It is remarkable how little the monument society left talks about human happiness and fulfillment. Instead, they prefer to talk about a "better tomorrow."
They talk about moving "forward." They imply that we must be miserable today to be happy tomorrow -- or, alternatively, that our children must be miserable tomorrow so that we can be happy today.
That's what the monument society is all about. Jewish Midrash teaches about the Biblical Tower of Babel, the monument society. The tower became so tall and so grand that it supposedly took a year to shuttle bricks from the bottom of the tower to the top. People wept when a brick fell, but did not care if a man died. There were always more workers. But bricks were invaluable.
The builders of that tower would have given their children a magnificent site. But those children would have been slaves to the monument. There would have been no happiness. Just a vast tower, crumbling to dust over generations.
The founders recognized that Americans, given freedom to pursue their own goals, made self-reliant, are happy. The power of the collective is magnificent, but only when the people agree on utilizing it. That is the balance the founders drew, and that is why they were so wise. Our liberties must be preserved from the collective, but in times of crisis, we must all come together. The collective must not be hijacked for particular interests, forcing men to labor for the selfish benefit of powerful interests. The collective must only be activated when absolutely necessary. Anything less destroys human freedom, and turns us into the monument society.
Only a society that prizes individual freedom over collective mobilization can hand that freedom to its children. It can make monuments -- living monuments. Children who grow up free. Who inhabit those great skyscrapers. Who visit Mount Rushmore, not as a relic of an ancient civilization, but as a tribute to the values of those whose faces are carved into it.
That is American exceptionalism. That's what we seek to give to the world. We are the monument. Our families are the monument: a monument to God and to liberty. Because, in the end, all towers crumble to dust. All that matters is the living. Monuments mean nothing if there are no free people to honor them.