As the oldest of nine children, I am well-acquainted with the different tones in which parents address their children.
“Son, why did you do that?” A mournful question, laden with unshed tears, brought on by the foolish choice of a young one.
“Perhaps if you tried it this way….’ A tender instruction, given with love to help the inexperienced nino learn more about a particular process.
“Don’t touch that!” “Stop that this instant!” “No!” Insistent, powerful commands intended to cause instant cessation of an undesirable activity. These were many, and oft-uttered, in the course of the author’s childhood, but the award for “Most Frequently Used Command” has to go to a three-word exclamation:
“Kids, GET OUT!”
In May of 2006, my parents finally decided–after several years of planning/dreaming–that we were going to completely renovate our house. As with any project of such scale, once work actually began, the scope of the job came more into focus as time went on. Before we began, my father was convinced that we could have everything done in a summer, and be moved back in before the rains came in September.
Before very long, it became apparent that such a rosy-eyed prediction was far from the reality of a now-dragging renovation. We had torn the house down to the bare skeleton (literally, the four outside, block walls and the foundation were all that remained), poured a foot of concrete on top of the walls, and set attic trusses that would contain the upstairs addition to our existing square footage. With July gone, and August flying by, the race was on to get the house “in the dry” before rains began to soak the Carolina foothills.
It didn’t happen. The rains came, the ground grew soggy, and still the roofing work dragged on. We began to see how very much we had bitten off, and yet we knew that we could not stop now–we were committed.
October passed, then November. At last, we began to feel that we were making progress: the roof decking was down, the sub-floor upstairs was installed, and the felt underlayment was nailed down–partially. The recurring winds/rain tore the tar-paper loose from the nails again and again in the six months it took us to install the metal roofing. From this we learned that do-it-yourself metal roofs should not include conflicting angles and multiple dormers–this makes for a long and complicated story that only involves grief and misery; I’ll spare you the details. ;)
Time passed, and the house was finally done. After three-and-a-half years, we were able to move back into the house and resume a somewhat normal life.
The completed renovation.
Of course, some things changed.
One of the additions to our house was a nice-sized home office for my father (mostly storage space for his many books–nearly 4,000 volumes). At first, he didn’t seem to care who was in the office, but as time went on, and various items of importance got moved, “borrowed,” or just plain lost, Dad’s laissez faire attitude evaporated faster than a mud puddle in the Sahara.
Things came to a head one day when he came home and discovered yet another interloper in the office, using his computer without proper permission from appropriate authorities. Don’t ask me who–it wasn’t me, so I don’t remember. But I’ll never forget what happened next.
My dad barged into his office and rapped out the three-syllable command that would become a common refrain:
“Kids, GET OUT!”
Now, some of the more tolerant (less experienced with children?) members of my audience would decry such a stern outburst from a parent, but I tell you plainly: it worked! Like magic, the office was empty, and stayed that way for several days. The kids knew that Dad’s office was off limits, and they avoided it like a dog avoids an invisible fence. In time, the taboo lost effect, and the squatters reappeared, but so long as he remained vigilant and consistent in his enforcement, the sanctum remained untouched.
This humorous anecdote is more than an amusing tale; there is a principle here that has been sorely neglected–indeed, completely forgotten–in modern America.
Constitutional government involves constant, thorough attention to matters of importance which hardly anyone cares to focus on these days. After all, in the midst of the hustle and bustle, the rat-race to make a living and get ahead in the world, who has time to monitor the activities of the representatives we have elected to Congress and other governmental positions? Isn’t the purpose of electing such folks to remove the burden of daily concern with political matters?
Yes, this is partially true. It is also true that our system of government is intended to allow Congress to be a representation of the beliefs and principles of the populace. Furthermore, it is also true, as Jefferson stated, that “…the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”
Unfortunately, the underlying moral base upon which our current system of government is dependent has been eroded over the past 100 years. Education reform (it’s been re-formed, and not necessarily bettered by it), national policies, and social pressures have all contributed to a systemic decline in our country’s social, moral, and political climate.
Today, our interests and ideas of an ideal country are so various that we are in the throes of “a conflict of visions,” as Thomas Sowell so aptly titled it. The number of people who subscribe to the notion that the government owes them a living is roughly equal with the number of people who ascribe to the traditional, American vision of independence and economic freedom for the individual. At least, such is the case, if the polls are to be believed without question. However, a more reasonable estimate would be that at least a third of the country is of the belief that the government should “help those in need.”
It is interesting–as a side-note–to observe that many of the charitable organizations in existence today were founded by men and women of the Christian faith and worldview. In point of fact, one of the fundamental principles of Scripture is for all to be concerned not only with their own affairs, but also with the needs of others.
The belief that the government should be the sole provider of such philanthropic considerations, however, is deeply rooted in a fundamentally pagan belief that the government is basically God to those under its domain. I say pagan, because–at the bare-bones level–this belief resembles the demand of Third-World dictators and regimes for total, unquestioning “loyalty” and “obedience” (just nice words for subservience and fear, really).
Further, the assumption by some in government today that the Founding Fathers would approve of the current state affairs is ludicrous, particularly when one considers quotes like the following from Thomas Jefferson: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter [emphasis mine].”(1)
All this ties into the main subject of this article in two ways: first, it demonstrates to what extent the caliber of politicians has devolved since the days of Jefferson and Co.; and, secondly, it demonstrates to what extent people’s thinking has been reshaped by the education system, and political demagoguery so prevalent in today’s Washington, D.C.
The political system erected by this nation’s founders has survived to the extent that the representatives are still a microcosm of America at large. And it is sad to what extent that is true.
With only a few exceptions, (and none in a certain party), the members of Congress behave like many of their constituents: they act like spoiled brats.
Pueristocrats (remember that term from earlier?) are set on getting their way, no matter how many people they have to throw under the bus, or to the wolves, or wherever. They pitch tantrums, hold press conferences, and leak threatening memos that show just how strong they are. In reality, all it does is confirm what we already know about their all-consuming lust for monopolistic power over the lives of the poor, demented plebes that are the rest of us.
That’s you and me, folks, and that’s how they feel about us.
At times like this, watching the government “shut down” because our representatives in Washington can’t agree on how to spend imaginary money that nobody in the world has anyway (and thus, won’t lend to us), I can’t help but feel as though the good faith and laissez faire attitude of the American people is going the way of the aforementioned mud puddle. And, furthermore, I can hope that I know what will happen next.
I’m waiting for the news media to show the film of thousands storming the capital in an organized, decent, and legal way, marching in with banners and signs waving. I’m waiting for someone to stand at the head of such a band of united, disgusted patriots, and–microphone in hand–thunder forth the words on everyone’s minds. I’m waiting for him to raise an arm and point a defiant finger at the chambers of the halls of Congress and the White House. I’m waiting for him to shout a thunderous, three-syllable command for the entire nation to hear.
“Kids, GET OUT!”
(2) Facebook–R. Lee Wrights
NOTE: “…the price of liberty…” quoted as memory served.
ALSO NOTE: Other photos not credited are original work of–and copyrighted by–David Crain, Jr. and The Southern Voice. © 2013, All Rights Reserved.