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Will America survive?
John Vile.jpg
MTSU professor Dr. John Vile said Thursday that today’s toxic political climate is a troubling sign for democracy.

America celebrates its 245th birthday today. But will the USA make it to 250?

That’s more than a merely hypothetical question, as nationally recognized historian and political scientist Dr. John R Vile explained Thursday to The Rotary Club of McMinnville.

“I’m sometimes asked if we can continue” as a free, independent, self-governing nation, said Vile, dean of the University Honors College and professor of political science at MTSU.

“There are troubling signs,” he said of the increasingly confrontational and toxic political climate in America.   

“So often we use symbols for partisan division,” Vile remarked. “How often do you see the American flag on one side and the Confederate flag on the other side? ... It’s over,” he stressed, referring to the uncontested historical fact that the South was defeated at the end of the Civil War in 1865.

Referring to the collective mental volatility and deficit of commonly agreed values in contemporary political discourse, the Rotary speaker argued a populist, slogan-slinging candidate could “completely flip a party.”

 “We should be smarter than that,” he counseled, referring to our partisan loyalties and our decisions in the voting booth.

Vile has authored nearly 40 books and contributed to or edited dozens more. One of his recent publications is the encyclopedic, 400-plus page “The Declaration of Independence – America’s First Founding Document in U.S. History and Culture” (ABC-CLIO, 2019). After completing his undergraduate studies at the College of William and Mary, which counts Thomas Jefferson as one of its distinguished alumni, he earned a PhD at the University of Virginia, which Jefferson founded. 

The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence — lawyers, judges, merchants, plantation owners — were fully aware their rebellion against British rule was an act of treason, punishable by execution should the revolution fail. In the closing sentence of their Earth-shaking proclamation, they affirmed their “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” and went on to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our fortunes and our sacred Honor.”  

To defend, protect and preserve our American democracy and our freedom and independence, Vile said, we as citizens may need to renew in our attitudes and actions of the civic virtues of the founders.

“If we want to make it to the 250th we need to pledge our lives, fortunes and sacred honor.”

Vile reflects on the Declaration of Independence and other key symbols of the American experience when he appears this week in a “FOCUS” interview on public radio WCPI 91.3. The program airs Tuesday at 5 p.m., Wednesday at 5 a.m., Thursday at 1 p.m., and Friday at 1 p.m.