Four years ago I joined a patriotic lineage society. One of the main purposes of this organization is to promote patriotism. We, as a group, are proud of our heritage: we descend from patriots who championed the cause of freedom and fought for our independence from Great Britian. We share a belief that their sacrifices and struggles not only broke bands of tyrany, but established a government designed to recognize, promote, and protect freedom and God-given human rights.
Those who have studied history and the lives of our founding fathers and other patriots, are well aware that they were imperfect human beings. The fact that they were able to accomplish what they did in spite of those faults and frailties makes the resulting Nation all the more remarkable.
A study of history also makes it apparent that there has been much discussion, dispute, and disagreement concerning the details of government. But differing perspectives, priorities and approaches did not alter the fact that all were Americans. Americans have stood united by principles, ideals and a common history. Together we have sung and felt “Proud to be an American.”
People from other countries have recognized that there is something exceptional about the United States of America. It has been a beacon of freedom to the world. Immigrants have flocked here seeking refuge, freedom, and economic opportunities lacking in their homelands. Other countries have modeled governments after ours, hoping for the kind of prosperity we have enjoyed.
Yet, today we have Americans who seem ashamed of our Country, reject our heroes, seek to destroy our history, and even dismantle the whole system. Affirming the greatness of our Nation somehow seems to place one on what others claim as the wrong side of a great divide. Has patriotism become partisan?
A Plea, and a Dilemma
Please show me that there are Americans of both political parties who love America, cherish our freedoms and are proud of our heritage. I want to believe that those who speak hatred for our country are a small, though loud, faction. How wonderful it would be to hear all Americans unite in proclaiming the affirmations William Tyler Page wrote in The American’s Creed:
I, therefore, believe it is my duty to my country to love it; to support its constitution; to objey its laws; to respect its flag; and defend it against all enemies.
The American’s Creed – William Tyler Page
My dilemma is that the patriotic society I belong to is also non-political and non-partisan. I don’t want to be left wondering how to promote patriotism and share my love of country without appearing partisan. For over one hundred years this has not been a problem, and never should be.
The framers of the Constitution stated their intent to establish “a more perfect union.” I recently heard Stephen Fried, author of a wonderful biography of Benjamin Rush, say those words with the emphasis on “more.”
A truly perfect union could only be possible with perfect people. Unfortunately people are not perfect, and governments created by people are not perfect either, especially a union of states with conflicting, interests, lifestyles, and cultures. Striving for unattainable perfection, the founders realized all they could do was establish a union better than that which they had before.
Prior to this Constitution being written, the new “United States” were functioning under Articles of Confederation. Many had come to see the flaws and imperfections with that system. They had just revolted from a Monarchy and were painfully aware of the problems with that system of government. Having an opportunity to start fresh, they put much thought, discussion and effort into framing a government that would be as “perfect” as man could conceive and execute.
Unity Around Principles
Unity among diversity is possible not by somehow making all the same, or forcing conformity to a specific set of actions. It is only possible by unifying around commonly accepted principles, ideals, and values. There may still be much disagreement about the “how”, the specific practices and processes in working toward those ideals. But keeping those principles and values always in mind keeps unity forefront as a goal.
I think it is important to remember, and I think the framers of the constitution realized this, that it would be impossible to form a government anywhere near “perfect” without assistance from a perfect God. With that in mind, the principles upon which a government is founded should align with eternal, God-given principles to be as perfect as possible.
John Adams, in a letter to Benjamin Rush in 1805 stated:
“Is virtue the principle of our Government? Is honor? Or is ambition and avarice adulation, baseness, covetousness, the thirst of riches, indifference concerning the means of rising and enriching, the contempt of principle, the Spirit of party and of faction, the motive and the principle that governs? These are serious and dangerous questions; but serious men ought not to flinch from dangerous questions.”
Quoted in Rush: Revolution, Madness and Benjamin Rush, the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father, by Stephen Fried
I hear the judgement of “divisive” being thrown out much these days and specifically after a reaffirmation of those principles under which our country was united. How is remembering the values and ideals held dear and fought for by our founders and defended by courageous people again and again divisive?
We have a shared history as Americans. Remembering that history should unite us. Sure, the remembering of history needs to include diverse voices, but that should add to history, making it more complete. Including many voices should expand understanding and unity. Attempts to erase history or rewrite it to please a few can never be unifying, for it seeks to discredit and forget too many others and their sacrifices for all.
Remembering our history and the sacrifices of previous generations should fill us with gratitude. People in other nations look to us and our government as an ideal. They see in our government a “more perfect union” than what exists in their countries. We as such blessed, favored and privileged citizens should be proud to be Americans.
The American Dream is reaching upward and forward, striving individually and collectively toward perfection. Of course we face problems, but the solutions should move us upward, not backward. Why would we want our union to be “less perfect” – to lessen it in any way through divisiveness?
We are all Americans! We should stand united behind our government, as imperfect as it still is, while striving to continue to perfect it. We should stand united by our shared history, for it is the legacy we have been given. We should stand united around the principles of freedom, equality, justice and humanity and respect the symbols which represent them. We should be united as Americans!
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Through experiences of the past months, I am seeing that there is something profoundly valuable about being able to assemble as a group of people with a common purpose. Though business can and has been conducted remotely, there are added benefits to gathering together–feelings of unity, bonds, and synergy, that are lacking in the virtual world.
I remember back some decades to my time as a social worker. I observed that dysfunctional, and especially abusive families, were often isolated. This is largely due to efforts by abusers to maintain power and control. There are the obvious dangers of a lack of a support system or the ability to seek help, but there is another less obvious danger–isolation.
Isolation deprives us of needed reality checks. It is the casual observations and exchanges with others that give us our sense of what is normal. They give us opportunities to question our perceptions when they are different from others. We see common feelings and ideas and relate to shared experiences. Without these outside interactions, abused spouses and children come to see their restricted, abusive world as normal. Fears of outside dangers become magnified when interpreted only through the abuser.
After months now of social isolation and the absence of many of our routine group activities, the few and rather small gatherings of late have given me an unexpected emotional boost, almost like a cold drink after a long hot day makes me realize how thirsty I was. It feels wonderful! It brings back a feeling of normal. I suddenly have again a chance to feel validation for my thoughts and feelings through hearing others share theirs, with emotion conveyed as it only can be in person. An emoji can never convey what a smile, slightly raised eyebrow, or the hint of a tear in an eye can.
Humans are social beings. We need to be with each other. This is how it is supposed to be. There is great wisdom in the Founders recognizing and protecting the inherent rights of citizens to assemble for various peaceful purposes. Probably the most important purpose being to gather for the free exercise of religion. My soul is starved for that interaction now.
Division and fears are magnified when we are kept apart. Through isolation, governments can too easily exercise excessive power and control and in the process deprive us of those experiences which reinforce our shared humanity and foster unity. I hope this is a lesson from this experience that we do not forget.
We have all probably at some time pointed out to another person that they were overreacting to something. The reaction appears disproportionate to the precipitating act or event. You would think we would be able to recognize that when it happens, with others if not always with ourselves. However, overreaction has become so common and routine, that to many it seems more like an appropriate reaction, even presented as the socially acceptable reaction. Failing to panic or share outrage therefore reflects a flaw in the calm ones.
I think it started four years ago. We had a national election. This has happened every four years for over two centuries. Each time there is a winner and a looser. Sometimes the outcome has been pretty one-sided, but for the most part, roughly half of the country’s population is not happy about the outcome of any election. There have been complaints and some whining, but people generally accepted the outcome and tried to make the best of it, knowing that in four years there would be an opportunity to make a change. This is the way of our system.
The reaction to the 2016 presidential election seemed to me not only pointless and unnecessary, but way out of proportion. It wasn’t just a moment of upset and it was much more extreme than previous sore losers. The media has continued and fueled the overreaction by focusing on and blowing every possible negative out of proportion. It has been one outrage after another, ad nauseam, for four years. I think this has conditioned us, so that many fail to see how inappropriate and unwarranted most of the outrage has been.
Looking back at those outrageous reactions and the incidents that spurred them, were those situations really that dire? Actually, each crisis blew up and then kind of disappeared from mind and view as the next incident fueled another outrage. Yet, the angst remained waiting, almost anticipating the next thing to unleash the outrage on.
Irrational and Unnatural
The overreaction to these events appears irrational if one looks objectively at facts and data, in the context of history and considers multiple perspectives. The outrage probably seems reasonable after listening only to selected facts and exaggerations as part of the awfullizing narrative. Since these reactions are so emotional, what I have come to notice is my own gut reactions, which are a sense of something not right, something unnatural, contrived, even orchestrated, rather than an authentic and proportional reaction.
Then amid these repeating overreactions came a real threat – a serious, potentially deadly new disease. Something real to react to. At first, it seemed crazy to me that the world was suddenly shutting down. Sure this was a bad disease, but historically there have been worse. I was reading at the time a biography of Benjamin Rush in which was recounted the 1793 yellow fever epidemic which killed 10 percent of Philadelphia’s population. Even the worst – and now recognized to be unrealistic – predictions avout this new virus weren’t near that kind of death toll.
I remembered H1N1 not too many years ago. Nothing shut down. Life was normal. I went to a funeral for a victim of that virus, stood in a line with hundreds of people right next to other who all shook hands and hugged the family members who had been with her through her illness. No masks, no gloves, no hand sanitizer, no panic.
This reaction to COVID-19 felt so out of proportion. Sure, it was wise to take precautions and prepare, but was it necessary for life to stop for so long? We are beginning to see that the negative effects of shutting down may be worse than the effects of the actual disease. Yet, reacting to those actions is deemed inappropriate.
Black Lives Matter
As if we have not had enough, or possibly because isolation, economic hardships and anxiety are making people crazy, we have another overreaction of outrage. No one is arguing that the precipitating event was not horrible. Outrage at such actions is appropriate, as with other horrible incidents that have happened. We have had vigils, memorials, and demonstrations and people have made their voices heard in peaceful ways. Action has been taken.
But this has turned into something else, something way out of proportion, something very destructive. It is going on and on and getting worse. Instead of all joining in common outrage about behavior unacceptable to everyone, it has turned us against each other. Why? There is something more here than normal outrage at a horrible incident. It does not feel right. It feels contrived, manipulated, orchestrated, like a real tragedy is being used for a larger agenda.
People will say there must be an extreme reaction to accomplish change. But what change is really needed? Are things worse than they were 20 years ago? Are they worse than they were 60 years ago–the 1960’s? Though racism does still exist, the proposed solutions/demands seem way out of proportion to the problem. This dos not warrant destruction of our whole system.
So, I go back to my gut feelings. Something is not right here in America. I don’t think it is what the outraged are attacking as the problem.
It was by chance – or maybe not – that I read again in the Book of Mormon this week the prayer of the Prophet Alma as he and others began a mission to the wicked Zoramites. The phrase that jumps out at me and has at times pricked my conscience, struck me as such an important reminder today –
This wicked community turned out to be comprised of two groups. One was disadvantaged, marginalized, oppressed and excluded from full participation in society. Thinking of their situation does resonate with the concerns and objectives of #blacklivesmatter. Maybe #theirsoulsareprecious could be just as appropriate a reminder.
Yet, Alma’s prayer was not just for these poor, oppressed people. His prayer was for the whole community. It was also for the prideful, privileged who were persecuting the others. Their souls were also precious to their Father in Heaven. They were His children too.
I am aware of reactions toward #alllivesmatter and the feeling that it misses the point and trivializes the injustices of so many years. But can you say the souls of some who may not have been treated as precious, are indeed precious, without recognizing the preciousness of all souls?
Hasn’t the problem all along been the human tendency to put people into a category judged to be somehow worth less than others or inherently bad and then using that judgment as justification for depriving them of privileges or treating them badly? Is it really any different when that judgment is made based on the color or one’s skin or the uniform one wears? Or maybe even the color and words on a hat they wear?
Yes, some people do horrible things to other people and they do need to be held accountable for their behavior. Does this justify putting all who share some identifying characteristic with an offender, into a category judged as bad and therefore deserving of disrespect, contempt, attacks and mistreatment?
Does mistreating others make one’s soul less precious to their Father? I am sure such behavior offends and pains Him. Seeing all souls as precious and condemning unacceptable behavior are not mutually exclusive. Any good parent knows that the preciousness of the souls of their children is the very reason they must learn right from wrong, even at times through suffering hard consequences.
Maybe, whenever we have feelings other than love toward a group or an individual human being, or a tendency to ignore or discount someone, we need to get on our knees and pray to the Father of us all, acknowledging to Him as Alma did, that “their souls are precious.” Pray for them, for their needs, but also pray for ourselves, that our hearts may be softened and that we may see others as He sees them – as the precious souls they are.
“I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.”
This statement was given by Joseph Smith as an answer to a question about how he governed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I think it is very applicable to a secular “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” I have reflected on this statement as I have become very concerned about what is happening in our country during this time of crisis.
The principles which should guide all actions by our government are outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Correct principles also include principles such as those in the 10 Commandments. People should treat others with respect and kindness, as they would want to be treated. Life is sacred and should be protected. Self-direction and self-reliance are sound and valued principles. At times of crisis like this we see situations where some needs become urgent and some principles take precedence over others. The challenge of meeting urgent needs while maintaining rights according to those principles is a role of government.
Principles in the constitution affirm individual rights of liberty, exhibited in the opportunity to travel, to engage in business, to participate in activities of our choice. The Bill of Rights specifically spell out rights to assemble and to practice religion. People need to be able to work and provide for themselves and their families. They have need of goods and services to preserve life. Generally, government should not interfere with these rights. This is a basic principle of the Constitution.
Yet, government has responsibility to keep its citizens safe, to provide defense against that which would cause harm and endanger life. There may be times when the suspension of individual rights may be necessary in order to protect us, but those situations should be very rare and action taken with great caution. The reason for caution is human nature and the tendency among those with power to exercise “unrighteous dominion.” When people in power seek more power, they put themselves and their wisdom above others and use power to order actions and suspend individual rights. If successful in a crisis, there is not much to stop this from occurring without a crisis, with orders being self-serving, rather than for public good.
Maintaining Balance Through Mutual Trust
Maintaining a balance between preserving inherent and constitutional rights and providing protection can be complicated. Mutual trust is vital, yet sadly lacking today.
Allowing citizens to “govern themselves” requires that government trusts them to do the right things. It includes an assumption that the majority of citizens are morally upright, good people, who want to do good. When good, intelligent people are given accurate and sound information they generally will make choices to benefit all, even when those choices might limit their own freedom to do what they want.
If government trusts their citizens, they need only provide clear, accurate information and make recommendations for action. Then citizens can freely, with their own agency intact, act to make things better or at least not worse.Sure, there will always be those who are not trustworthy, who will selfishly do stupid things that endanger others. They are the ones laws are written for anyway. But to impose orders and threaten penalties upon law abiding citizens shows a dangerous lack of trust.
Trust of the government by the people is also necessary. Governments are mandated to educate their citizens, and that education should include the teaching of correct principles–not only the principles underlying our government, but correct principles about science, history, and human nature.
Teach Correct Principles
Besides being well educated, citizens need to be well informed about current situations in order to be able to use their agency to make wise decisions. This is where a thorough and impartial media is critical. We should be able to trust the media to give us accurate and unbiased information. I see a lack of trust today in both directions.
Public education has been influenced by those who would promote certain agendas over teaching truth. Education about the history of this country is no longer a priority, so we are lacking in understanding about those founding principles and the sacrifices made by those in the past to secure the freedoms we enjoy. Moral education, which early in this country was a significant part of education, has been dismissed as unfairly promoting religion. The ability to regurgitate facts through tests is now preferred to teaching students how to think and reason. What we have now are many citizens blindly following the teachings and direction of whatever factions they trust and suspicious of all other sources.
Back to Trust
Which leads back to trust in the other direction. By creating an educational system which lacks moral training, we have citizens lacking in moral judgment, and a government which does not trust them to make wise choices in a crisis. Add to that people in government more concerned about power than the welfare of citizens issuing orders that restrict individual freedom, which increases distrust of government.
I hope we come out of this crisis with our freedom intact and a greater appreciation of that liberty.
During the past few months of living with my now 18 month old granddaughter, I have been reminded of the innate human drive toward self-determination. Even at a very young age, little humans show individual will and a desire to do what they want. As soon as they have some mobility they will move toward an object that they desire. As small motor skills develop they grasp and manipulate objects to explore them. They want to go where they want and do what they want.
One large drawback for this is the lack of ability to communicate what one wants. One of the first, and probably most used word for children is “no”. Though they might not be able to articulate what exactly they want, they are able to let you know exactly what they do not want.
“No” is also used frequently toward children as they seek after what they want. Parents have a challenging role to provide an environment for children to learn and develop while keeping them safe from danger. Some are better than others at balancing this. There are parents who provide more than needed direction and restriction in the name of protection.
Maintaining Balance through Trust
Key to maintaining a good relationship through this balancing act is trust. If children feel loved and secure they learn to trust that their parents want what is best for them. Parents and others can try to teach children about dangers and how to avoid them, but sometimes the best teacher is experience. Unfortunately, over-protection often deprives children of such experiences. There are always some children more inclined to be obedient who might become overly dependent. And others more independent might resist restrictions and become rebellious.
Self-Determination Applied to Government
The founders of the United States of America recognized the human need for self-determination. They saw monarchy and the systems of the old world as working against that. In forming a government “of the people, by the people and for the people” they realized the value of individuals and the importance of individual rights. Many resisted ratifying the new Constitution because of the lack of a Bill of Rights. Why was this so important? They wanted to make sure that governmental powers were limited and preserved the rights of individual citizens toward self-determination.
Government also has a stated role to provide protection to citizens from threats and defense from attacks. This requires a balance not unlike the parental balance between encouraging development while protecting. There may be times when safety would require limiting individual freedom to do certain things. This is the argument given at the present time regarding this pandemic. Yet, there are others pointing out the dangers of increased government control.
Trust in Government
If the underlying condition with parenting is trust, then it would seem that trust of government would be essential for citizens to accept restrictions in the name of safety. But government is really people. We have elected officials who are supposed to act in the public interest, but too often act according to the own self-interest. We have officials who seem to thrive on excessive use of power. Just because someone has been elected to an office, does not mean that they have superior intelligence or knowledge and know best what to do. Yes, they often rely on “experts” for information, but do these experts also have other motives?
Our constitution allows for the people to vote to remove from office those who they feel are not representing them and their interests. Unfortunately a huge bureaucracy consisting of officials, not elected by or accountable to the people, is in the position of making and enforcing regulations.
Once power is used to limit individual freedoms, even in the face of a real threat, it can become easier for those in power to see other “threats” warranting further limits of freedom. Over-controlling government, just like over-protective parents, can restrict growth and foster dependence, especially among those inclined to be trusting and obedient. But it also can provoke those inclined toward independence and lacking trust in government to the point of rebellion.
The federal government is furthest removed from the people and much less in tune with the diverse situations in various parts of the country. It would make sense that elected officials on the most local levels would know best their own constituents and their situation and needs. They would seem more receptive to input from their neighbors about what is needed. It is easier for constituents to communicate directly with them and be more involved. This is one reason the founders created a Republic and left certain rights with States.
Though we are experiencing something dangerous today, I think it important to keep in mind the possibly greater danger to our freedoms by extreme restrictions imposed by government. The survival of individual citizens is of course important, but so too is the survival of our freedoms and form of government.
“Principles before Personalities” is one of the often heard phrases in 12-Step Programs. The idea is closely related to “Content is more important than presentation” and “The message is more important than the messenger”.
Yet, we live in a world immersed in entertainment. We tend to worship celebrities, hanging on their every word, as if they know anything about what they are talking about. We want to be entertained, emotionally moved and excited. We are drawn to charismatic people who say things that make us feel good.
Celebrities and politicians are expert in using “flattering words”. It is easy to get caught up in the emotion of a speech and a crowd, until we find ourselves thinking, “wait a minute, what am I cheering?” Unfortunately, many never do pause and think. They just get carried along, repeating slogans and sound bites without thought of what they really mean or what principles they promote.
The founders of the United States knew well the range of personalities among themselves, with their unique strengths and weaknesses. These strong personalities provided challenges, especially during the writing of our Constitution. But they also provided differing, yet valuable, perspectives.
The founders probably anticipated that throughout the history of this new Nation, there would be a variety of personalities, abilities and even character among it’s leaders. They designed the government to be able to withstand occasional bad leaders. The Constitution was built upon sound principles, with a system of checks and balances.
Possible Combinations of Principles & Personalities:
Good Principles & Personalities. The ideal situation, of course, would be a having a leader with not simply a strong personality, but more importantly a strong and good character, combined with government based on good sound principles.
Good Principles & not so good Personalities. If we happen to elect a weak leader, or one of questionable character, we still may be on safe ground if all those in government adhere to good principles. A weak leader may try to promote unsound principles, but his weakness might make him ineffective, especially with other good leaders around to keep things under control and the checks and balances within our government.
Bad Principles & Personalities. The worst case would be a strong and charismatic but morally corrupt leader promoting principles that are not sound or good. This would be a potential tyrant.
The Greater Danger
There is so much focus on words in our world today. More important than what a politician says is what he actually does. All politicians make campaign promises, many very unrealistic. While this can give one an idea of what principles they promote, the better barometer is to look at what they actually do. Are their actions consistent with principles we as Americans hold dear? Do their actions predict that they will uphold the Constitution or attempt to alter it?
Our Constitution was constructed to withstand a term with an unlikeable, unpopular or ineffective President. Every four years we have the opportunity to choose someone else – someone we may actually dislike just as much for other reasons.
What our nation may not withstand is a President who abuses his power to undermine and alter the principles within the Constitution. That is a much greater danger than being led by someone we dislike.
The current promotion of unsound principles which are contrary to those principles underlying our constitution and government, seriously threatens freedom. This is especially so with those efforts which are aimed at revoking some of the bill of rights and promoting socialism.
Don’t vote for someone just because you “like them” more than others, or because you “hate” someone else. Elections are not popularity contests. We are not choosing someone to socialize with. We are choosing someone to lead. Listen to their messages and the principles they are promoting. Look at what they have done.
Study the Constitution and the principles upon which it is founded. Use those principles as your standard against which to judge the slogans and promises and proposals of politicians.
Study the history of our great Nation. Become familiar with the principles for which our founders and many since have sacrificed their lives and honor. Don’t make their sacrifices in vain by rejecting those principles and undoing their work to preserve our freedoms.
Good leadership is important. Preserving our freedoms through adhering to the principles upon which this nation was founded may be ultimately more important.
Today, we have young people taking to the streets protesting in panic that they might not have the chance to grow up unless drastic measures are taken now. I remember. I was there, back in the 1970’s. I sacrificed to ward off the crisis. But now I am old. I grew up. The world is still turning. The hysteria has returned.
Panic is used to shift political power. It can make ordinary, reasonable citizens willing to give up their rights in exchange for protection and security. Politicians don’t usually panic themselves. They stir up panic among the people, then when people demand action, they are ready to step in to do what they wanted to do anyway– things that increase their power.
Panic fuels mob mentality. By pointing fingers at the perceived source of the crisis, we divide into us and them. Hitler was master of this. He used words to create fear about Jews taking from the rightful citizens of Germany. His words made them the enemy and justified their dehumanization.
Of course, there are genuine crises. But not all result in panic and panic usually does not do much to resolve them. The worst thing that can happen in a real emergency is panic. When people panic they don’t think clearly. They do stupid things which make things worse. Emergency training always involves learning to stay calm and prevent panic.
Some crises do require swift, decisive action. Pearl Harbor was such a situation to spur the entrance of the United States into World War II. But the public panic that ensued encouraged and justified the denial of basic rights to Japanese Americans.
Most crises do not happen in a moment. The drug crisis has been ongoing for decades, yet it has not engendered panic. I saw the opiate crisis coming over 20 years ago. Why did others not see then? Why was nothing done to prevent its spread? Who benefited from it continuing? Who influenced the lawmakers who define crisis? These are questions which could be asked of any “crisis”.
The breakdown of the family is a genuine crisis that has been ongoing and worsening for some time. It is a contributing factor to other crises, which have resulted in panic. But the panic is often directed to promote political causes, not to address core issues.
What to Do– or Not Do
Sure, it is wise to see potential dangers and take action to prepare for what might be devastating. Preparation is best done with thoughtful planning way before the crisis is upon us. “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” (D & C 38:30) Such preparation involves thinking through possible scenarios and planning ahead for those contingencies, making it possible to react to a real crisis cautiously and purposefully rather than in panic.
Sometimes the goal of inciting panic is continuing a crisis, because that justifies the need for whatever action is politically advantageous. Being able to keep pointing fingers of blame to the other side is more important than resolving the problem.
True crises require action. But they are complicated and seldom have one single solution. They are best dealt with through thoughtful discussion and consideration of all factors and interests of parties involved. This process takes time and effort. This is what a healthy two-party legislative process is supposed to do. But what we have instead is each side rushing to create panic that will serve their purposes. Both sides do this, but one side seems to be more practiced and possibly more skilled at it. In fact, they were able to turn around the attempted panic about our southern border being invaded– actually mocking it as false panic– into panic of a different sort. Neither resolves the real issues.
Though politicians usually encourage public panic, they often don’t panic themselves. I doubt they are having nightmares about human extinction over global warming. However, one party has been in a continual state of panic for over three years now. I expect that there are nightmares about a repeat of 2016. These politicians have encouraged public panic repeatedly for so long that they seem to assume that everyone in this country shares this panic. The media has worked hard to feed the panic. Yet, strangely life has gone on pretty routinely for the past three years for most of us. For those in panic mode, however, thinking is getting clouded.
Monument to Panic
There are water pumps out in the desert to serve as a monument to panic. A whole generation has grown up and another began without their need and without much awareness that they are there. Those old enough might remember the Utah floods of 1983. At great expense these pumps were built to pump flood waters into the desert. But more floods have not come– yet. The Great Salt Lake has shrunk. The panic subsided and areas previously flooded have now been developed.
Will younger generations look back with regret at what was done or what they gave up because of their panic today? Or will they forget in the face of new panic created for a new crisis and intended to shift power. The true crisis may be the loss of freedom and quality of life which the panic produced.
A big anniversary is coming– Our great United States of America is approaching its 250th! It is a privilege for me to become involved in very early preparations for this momentous event for one patriotic organization. I remember well the Bi-Centennial Celebration of our Nation’s founding in 1976. I felt pride and patriotism as I was able to visit sites of historical significance in Boston that year. Now as the 250th approaches, I reflect on some of the rapid and troubling changes in our country over the past decade. I begin to wonder if there may not be so much to celebrate come 2026. What will our Nation and our government look like then? I see things that threaten our Constitution and run counter to the principles upon which it was founded. Some have suggested that the deep divisiveness occurring now is a precursor of civil war.
I feel that there are some things that we as a Nation, and as individual citizens need to do, starting now or sooner, to ensure that when 2026 and its planned celebrations arrive, we will feel that our great Nation is something to be celebrated and to be proud of. Will we be committed to help preserve it for another 250 years? We owe that to our patriot founders and all who have sacrificed to preserve our freedom and government.
It is imperative that we remember our history. That, for many of our young people, means first learning about the history of our County. For others it requires diligent and honest study and reflection. The shift to include voices which had not been previously heard in the telling of history is noble and worthwhile. Yet, somehow this has become a re-writing of history with judgment and condemnation of our predecessors based on shifting social standards of today. The result is citizens, especially young ones, who are ashamed of our history – and ashamed to be Americans.
We need to remember the patriots who founded our country and those who have served her. They, like all of us, were flawed humans and products of their particular time and environment. We need to understand that context. Those patriots, in spite of or perhaps at times because of those flaws and conditions, showed great courage and made tremendous sacrifices to preserve and defend our freedoms. There is much we can learn from them. We will always be indebted to them and should be grateful for their contributions.
We need to remember the history of the world and other countries. An understanding of the government and history of other countries, will make obvious the contrast with ours. There is a reason that those early Colonists desired a different form of government than a monarchy. There is a reason that people from other countries have flocked to ours, escaping oppression. They recognize America’s greatness and see the freedom and opportunities that we too often take for granted.
We humans naturally have celebrations to help us remember significant events. Yet, somehow the significance of celebrations becomes faded or intentionally changed, and we are left with just another day off. We humans erect monuments to help us remember. Yet, we now have movements to remove monuments to erase memories that some feel are unpleasant. What will we have left to help us remember?
Remember, Remember– I hear the echos of these words from the mouths of prophets. Why? Because when we forget, history repeats itself– not the good parts of history– the destructive parts of history. We must remember to hold on to all that is good and to be grateful for it.
Return to Principles and Values
As we remember, we need to recognize and reaffirm the principles and values upon which our country was founded. These principles and values are the “why” of our government– the reason for its existence. Citizens of other countries may feel united over a homeland, predominant ethnicity, shared language or cultural identity. Since early colonization, America has been a melting pot of cultures, languages and ethnic groups. What unites Americans are those principles which we have treasured and fought for.
The principles are eternal and detailed in our founding documents, yet too many are losing sight of them. Do we still value life and liberty? Do we value individual self-determination, self-expression and self-reliance? Do we see government’s role in preserving individual rights, with all being treated equally, rather than controlling people and behavior?
We need to return to a respect of our country, its flag and other symbols, its elected offices, and each other. There is no good reason for any citizen of this country to disrespect duly elected officials or the process by which they were elected. Throughout our history we have had many great leaders, and many who were not. They are all human and flawed. The process embedded in the Constitution allows us to have a voice in our representation. It is our privilege, right and duty to hold elected leaders accountable through our votes.
We need to return to talking to each other with respect. There is way too much attacking and taking offense. This fuels divisiveness and hate. Have we forgotten how to talk to each other civilly? We need to listen– really listen with the intent to understandthose with whom we disagree, not just hear enough to come up with a stinging comeback to post on Social Media.
Breaking the Silence
Earlier this year, I wrote a number of blog posts about disturbing things happening in our country today. I shared articles and posts on Social Media and joined in discussions. As expected, there were some unpleasant reactions. Though I think I have a tough skin, I do have feelings. Mostly, I found it all very exhausting and unproductive. I felt I had better things to occupy my time. Other worthwhile things did keep me away from blogging for a good part of the year. At one point, a blog post kind of wrote itself, yet I did not follow through and post it.
I became one more of the many silent Americans. We all have a valuable perspective. We do have something worthwhile to say. Yet, too often, we don’t speak out of fear of being attacked, “educated”, or shamed because we don’t have the “correct” view.
So, I now feel that it is important that I speak up, regardless of the reaction. I have heard the call for some time, but I guess I needed to hear it at 4:00 a.m. on the night we were supposed to get an extra hour of sleep. I will now commit to myself to blog more about topics that I feel are important and in my small way, help to prepare Americans for our 250th in 2026. Who knows how many will hear my messages, or how they will react, but I can speak up. It is my right– even my duty– as a citizen of the United States of America.