Here’s the peroration of Joshua Mitchell’s piece at RealClearPolitics in defense of institutions:
The burden of each generation is to mediate between past and future, not to destroy the past in order to secure a future. Democratic adherents of identity politics see the past as irredeemably stained — “systemically racist,” to invoke the fashionable phrase. But if we trample on our past, we will trample on our future, too.
What do our fragile institutions still have to teach us? The art of ruling and of being ruled. In our woke age, this idea sounds harsh to some ears, so let’s rephrase it: we learn the give and take of human affairs. This is an art, not a science, which is to say that we learn it by doing, whether in family life, in our religious institutions, in our informal civic associations, or in our local political life. We watch, we speak up, we listen, we lead, we follow, we act, we desist from acting. Through all this, our character is developed, and our judgments are formed. Some of us will be very good at it; some not.
If we are to take seriously the idea that we are citizens, equal under the laws, then learning the art of ruling and being ruled must be the most important measure of success in this democratic age. No book can teach it. No state can secure it. Only life lived in our institutions can help us master it. Is it any wonder, then, that as these institutions whither, we witness deeply distorted expressions of ruling and being ruled? Rather than learning humane ways of mastering this art, we observe a citizenry that alternates in a seemingly bipolar fashion between riotous violence in the name of social justice and deferential and unquestioning obedience to the state in the name of public safety. When the art of ruling and being ruled is not learned in humane form in our institutions, then it will appear in inhumane form outside these institutions — where it becomes the despotic art of mastery and servitude.
I was reminded of a passage from Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons:
This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!
The law is just one institution. So are religion and customs. Philosphers from Confuciuis to Kant have emphasized the importance of respect including respect for institutions.