Friday, October 16, 2020

The Seeds We Plant Today

 ***Due to Blogger's new format change, there are random changes font size and colors***

As many of you know, I'm a lifelong student of history and the social sciences. I've written about it, spoken about, and taught it from sophomore level in college all the way up to graduate school. I've been lucky enough to even receive a few national and regional awards for my efforts.

I have a keen interest in trends as well. One such interest is whether the U.S. can continue on its present path and survive as a country. There's an old saying that every revolution contains within it the seeds of its own destruction. I think that's proving to be true now.

We are a nation of immigrants. Immigrants from all over the world (most notably Western Europe) were instrumental in creating the foundation of this nation and for building it very structure. What they created was based on Classical Greek democracy, the Roman Republic, the Enlightenment and its emphasis on rational inquiry, Judeo-Christianity morality, and other esoteric philosophies which encouraged free thinking as well as critical and open debate (as in Freemasonry).

We incorporated into our national charter---the Constitution and Bill of Rights---that all men were free and equal; that we each had a Divine or natural right to the pursuit of happiness, the freedom of religion, and the freedom of expression.  To safeguard these and other "natural rights" (that is, rights we inherit by virtue of our birth and/or imparted on us by Providence), the right to bear arms. Not so much for providing food for ourselves or our families. Not to protect us from predators. No. We have this natural right to protect ourselves and others from a different type of predator--a tyrannical government.  

And yet, here we are in the first half of the 21st century engaged in a slow motion civil war over these very issues. We are a nation of immigrants, but we oppose illegal immigration because we are foremost a nation of laws. Among those laws is the establishment of our nation and the securing of our borders. They are part of what constitutes our national sovereignty. 

The majority of illegal immigrants are what is termed as "economic immigrants". They are coming here to seek a better economic life. They want a piece of what this country offers but they don't want to take the legal steps we ask of all potential immigrants. They want to skip ahead of the line.  We support their drive; we all want a better economic life, but we reject their refusal to follow the law.

Others come here as "political" or "social" immigrants. They are trying to evade some tin pot despot or fleeing ethnic or religious persecution. We tend to have more sympathy for these individuals than we do for the economic immigrants but why? The former want to work. The latter's lives are endangered because of their origin or their beliefs (one they can change the other they can't).

We say that all men are created equal, and yet women were essentially second class citizens until the early part of the 20th Century. Some would argue they are and cite wage parity and other issues. Many argue that the inequality doesn't end with the workplace. We still debate the "right" to an abortion or not; at what point does a woman's right over her body begins and ends when it comes to pregnancy?

We argue the right to terminate a pregnancy if she doesn't want to have a child at that point in her life while others claim that the unborn fetus has a right to a life all its own. Some try to interject their religious beliefs onto the issue irrespective of the expectant woman's beliefs. One person's faith, no matter how sincere, doesn't extend to the next person. That too was bequest to us by our right of religious freedom, yet we don't allow human or animal sacrifices or so-called "honor killings".  

Of course, some see the issue of abortion as poor decision making. Don't want children? No problem. Use contraceptives. They are readily available and fairly cheap (or free as most clinics), or consider the totally unrealistic option of simply not having sex. Others cite different alternatives such as adoption.

What about the issue of slavery? Certainly it was on the minds of the Founding Fathers. Many of them owned slaves (albeit most inherited them and many freed them upon their owner's deaths, often with farmland and equipment). Nevertheless, slavery was not part of the equality tenet of which they wrote.

However, theirs was as much an economic consideration as it was a political or moral one. The colonial South was where most of the successes of the revolution had come from, and they depended on slavery to power their economic engines which also powered a growing industrialized North. If they withdrew their support for the revolution, the revolution would fail. That would have meant the Founding Fathers, as Benjamin Franklin so aptly stated, would have "hanged separately" by not hanging in their together.

Despite steps taken to nullify slavery such as restricting and finally ending the importation of slaves or outlawing it in some communities and eventually in states, it continued  until 1861, which marked the beginning of the bloodiest war in the nation's history. It's true that the Civil War wasn't fought solely over the issue of slavery, but an issue it remained. In the end, four years later, some 620,000 lay dead and another million or so went missing, were wounded, or died of disease resulting from the war (by comparison just over 405,000 died in WWII and around 58,000 in Vietnam).

Nevertheless, despite the frightful cost of the war and the devastation it did to the South (which in many ways, remains), the equality of former slaves didn't come about in 1865...or 1925...or 1945. Although there were some exceptions, full integration didn't begin until 1965, but it did happen. This wasn't a simple matter of legislatively mandating change. This had to be a fundamental shift in society and it's mindset.

In World War II, it was believed blacks couldn't or wouldn't fight. They did and magnificently so. It was said  they couldn't lead or follow orders. They did no matter how desperate the circumstances. They said they couldn't fly. They did so spectacularly (the same thing was said of the women too and with the same results). It wasn't long before the military was fully integrated. But when they came home, they faced the same old divisions. It took twenty more years before there was equality.

Today Black Americans, like other minorities, have no limitations except those they place on themselves, but the notion of "equality" has changed. Equality came to mean a preference; a quota to be filled. It came to mean having those things which others were either forbidden by law or by social pressure  from having such as dedicated colleges, academic funding, business and social associations, political caucuses, media including magazines, radio stations, or television networks, not to mention specific genres of music, TV programming, contests, and pageants. That is not equality.

Nowadays, we have demands for "reparations"; something that even those who suffered under slavery never demanded. They want the U.S. Government to pay them for something they never experienced; for something that few even understand. Why not demand "reparations" from the British, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch or Arabs? They introduced and actively engaged in slavery.  Why not from the African tribes which captured and sold them into slavery? Perhaps that's too close to home.

They claim "institutional" or "systemic" racism, and yet we never heard of it from their parents or grandparents. They cite police brutality, and yet run from the police when confronted, or worse, assault the police. They know they will lose that fight every time. Why not instill respect for the law instead?

Why not teach them while they are young to respect authority figures, even the ones they disagree with? If they want change, there are plenty of nonviolent ways to bring it about. Today the definition of "equality" is to make one side more equal at the expense of others to paraphrase the quote from George Orwell's "Animal Farm". Become the change they want; become lawyers, scientists, teachers, cops, or influencers.

Lastly religion. In the days of our Founding Fathers, countries had state religions which everyone had to support regardless of what they believed. America has been from almost the beginning a nation of religious tolerance with a few notable exceptions. Nevertheless, our Founding Father's supported the radical idea of no state religion. They didn't oppose religious symbols on public property as some claim today. They just didn't believe it was limited to one faith alone. What's good for one was good for all.

Now, however, we have religions which oppose our collective moral beliefs---"honor killings", child marriage, female genital mutilation, and pedophilia, secondary status for women (including suppression of their right to free speech). They oppose a woman's legal right to vote, to drive, to own property, and so on. How do we respond when religious and cultural beliefs conflict with ours? 

What if, as in Europe, they demand that certain food products, alcohol, and tobacco be removed because it "offends" their religious sensibilities?  What do we do when they claim a "religious obligation" to stamp out all other religious beliefs up to and including murdering them? How should we respond?

Obviously, murder is a big "no no" regardless if it comes from some "divine" entity or the voices in your head with few exceptions such as self defense or wars (which is state sanctioned murder). Yet, for some it's a fundamental religious mandate.  Do we cite our man-made civil laws? Do we seek some counter justification in a religious text?  In this increased globalization, religious and cultural conflicts are going to become all the more common and all the more violent.

Take a look at Europe, where religious and cultural conflicts have resulted in a increase in rapes, assaults, and murder. Governments cower and "encourage" changes in dress codes so as not to "offend" the new immigrants who demand that society conform to them and not the other way around. Stores are harassed into removing "offensive" products. Restaurants are threatened with violence for displaying pork products or liquor on their menus. Patrons who order the taboo items almost have to hide while consuming their meals or drink. Is that coming to an American city soon?

Every revolution brings with it the seeds of its own destruction. These are just a few of ours. If we continue to allow an elite few to divide us, these seeds will grow much faster than our ability to cope with them. Should that happen, America will cease to exist not just as a country, but even as an idea. These seeds will grow and envelop the achievements this wonderful nation has given the world. There are those things which we, as a nation, must conserve in order to remain a free nation.

We can't change the past, but we can learn from it, and in doing so, perhaps influence the future. Who knows, maybe we can make this a better world for all. If we choose to join the partisan charade (or worse, to do nothing), we will surely turn this world into a nightmare for our children and their children.

United States Military Casualties of War

Number of military fatalities in all major wars involvingthe United States

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