Special to the Caldwell Journal (By Dan Rundquist – 01/08/2017)…As 2016 draws to a close, we naturally reflect on the events of the past year and try to look ahead. Some folks will naturally adopt personal New Year’s resolutions which are often met with varying degrees of success. As New Year’s resolutions go, I will offer only two hopeful resolutions for my fellow Americans: fostering American unity, and personal education.
Our nation has determined a New Year’s resolution of its own and is preparing for leadership under a new president. This seems like the ultimate in New Year’s resolutions. This abrupt change in direction was brought about by the citizens who sense that America must be restored in many ways such as the economy and culture, and cast their ballots accordingly. The fabric of our nation has suffered greatly at the hands of pundits, politicians, and political ideologues and it is time for Americans to once again unite.
While a new president and his leadership may indeed set the tone and direction of the nation, I believe that much of the essential elements for this American restoration are actually here at home, in our local communities. Key among these elements is unity, the same element that allowed America to succeed at her founding. It was Benjamin Franklin who noted to his compatriots that “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
So how in 2017 do we restore unity? It begins again with each of us. Socrates once said that the unexamined life is not worth living. At one or more points during your life’s journey, you have probably sought a personal examination and asked yourself this question, “Who am I?” This has now become an important question for citizens in a nation that has seemingly lost its identity today. This question, I think must pass beyond the typical and often superficial Hesychast- style navel-gazing introspection we all go though in our teen years. As adult citizens of the United States, we have a greater responsibility to answer this question with far greater depth, scope, and responsibility. I’ll explain with a series of questions for you.
Who are you to your family? Are you a parent? A son or daughter? A spouse? Are you truly fulfilling your responsibility for these roles in the best way you can? Of course you are not perfect, but are you making the honest effort for those who rely upon you?
Who are you to your church, if you attend one? Do you only fill a seat on the occasional Sunday or is there a more important role for you in service there?
Who are you to your neighbor? What role do you or should you fill in your neighborhood? Do you even know who your neighbors are? It is time for Americans to once again make the effort to own our neighborhoods, and to reform, reconstitute our connections with the community.
Who are you to your town? Do you know your public officials? Have you made an effort to meet with them, talk with them? Do you know your librarian? Your trash collector? Your police chief? Your postman? What role is there for you in your town, if any? Should you consider a run for a local office to serve your community?
Who are you to your county? Do you know your county commissioners, your school board members? Your children’s teachers? Hospital board members? Do they know you? What role might you fill with local benevolence organizations and charities in your county?
Who are you to your state? Are you knowledgeable and engaged with the processes that shape your state’s policies and regulations? Are you an informed and educated voter? Are your elected officials at the state level informed about your concerns? If they are doing a good job, have you let them know that?
Who are you to your nation? Do you understand the basic and firm principles defined by the American Founders and Framers in our Constitution and Bill of Rights? Are you politely holding government accountable and supporting statesmen-like candidates instead of mere politicians? Can you tell the difference between the two?
These measures of self-examination and application will all take time, quite likely years. No longer can Americans afford being pushed to the sidelines of the community only watching while a few “activists” and others take over the nation— fostering the destructive environment which we have been witnessing in the large cities across the land.
For Americans to be able to make a positive impact with these measures, education must not stop at the classroom door. President Jefferson understood that education (particularly in the area of history) was not just a good thing, but an essential safeguard to avoid past mistakes of other civilizations and thus to protect American liberties from erosion:
“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts, which history exhibiteth, that, possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes … whence it becomes expedient for promoting the publick happiness that those persons, whom nature hath endowed with genius and virtue, should be rendered by liberal education worthy to receive, and able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens, and that they should be called to that charge without regard to wealth, birth or other accidental condition or circumstance.” –President Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson wisely saw that the knowledge of history exposed several key things for Americans to watch out for: 1. A slow and deliberate degradation of liberty by an increasingly powerful government, 2. Loss of the knowledge of history by the people at large, 3. Ignorance of the experience of others (failures of nations past which we should learn to avoid) 4. To be able to recognize what political ambition looks like, and, 5. The understanding and motivation to defeat political ambition, which is destructive to the maintenance of liberty. Jefferson felt that the key to safeguarding the American Republic was the knowledge of the failures of the past so that the conditions that brought those nations to destructions could be avoided by the American people. It’s always better to learn from the mistakes of others than to make your own mistakes. Without the knowledge of world history, this is simply not possible.
With this in mind, perhaps a few trips to the library might be in order for many of us. Americans of all backgrounds, education, and abilities each have an important role to fill in maintaining a free Republic.
We must examine what it is the community needs and expects from each of us, and be willing to participate toward the maintenance of our liberty and the building of our future. The time is now for each to engage and accept our duties to restore the fabric of the American culture which is our heritage.
Dan Rundquist is a Caldwell Journal Contributor.
Copyright 2017 Caldwell Journal on behalf of Dan Rundquist. All rights reserved.