Densic: What progress?Written by Robert Densic | | firstname.lastname@example.org
My old high school tennis coach often said the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. As a teenager I was never quite certain what that had to do with my one-handed backhand, but the message has resonated with me throughout my life.
Today we hear much about progress in our schools, in our businesses, our government and society at large. The discussion often focuses on the means and methods of progress, or the intricacies of the policies necessary. Lost in the conversation is the goal. This above all is what we should always ask ourselves; what is the goal?
Without a known objective, matters of principle are often buried under a deluge of policy. The question of whether education should be considered a right or a privilege is lost in the seas of boards of education, school funding and free lunch programs. The debate of the involvement of government in health care is boiled down to which plan costs the least or provides the greatest benefits. The personal matters of freedom of religion are confused with traditional marriage or gay rights. If one questions the end objective, they are often vilified. This is nothing less than a veiled attempt to control the scope of debate.
When we allow others to control the terms of the argument, we forfeit our basic unalienable rights endowed by our Creator, not government. Karl Marx noted, “A people without a heritage are easily persuaded.” George Orwell in his landmark book “1984” echoed Marx’s thoughts through his fictional but increasingly realistic “IngSoc” (English Socialism) in their Inner Party motto, “He who controls the past, controls the future.” If we wish to have free debates, and with that, full knowledge of the principles involved, we must understand our past as a basis of comparison to our present and future.
The heritage of the American citizen is that of rugged individualism, and questioning of centralized power. Thomas Jefferson found himself out of touch with many in the George Washington administration. Secretary of State Alexander Hamilton in particular pushed for more centralized control of everything from commerce to banking. Jefferson, knowing the history and heritage of the now free American colonists noted, “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.” He continued, “Every generation needs a new revolution. A little rebellion now and then is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.”
Jefferson did not carry these thoughts for the sake of rebellion itself. He did so because he knew of the nature of man, and the nature of government. “It is the nature among men, of freedom to yield and tyranny to gain.” Jefferson often echoed the words of Irish orator and politician John Philpot Curran when he said “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” But vigilance to what? Party? Policy? Politician? No. Vigilance must be alone given to matters of principle.
It is by matters of principle that we can define a clear goal rather than a set of policies. It is by principle that we retain the freedoms and liberties which have been fought for from generation to generation. Patriot Patrick Henry understood the need for vigilance in the stand of the American freedom fighters, “The battle sir, is not to the strong alone,” he said. “It is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.” The father of the Constitution, James Madison, held a similar understanding, “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations,” he said. Progress indeed.
A man known by many as Gentle Ben taught all who would listen through his writings, “A nation of well-informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins.” Franklin, like many throughout history tied the matter of freedom to the knowledge of history, heritage and inalienable rights.
As we hear the words of politicians and pontificators, educators and enlightened thinkers, we must return to our principles found in our history and heritage and ask the question “What are we progressing toward?”
Email Robert Densic at letters@toledo freepress.com.