “everything is terrible” motif.
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