Alan Keyes
Miriam Carey's tragedy--Is America's soul so dead?
By Alan Keyes
December 27, 2013

The Marquis orders his carriage to be raced through the city streets, delighting to see the commoners nearly run down by his horses. Suddenly the carriage jolts to a stop. A child lies dead under its wheels. The Marquis tosses a few coins to the boy's father, a man named Gaspard, and to the wine shop owner Defarge, who tries to comfort Gaspard. As the Marquis drives away, a coin comes flying back into the carriage, thrown in bitterness. He curses the commoners, saying that he would willingly ride over any of them. Madame Defarge watches the scene, knitting the entire time. (Synopsis of a scene from A Tale of Two Cities, Book II, Chapter 7)

This passage from Charles Dickens classic novel has come to mind every time I read something about the apparently unrighteous shooting of Miriam Carey, the unarmed woman who died in a hail of gunfire at the hands of police in Washington, D.C. The episode rouses concerns for law, order, and constitutional right. But I find myself preoccupied with the fact that the unsubstantiated claim that someone posed a threat to our distinguished high officials (or the edifices that house them), seems poised to excuse, without serious investigation, the extinction of what some might see as the relatively undistinguished life of "a 34-year-old dental hygienist from Connecticut...who had her 2-year-old daughter in the back seat."

It seems that, as the security apparatus we have constructed for the safety of our elite officials hurries along, those officials are entitled to treat Miriam Carey's death as the Marquis St. Evremonde treated the death of the commoner's child. It's a bump in the road, a pebble thrown off by the wheels of the security bubble's carriage. Like the Marquis St. Evremonde, are we supposed to take satisfaction from the fact that no part of the apparatus was harmed?

I can't help but think that this suggestion of elitist disdain is a sign that I no longer live in a land where the law is no respecter of persons; where regular folk and distinguished elites are presumed to stand equally before the law of God and man; and where the safety and convenience of the distinguished few gives them no license simply to disregard that God-endowed equality.

I've spent a good part of my life and political career fighting the stupid egalitarianism that defines human equality in material terms. Yet I deeply believe that America's founding generation was right to hold to the proposition that "all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." By placing the acknowledgment of human equality in the context of God-endowed right, they made clear that their measure of equality applied a standard true to the distinctive aspects of human nature that I discussed in my last post, "for which there is no measure but within each human heart."

Charles Dickens effectively evokes this standard of the heart as he portrays the Marquis St. Evremonde's casual contempt for the child whose life he extinguishes. The Marquis holds the commoner's life to be of no account, not just in comparison to his own momentary whims, but even in comparison to the animals that serve his vanity and convenience.

In practically every place and time known to human experience, diverse prejudices have produced this kind of contempt for the intrinsic worth of this or that class, race, or category of human beings. So in the United States, some could go unchallenged, not so very long ago, when they openly proclaimed that my black ancestors had no claim of right that whites could not disdain.

However, the notion of God-endowed equality was laid down as the first premise of political justice for the American people. This meant that in every generation since the founding, people had moral grounds for decrying such elitist disdain, and the behavior it falsely excused. Using the logic of equal right, they could prove it to be a conclusive symptom and definitive archetype of human injustice. (Though relegated to inarticulate sub-consciousness, this logic is still the indispensable first principle for the reasoning that keeps the charge of racism, so much abused in our society, from being itself no more or less than an artifact of jealous, resentful, prejudicial passion.)

Readers familiar with my work in recent years know that I have more and more emphasized the threat posed by the inordinate ambition of what I call the elitist faction in the United States. Through their controlling manipulation of the sham two-party system, they are seeking to emancipate their power from the constraints of constitutional self-government.

But, as America's founders learned from the deeply pondered work of a real French aristocrat, the Baron de Montesquieu, institutions of government are not really sustained by parchment provisions. Their survival depends on the habits, sentiments, prejudices, and precepts that form and inform the character of the people whose activities bring them to life.

In the name of security, some things are now being done, and other things are now being tolerated, intended to inculcate Americans with habits of mind and heart that are characteristic of subject peoples. Such are those who live in subjection to elitist powers, powers impervious to moral principles and precepts; powers unconcerned with anything except vectors and resultants of their interaction with opposing powers.

This is an insidious assault on the very soul of America's liberty, the wellspring of our common life wherein the spirit of God's justice informs the material interests of citizens determined to live according to His benevolent rule. Have we become a people, our soul so dead, that the tragedy of Miriam Carey's apparently murderous public execution rouses no outcry – and our so-called representatives in Congress, responsible as they are for the government of the District of Columbia, do nothing on behalf of the assumption of moral equality that is the keystone of our identity as a nation? And if our soul lies thus inert, can our life in liberty be revived?

To see more articles by Dr. Keyes, visit his blog at and his commentary at and

© Alan Keyes


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Alan Keyes

Dr. Keyes holds the distinction of being the only person ever to run against Barack Obama in a truly contested election – featuring authentic moral conservatism vs. progressive liberalism – when they challenged each other for the open U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in 2004... (more)


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