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When Prof. Robert P. George urged Americans to celebrate fidelity this June, he notably said nothing of fidelity to Mother Nature or the universe or the so-called “world community.” He did, however, speak of fidelity to one’s country.

For some, this may evoke unpleasant suppositions of “Christian nationalism” or ethnocentrism or quite simply racism. What right does Prof. George (or anyone) have to ask us to cultivate fidelity—exclusivist shibboleth—to America, and what does that even mean?

For married spouses, fidelity, by definition, excludes the possibility of any other. Must we therefore leave Ukraine and Taiwan and Afghanistan out of an abundance of fealty to ourselves? At what point, do we cross the line between dalliance with the nations of the world and outright unfaithfulness to our own?

Conservatism, if I may generalize, seems to think that we have already crossed that line, and it is very concerned. Liberalism does not think that we have crossed it enough. That is to say, to conservatives, America has cheated on America. To liberals, we are going too steady, and just as in Huxley’s “Brave New World,” where “everyone belongs to everyone else,” that is not at all a good thing.

The prevailing sentiment is increasingly the latter. Faithfulness is increasingly too nationalistic for our modern tastes; it is too restrictive.

Liberals point out that conservatives cannot agree on which version of America we should be faithful to. Certainly not America 2023 with its censorship and child mutilation and “woke mind virus.” What version then? America in 1860 with its 4 million enslaved blacks? America in 1920 with segregation, Jim Crow, and the KKK? No, of course not. It cannot be the 1960s either, what with drugs, sex, hippies, and Roe. V Wade.

SEE ALSO: Stay focused. We have a country to save.

But conservatives do not need a “version”—the ideal is good enough. We do not mean to turn back the clock to a “better time.” We must simply realize who America never has been perfectly but always was meant to be. Conservatives can grapple with America’s baggage and still say that we owe her faithfulness because, fundamentally, she is good. Liberals cannot.

Instead, liberalism pushes us into some sort of “open” relationship with the world. Domestic monogamy—overzealous patriotism—is sternly looked down upon. Perhaps this is why, as of late, the left in America has had a great deal more to say about democracy than America. We hear much about “threats to democracy”; little about “threats to the United States.” It is why Superman’s motto evolved from “truth, justice, and the American way” to “truth, justice, and a better tomorrow.” Not even the Man of Steel dare be so jingoistic!

This is the way of modernity, and it has been so thoroughly ingrained in our psyche, we perhaps do not realize just how much we have lost—we have lost the joy of fidelity.

Yes, fidelity is a joyful and even magical thing. It is adventurous.

SEE ALSO: Prof. declares June ‘Fidelity Month’ as alternative to ‘Pride’

Honestly, what fun or thrill or peril is there in being a citizen of the world, a steward only of one’s own self? Such a man can hardly be called a protagonist at all. He is simply a character. A wanderer, itinerant. His only struggle or cause is to maintain lonely self-faithfulness. His only adversary becomes all of society or even his family, both of which make dull protagonists. He breaks all bonds of fellowship, yet forms fellowship with everyone, which, I suppose, is no fellowship at all.

There is great joy in what Chesterton called the “fairy-godmother principle.” A great world of magic has opened itself up before us; our only condition (that we return before midnight) pales in comparison. If only we learned to be content with borders, we would be satisfied with everything within them.

But we are not content to be bound; we are not content to be faithful. We are always quick to find the border—the boundary, the constraint—and claw at it. Tragically, in doing so, we deny ourselves the mirth of true freedom, which only comes in a frame.

“[E]xistence,” Chesterton wrote, “was itself so very eccentric a legacy that I could not complain of not understanding the limitations of the vision when I did not understand the vision they limited…. Keeping to one woman is a small price for so much as seeing one woman. To complain that I could only be married once was like complaining that I had only been born once.”

SEE ALSO: Fidelity to God

The point—which is merely Chesterton’s applied to the nation—is that we are lucky to be bound. We are lucky to have a country worth binding ourselves to. We could spend the rest of our lives making America a more perfect Union. Indeed, it would be our privilege to do so. To complain of having only one nation, particularly when ours is shockingly exceptional, does not mean that we are open-minded. Frankly, it means that we are ungrateful. 

Slavery, segregation, and other stains notwithstanding, America is great in theory, and often—nay, almost always—in practice. We were founded on greatness; it runs in our DNA.

It is, therefore, the American ideal to which we owe fidelity—not who she was at any precise historical moment, but who she always aimed to be. The possibilities within that reality are not endless, but close enough. Within liberty’s restrictive, binding, and limited frame subsist enough joy and adventure to satiate the most liberal among us. And enough tranquility to appease the conservative, too.

To enjoy it, however, we must simply renounce our pertinacity for border-breaking. Let the nations of the world possess their perimeters. Let us be patriotic again.

Jakob Fay is a staff writer for the Convention of States Project.

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