Of all the roles government must play, it is the roll of the high wire artist that is the most critical. It is incongruous of course, that the so much of societal and cultural stability depends on the thin wire or rope, and that long balance pole, that holds up and supports our society.
More than anything, the history of the twentieth century probably was to be most instrumental in helping to define what government should be. Monarchies and despotism once ruled the world, most with imperialistic goals, gave way to harder and even crueler political and economic extremes, such as fascism and various forms of Marxism.
That century saw virtually every political experiment fail. What survived- and evolved, were the various forms of free societies that allowed the individual to determine much of his life.
The governments- and thus the societies that work- are those that manage the balance between the individual and communal good. The only way that can be achieved is if society is governed by principles of morality, justice and law and order. There are no other models that can sustain a society and common culture.
The struggle of maintaining the balance between individual rights and community rights is what makes our free societies work. It is not as easy balance, nor can it ever be defined by conservative or liberal ideals. The role of government is a work in progress. As citizens, it is our job to make sure that balance remains the first order of business for government.
We are all diverse in beliefs and ideals. There will always be some form of conflict- that is our nature. That does not mean that the conflict has to be violent or cruel- what it means is that we are entitled to our beliefs and we are entitled to defend them. We cannot however, impose our beliefs and ideals on others. There is a balance. To impose beliefs is an assault on basic individual liberties- by the same token, allowing an individual unrestrained personal freedom will lead to the breaking of laws and the cessation of respect for other people and their property.
Governments that do not trust their citizens will opt for an extreme. Totalitarian states ply their citizens with the fairy tale that it is for the good of the whole, that individual rights are momentarily neglected. Citizens are told that their sacrifice will someday make for a better society. Individualism and free expression become dangerous.
It is worth remembering that under totalitarian states, the most horrible crimes against humanity have occurred.
To be fair, many democratic experiments have failed, too, because at times, we put too much trust on citizens. As self interest is all too often the primary motivating factor, personal and political agendas often take center stage. It is no longer about the balance of the rights of the individuals and community, but rather, individuals and segments of the community attempt to claim for themselves whatever it is they want. Multiply that by hundreds, thousands or millions of agendas and we can see the impending implosion.
When the individual or group agenda come in conflict with the needs of a greater societal need or for a greater unified good, we are in trouble. Anything that detracts from a societies need for a collective achievement that benefits all, is an assault on the foundations of that society. That isn't to say progressive ideals aren't worthy- many, are. Nevertheless, there remains priorities that we must consider. We can and do, revisit and rework ideas all the time.
It is in these matters that government earns it's keep. Good government keeps us focused. Bad government does everything it can to do anything but keep us focused.
Good governments balances individual and communal rights. It is done by relying on moral or religious values- the same values that our forefathers used in defining the soul of the nation. The framers understood that men- all men- were fallible. To rely strictly on the goodwill of men was to deny the real human shortcomings of bigotry and greed, selfishness and hubris, or any of a thousand other human failings. The framers understood that we needed, at the very least, values that would keep us and our elected government, anchored.
Whether we care to acknowledge it or not, the origins of our values are religious in origin.
Our notions of equality, morality and justice are all derived from the Judeo-Christian ethic. That is an idea that is important for us to integrate. It is the Judeo-Christian ethic, that has evolved into the progressive engine of our value system.
Some of those values can be clearly identified. Respect and accommodation for all human life. Respect and accommodation for the family. Respect for the rights of others and respect for their property. Respect for laws and courts.
These are some of fundamental ideas that must serve as the foundation of a free society. Without the preservation and promulgation of these ideas, there is anarchy, as groups or individuals place their own desires above those of a community.
Those values mentioned earlier, must be accepted by all. Those values are what bind us, all of us, as one family. It is when those values are abrogated that we see society collapse in itself. There are no ideas or beliefs that supersede those fundamental values.
Those values, religious in origin, instruct us how to live our lives. We undertake that to preserve the rights of the individual, we must first protect the interests of our community.This is an imperative. The only way to preserve individual rights is to guarantee the common good.
These fundamental truths have taken this nation from the rocks at Plymouth to the most powerful nation on earth. We did not achieve this status through freedom from
religion, but rather, through freedom of
religion, enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
We do not separate church and state so as to marginalize God. That ideal is important so that government cannot impose a particular religion. The notion of that separation is in now way intended to deny God.
In dealing with many of the social disorders we face, perhaps we might consider approaching the matter in the same way the Constitution approaches and addresses the issues, as opposed to avoiding those issues.
It is via a real and permanent set of values- such as the ones we discussed earlier, that a strong nation and a strong identity are built. When the laws of man are recognized as having roots in something deeper, we have created something enduring- and living and growing.
"E Pluribus Unum"- "Out of many, one."
It is incumbent on us to remind our government that every community is comprised of many individuals. We must also remind our government that we will participate and each individual will contribute his individual strengths toward the greater good of a united community.