Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day

I'm posting this a day late, but I just got back so...

It's Memorial Day. Time to pay tribute to all of our soldiers.

I believe one of the best tributes we can pay them is to keep this country worthy of such great sacrifice.

During this last Presidential campaign, I became aware of the choice that our nation faced. It wasn't a choice between two candidates, at least not really. I hate to borrow a line from John Kerry, but it really was a choice between two Americas.

This last election was the Identity Crisis of 2008. We had to decide: do we remain the country of individualism and free enterprise set up by our founding fathers, or do we give up--do we throw up our hands and admit that we're not smart enough to live our own lives, that we're not industrious enough to make something of ourselves, that we just can't do it; we need the government to do it for us?

That was the choice we faced, and that is the choice we still face today.

On this Memorial Day, let us not only remember our service men and women, but let us remember the ideals that they fought for, and still fight for:

Those are words you don't hear very much from politicians anymore. Those words sum up what it is to be an American.

America was founded on an idea, a principle, a belief in self-evident truths that all men were created equal; that they were endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that to secure these rights governments were instituted among men, that when any form of government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it. I wonder how many of our kids in public schools today have even read those words.

I think we're in the trouble we're in because we don't know who we are anymore. We have forgotten what it is to be an American. We've been told that those ideas are outdated, old-fashioned, that they just don't work anymore. The world has moved on from such antiquated notions as dignity, justice, and the right to stand on your own two feet without the government telling you where, why, when and how. We hear all the time about Thomas Paine and Common Sense, but how many of us have ever actually read it?

We don't even know why we are a country anymore, why we separated from Great Britain in the first place, why so many of our ancestors were ready and willing to suffer, bleed, and die for a future they would never see.

We are so blessed, and we don't even know it.

Now, we stand on the precipice, ready to hand over our birthright for a bowl of weak pottage because we don't even realize what that birthright means. We perish for lack of knowledge.

200 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville warned us about what he saw as the type of despotism democratic nations had to fear:

"It would seem that if despotism were to be established amongst the democratic nations of our days, it might assume a different character; it would be more extensive and more mild; it would degrade men without tormenting them....

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications, and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent, if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks on the contrary to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing.

For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness: it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances--what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range, and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself....

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned them at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a net-work of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd.

The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid andindustrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd....

By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master, and then relapse into it again....It is, indeed, difficult to conceive how men who have entirely given up the habit of self-government should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be governed; and no one will ever believe that a liberal, wise, and energetic government can spring from the suffrages of a subservient people."

And here he mentions the choice we faced in 2008, although many did not realize it:

"The vices of rulers and the ineptitude of the people would speedily bring about its ruin; and the nation, weary of its representatives and of itself, would create freer institutions, or soon return to stretch itself at the feet of a single master."
It may be that we will wake up (the rumblings of awakening can already be felt) and come to our senses before it's too late. Perhaps the real choice will face us in the coming years, once Americans realize the choice that is set before them, unlike in 2008 when many did not yet see the election for what it really was.

For the last one hundred years the government has slowly been fashioning the bell whose ring will signal the end of America as we know it. The current administration has begun the preparations of fastening that bell to the ceiling of the Oval Office and is ready to give it a good whack, and the young generation coming up and too many of the rest of us have been so dumbed down that we don't even realize it.

But one moment of truth is worth ten thousand years of error. Strike up the brass band and play America the Beautiful, and you'll get a glimpse of the truth again. Read the words of our founding fathers, know them, make them your own. Catch their vision. Teach that vision to your friends and your enemies, your neighbors and your co-workers. Make your children learn them. Knowledge is power.

Power to the people, and God bless America.

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