Community Organizers on July 4th
Bev and I live in a resort in central Oregon. This morning as we were walking on the path to the store to pick up mail and send some other items, we noticed children playing in a backyard.
The paved paths (some 38 miles of them) wander around, sometimes along a road and other times between backyards and through pine forests. There were 5 children – in age from 5 to 8 it appeared – 3 girls and 2 boys. Because this is a resort, not too many younger couples live here so we assumed these children were visiting their 2nd home, visiting grandparents, or the family had rented the home for vacation over the Fourth of July.
The children were digging holes; they had a small American flag on a broken branch of Pine stuck into the ground. They had taken blankets from the house and laid them over small Pine trees to form tents; temporary homes if you will. We noticed that they were all talking animatedly with each other, working together on this grand project; planning, refining, building, revising; enjoying.
My first response was one of comfort and joy; children playing together in a wonderful place, enjoying each other’s company. I thought they must have wonderful parents to arrange such a time and to permit them to dirty up the blankets and other paraphernalia they were using. These children were organizing their own little community; they were practicing what they had seen their parents do – what they were being taught to do: plan a place to occupy, gather the materials necessary to prepare it for human habitation, organize together to do the work, discuss the progress of their work, enjoy the fruits of their labor; and then revise, modify, and improve. They were taught these virtues; had grown up observing their parents carry out these tasks.
Then I began to think about the animal kingdom where mothers teach their young the arts of gathering food, preparing a den or nest; hunting prey, defending against predators and other maternal requirements if the species is to continue and flourish.
Immediately I was troubled by the fact that it seems that animals are inexorably compelled to train their young – and are superb parents; yet many families are not like the one we watched along the path. Government regulations regarding land use and construction make too many children grow up where they can’t dig holes. If they want space, they have to go to a “park,” which belongs to no one because it belongs to everyone. Frequently it is untidy, overcrowded, and overgrown; sometimes it is distant, unsafe, and dangerous.
Too many children are born to women who have no real family. They aren’t being taught anything about gathering and preparing food, organizing and beautifying a place to occupy; they never learned the art of planning the tasks of the day, discussing the progress of the tasks, or enjoying the fruit of their labor. They don’t know how to survive as humans. They were never taught; and now too many of them survive as something else.
I wondered: how could it be that animals with a brain the size of a walnut could understand the critical importance of passing along the necessary tasks of loving and protecting their children; teaching them, and preserving the race; but some people could become so detached from reality as to have no interest in doing the same.
We see untamed young men and women roaming the streets with alcohol and guns shooting randomly as they drive through the neighborhood; engaging in sexual hookups with whomever; making unwanted babies, continuing the cycle. You wonder; where are their parents?
For far too long, we have silently permitted a long train of official opprobrium against initiative and innovation, denunciations of “profits” gained through hard work as if they were somehow dirty, using the word “business” as if it were an obscenity, denouncing risk as a thing to avoid at all costs, and the confiscation of wealth through taxation. “These are the engines that have impoverished you! These evil profiteers are taking what really belongs to you!” This Siren song has captivated the hearts and addled the minds of far too many by honoring poverty and dignifying indolence, rewarding mothers of multiple offspring only in the absence of a husband and father, turning charity into “entitlement;” these and other official policies have forced many to capitulate. It is a homicide of the heart; the murder of hope. Our President promised “hope and change,” but what he is offering is more of the same hope-killing policies of other failed socialist experiments.
My thoughts on this day before July 4th – 233 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence is that much of our cultural decay has been caused by the people who claimed they wanted to ameliorate it, but who really only wanted the power to control everyone’s destiny.
The end of this long train of usurpations of the human spirit through moral pronouncements, legislation, untried theory, and economic expenditure, we have reached the point where millions of Americans have been persuaded that dependence rather than independence is an appropriate role for them and their family.
On that fateful day so long ago, independence from oppression was declared; and we have paid an incomprehensible price in blood to preserve it. We have retained our sovereign independence as a nation, but we have lost the sense of individual independence that made the United States possible. A strong, independent nation can not long exist when it is composed of weak dependent people. I regret to say I believe too many Americans are no longer independent; worse, they no longer see independence as a possibility, or even a thing worth pursuing against all odds.
This shift away from independence to dependence or interdependence (“It takes a village,”) is now practiced as “foreign policy.” Those charged with insuring our national independence say they are unable to protect us without the help of others. It seems we are no longer capable of handling even the disposition of fewer than 200 terrorists without the help of other nations! What?
The concept of expecting others to provide for one’s livelihood, for one’s health; for the pleasures of life; and for mistakes made render the individual as powerless and disgusting as Gollum without the ring.
We need to remember Brutus’ counsel:
- “There is a tide in the affairs of men,
- Which, taken at the flood leads on to fortune;
- Omitted, all the voyage of their life
- Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
- On such a full sea are we now afloat,
- And we must take the current when it serves,
- Or lose our ventures.”
Too many, I fear, are Cassius; too few Brutus. Too many are hesitant; they vacillate, afraid to do things on their own. Remember, the worst form of slavery is that which is benevolent, because then it is tolerable.
In March of 1775 in St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia 39 year-old Patrick Henry rose to speak to the Virginia Legislature meeting at the church to make a call to arms against the British oppression. He concluded his short speech with immortal words:
“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
And so I ask on this celebration of Independence Day 2009, is your life so dear; is your comfort so sweet that you are satisfied with servitude in order to have them? Or will we say with young Patrick Henry, “…give me liberty or give me death?”
The children playing by the path were learning the disciplines that will encourage them to seek success, to take control over their own lives; and these things will prevent them from becoming dependent in a country founded on Independence. God help us to find the courage to reach out and seize the day; and to encourage the despondent and dependent out of their lassitude, and reinvigorate their self-esteem and hope in themselves, not hope in coercive bureaucrats with empty promises.