It occurs to me that we are at a turning point in our nation’s history. We are a democracy, defined by the values and decisions of the voting majority. This, we have been told since childhood, is a good thing.
And to that I have to categorically agree… to some extent.
I mean, it is a good thing to have freedom, right? After all, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”
But here’s the danger of democracy: the majority will most often make decisions that put security in the hands of the most people.
Let me rephrase that to be clear: the majority of people will most often make decisions that will give them the most money possible.
We run the serious risk of having a democracy that spends itself into the ground because people want something for nothing, and are willing to vote for a candidate – any candidate – who will promise them that.
We run the serious risk of having a democracy that votes itself out of existence because, having experienced unprecedented standards of living, we have come to believe that those luxuries are entitlements, not privileges, and so will vote for a candidate – any candidate – who promises to give everything and require nothing in return.
We run the serious risk of having a democracy that dwindles and dies because, having reached the pinnacle of achievement in the world, it thinks it can sit back and remain on top of the hill forever, even though there are others who are climbing up and intend to not only sit on top with us, but push us right over the brink into destruction, and laboring under this misperception we will vote for a candidate – any candidate – who is willing to say that everything will be fine, and we can stay on top without putting forth any effort, or making any sacrifice.
Contrast this to the basic messages that were sent out to the voting public at the time of World War II: sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice. Give your metals so that they can be used for war munitions and supplies. Give up your right to sugar, to meat, to what we now regard as basic entitlements, so that others who need them more can make use of them.
And above all, send your men, your boys, and some of your women, to fight and to die in a faraway land.
Today, we stand at the brink. We are suffering an economic crisis that could spill over and “go global” at the drop of the hat. We are involved in wars and altercations that have divided the public to an extent that few if any foreign wars have ever divided us. We face choices in legislation that will determine how we live our lives and families that have so sharply separated people that the rhetoric being used mirrors – exactly – the rhetoric being used right before the eruption of the Civil War.
And yet, at the same time, because we are a democracy, we find ourselves poised to vote for whoever promises to line our pockets, to give without asking, to provide without receiving anything in return; to vote, in short, for anyone who swears to provide water from a well, though the well has clearly run dry.
It is the two hundred and thirty-third birthday of the United States of America. For a great civilization, this is still young. For a democracy, this is incredibly old.
It is up to us to keep her young.
And so, for our happy birthday to her, may I offer the following thought:
Let us think about others when we vote, and do what is right for our neighbors, as well as for ourselves.
Let us stand up for the things we believe in, but recognize at the same time that our beliefs may not be the same as our neighbors; in that case, may we talk out our differences with calm and good-will, each side seeking to find right instead of to be right, for that is the way to find Truth.
Let us remember that we are at the pinnacle of this world’s civilizations, and so we carry a responsibility to help others climb to the great heights we have found, and together move even higher.
Above all, let us remember that this is her birthday. Amidst the burgers, hot dogs, parties, and fireworks, let us each find some gift to give. Some act to do. Some way to make her great, and keep her young.