An Experiment in Democracy

I am very concerned about the future of our country, perhaps more so than some because I am aware of some parallels to past events in other civilizations and the outcome of those.

An Ancient Experiment in Democracy

There was at one time an ancient society which started an experiment in democracy – a rule of Judges chosen by a vote of the people. Within a few short years, there was a movement to return to a monarchy. One group wanted a King, or more particularly a man wanted to be King and had gained the support of others.

There had been Kings in their past, some good, and one in particular who was very bad. He ruled autocratically and tyrannically, glutted on the labors of his people with he and his favored few living riotously, while the masses suffered. Lessons from that experience had influenced one wise King to set up this system of Judges when his own sons refused to take the throne.

With this first attempt to re-establish a King, the matter was put to a vote of the people. The majority voted against having a King. Those who wanted a King, rather than accept this democratic resolution, made this man their King anyway, and the matter was finally resolved militarily through a civil war. Those who wanted a King were defeated, but enough of them remained, and they continued to cause difficulties by forming an alliance with their enemy. (Alma 1-3)

Later during a time of war with their great enemy, another movement of King-Men actually took over the seat of government, sending the Chief Judge into exile. This attempt to overthrow democracy was also put down militarily at great cost. (Alma 61-62)

But it was not these movements to install Kings that brought the eventual downfall of this democratic experiment, though that brought much blood-shed and suffering. The destruction began with secret conspiracies which eventually infiltrated the government. Chief Judges were murdered as others conspired to take power, and those in power became more corrupt.

“For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.”

Helaman 5:2

The situation with these corrupt leaders was described as:

“Condemning the righteous because of their righteousness; letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money; and moreover to be held in office at the head of government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world, and, moreover, that they might the more easily commit adultery, and steal, and kill, and do according to their own wills”

Helaman 7:5

Eventually this government did fall apart.

The American Experiment

The American Revolution began as an attempt to become free from a monarchy and establish a government based on principles of liberty. I believe there was divine intervention in the ability of these early patriots to win their freedom from such a powerful empire. The process of forming a government was not easy. Even after a Constitution was written and approved and the government began to function, there were still problems. Some wanted our first President George Washington to serve for life, thus returning to kind of a monarchy.

It was not many years into this Republic that we were again at war with Great Britain, fighting again for our freedom. There were conspiracies and conflicts. Then less than a century after our founding, some states seceded from the Union and we had a horrible civil war.

Our Republic has survived for almost 250 years, much longer than this earlier government did. It is very disturbing however, to see history repeating itself. There were many opportunities for these people to turn things around. It always was centered on a return to God. When they focused on God and kept His commandments, they prospered and enjoyed peace. When they turned from God, they destroyed themselves. There are lessons here for us.

Has Patriotism Become Partisan?

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.

Self-Determination

Self-Determination Starts Early

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.

Maintaining Balance

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.

Celebrate The United States of America!

Flag of the United States of America

A Cause for Celebration

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.

Remember

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?

Those core principles and values are being replaced by shifting standards, changing values, popular opinion, relative truth, political expediency. Without the foundation of shared principles we are vulnerable to those who would seek to destroy us.

Respect

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.

Democratic Socialism

What’s in a Name?

I am alarmed by the promotion of socialism in America today. Proponents throw out definitions and make distinctions between socialism, communism and what they are calling Democratic Socialism and even Social Democracy. Does giving it a better sounding name makes it a better thing? Or do they think they have found a way to create a good version of an inherently bad thing? It is as if what makes socialism a bad thing is purely in the details of implementation. And they know a way to create the utopia without the oppression, starvation, and disasters that have historically followed previous attempts.

In reality, what makes any brand of socialism bad is the principles upon which it is based – principles which are directly in opposition to the principles upon which the United States was founded. To think that such conflicting principles can be merged into a successful system is unrealistic.

A Little History –
Foundations of American Government

I studied Karl Marx, and admit that some of his ideas sound rather good – in theory. This is especially so when understood in light of the system of aristocratic oppression of peasants from which he came. But this kind of oppression is a far cry from anything experienced in America today.

American colonists rejected this same aristocratic system in creating the United States of America. A fundamental principle of our government is the right to own private property and subsequent associated rights. It is true that this opportunity initially was not available to everyone, but it was available to many more than the “1 percent”-ish, wealthy land-owning class in the Europe they left.

Our government is based upon principles of personal choice and self-direction. It encourages initiative, innovation, free enterprise, personal development and prosperity. In such a system, some obviously prosper more than others, but otherwise there is little or no incentive for excellence or improvement. Consequences, positive or negative, are always connected to choice.

The Fallacy of “Rule by the People”

Our government was designed to keep a balance of power between branches of government and with representation of the people. Socialism presents itself as “rule by the people” because it sprung out of an effort to eliminate a elite ruling class, but the reality is that it creates an opportunity for a different, but very powerful ruling government entity.

Government is actually controlled by people – either “we the people” as a whole with each having some say in a representative manner, or a government controlled by a single dictator or a powerful group or “party”. The idea of “democratic socialism” is basically using democratic principles of choice/vote to get citizens to voluntarily give up control to a government, which most likely will become powerful and oppressive. There are always those waiting to take control and exercise power that citizens relinquish.

Democratic Socialism?

It is naive to think that you could take from socialism some good things and merge them with democracy and have something better. How could one guarantee economic benefits without decreasing liberty? How could one prevent the negative aspects of socialism becoming part of the system?

The costs of socialism would involve more than money, but also a loss of freedom. The distinction that “democratic socialism” is better than communism or plain socialism because it takes into account the choice of the people, is a misleading assumption. The majority might vote into effect socialistic laws, but then those laws become binding on everyone. There is no ability to “opt out” of compliance, but rather there are serious penalties for those who did not personally choose. Such socialism gives tremendous power to the state. In effect, the choice to vote for socialism is actually a choice to give away freedom.

If government becomes the giver of all good things to everyone, someone has to pay for all this. It is unrealistic to think that it will all be free. If the government is the giver of everything, it also becomes the taker. Taxes have to increase for everyone, not just the rich. The rich, being taxed more greatly, would be enticed to leave the country taking with them their earning potential, goods and services, and leaving employees without jobs and the government without their taxes.

Human Nature

The underlying issues and the reason socialism has and will continue to fail, is basically human nature. True economic equality can not be accomplished by compulsion or legislation when you recognize the core issues of selfishness and greed. You can’t cure the greed of the wealthy by taking away from them and giving to the greedy poor who want what they have not earned. Greedy politicians will always ensure that they get more than everyone else.

History has shown that even by physically eliminating (killing off) the wealthy, educated and prosperous, another group – government – steps in to assume the position of power and control, leaving the masses no better off and likely much worse off. The few, now government officials, will glut on the labor of the people. And history has shown that tyranny follows.

There will never be true equality in a society unless and until all of the people, especially those in leadership positions, are equally good, righteous and selfless. All must be willing to put the welfare of others and the good of society above their own self interests. I don’t see this happening in the USA of today. There will always be those individuals who thirst for and then abuse power. A socialist system gives them a great opportunity, which can easily be seen in a study of history.

Why this Generation?

The real irony to me is the support of socialism by a “me-generation” – one that has grown up being told how special they are, getting and expecting attention for everything they do, and feeling entitled to anything that anyone else has. How could socialism possibly work with such people? Do they really think that by all getting free stuff that they want, that it can still be “all about me”?

Communism/socialism treats the masses as “comrades” – all the same, nothing special about any, all insignificant workers, easily replaced by any other warm body. Is this really what they want – to be just a nameless number in a system? Or are they just short-sighted, thinking only of getting something without any personal effort? Did they really buy into the idea that they were individually that special when they all got the same participation trophy? Or did they just come to expect any reward that anyone else got because it would not be fair for some to get something that others did not?

Do they think that things like a guaranteed job with a living wage would mean that they – these young people who feel that menial physical labor is beneath them – get the kind of job they choose? Historically those government guaranteed jobs have been things like working in rice paddies, mines and factories.

Do they think that a house for everyone means they get the house they want in the neighborhood where they want to live? Historically government guaranteed housing has been government assigned sub-standard housing built by workers who have no incentive to do good work.

Maybe the appeal of socialism seems natural for those who have come to feel entitled, but that is a deceptive seduction. In buying into it, they may get what they feel entitled to, but it is an empty prize – meaningless because in accepting it, they lose any uniqueness, individuality or personal sense of accomplishment.

Agency and Liberty

The purpose of government should be to facilitate the free exercise of agency, to protect and promote liberty. Government guarantees however, tend to come with increased government control and less freedom to choose. This inconsistency of this with the value we Americans place on the rights of personal choice should be obvious.

A Grateful Heart

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This year has brought some experiences which have made me feel a need to express my gratitude for simple as well as profound blessings.

Like this sign, I am thankful for simple things. I have a home. It is not large or new or grand, but it provides shelter and safety – it is a home. After seeing a house torn apart by a tornado which had only left us in the dark for days, seeing a hole in the ground which a friend intended to live in this winter, then seeing the small modest apartment which he is grateful to call home now, I feel more grateful for the home that I have.

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