Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Notes on Ronald Reagan: The Notes - JFK and Lifting our Problems

One of my favorite US Presidents of all time is Ronald Reagan. He was a man of courage, integrity, honor, strength, and true American principles. I admire his life and his governance immensely. Recently I started reading the book Ronald Reagan: The Notes which is the collection of Reagan’s notes, quotes, and thoughts regarding his studies throughout his life. As I read I often find myself vigorously agreeing with great thinkers like J.S. Mill and John F. Kennedy and crying out in horror at quotes from people like Mussolini and George Bernard Shaw. Reading this book is not only increasing my admiration for President Reagan but is also filling my mind with powerful conversations that are especially prevalent in our world of growing chaos. My purpose in writing this post is to share my thoughts on these quotes that I believe are absolutely necessary to the discussion of freedom, liberty, and American principles. This will not be my last post on the topic as I hope to continue sharing my thoughts with you as I read this inspiring book. I encourage you to find a copy and read yourself.

“The scarlet thread running through the thoughts and actions of people all over the world is the delegation of great problems to the all-absorbing leviathan - the state…Every time that we try to lift a problem to the government, to the same extent we are sacrificing the liberties of the people.”
                 -  John F. Kennedy

We live in society where we take all of our problems to the government; fiscal and social. The founders of the United States had no intention of the government ever growing to the size it has become today. Granted they probably did not envision a country with 50 states, covering a large portion of the North American continent. However, the principle of small federal government, strong states, and strong people as a method of ensuring not only a balance of power but the ultimate freedom of choice for the country’s citizens applies to nations large and small. Unfortunately we have become tremendously dependent on the government to solve all of our problems. This was a pattern that began in 1913 with Woodrow Wilson and the ratification of the 16th amendment. For those of you who don’t know, the 16th amendment allows the federal government to collect income tax (I remember this because many states allow minors to start working at the age of 16). Sixteen years later the great depression begins (1929) and lasts for 10 years (until 1939). As president for most of this time period, Franklin Delano Roosevelt implemented the New Deal which was essentially a bunch of federal programs and financial reforms enacted to get us out of the Great Depression. These new programs include the Social Security Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The New Deal also abolished the gold standard which allowed all of our paper money to be backed by actual substance (which is why your paper money is now essentially worthless. It’s not backed by anything; but that’s a topic for another time).  A little over half of the programs that I am aware of still exist in some form or another today. Social programs in this country have not slowed down since the New Deal (which, side note, did not stop the Great Depression. WWII did...maybe I’ll write something about that). Today we have government provisions for healthcare, housing, food, tax relief, social security, and the list goes on. This never ending increase prompted one of my favorite quotes from Ronald Reagan in his A Time for Choosing speech. “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!”

How does this relate to JFK’s quote on giving our problems to government. Well it comes down to this simple question. Who takes care of the people? Let’s expand on that. What does “taking care of the people” mean? This is where it gets a little diverse. To a liberal “taking care of the people” means making sure everyone has equal END REWARD. We have the same lifestyle, same storyline, same experiences, etc. This is why they advocate for social programs. They believe the government is in charge of taking care of the people and giving them everything they cannot, or will not, get for themselves.  Conservatives approach things much differently. To a conservative “taking care of the people” means protecting people and ensuring equal OPPORTUNITY as much as is humanly possible. They recognize that the government is an entity that is easily corrupted and as such should not be in control of the lives of the people. Conservatives believe that it is up to the individual to take care of the individual.

This is often a difficult concept to grasp. It requires a lot of faith in humanity, which is unfortunately dangerously low at the moment. How can we as individuals do enough to take care of the poor, to provide equal opportunity, to do enough to ensure that everyone in this country lives a good life? Unfortunately the answer is that we can’t. However, the other answer of endless government involvement also does not solve these problems. The conservative ideal of equal opportunity comes down to a few things. One, the federal government provides physical safety and security and protects individual freedoms as outlined in the Constitution (including amendments). They do very little more and none less. It is important to note here that fulfilling these responsibilities does not mean passing federal regulation or protecting individuals from having their feelings hurt. It is simply a means of ensuring that individuals and state and local government have the power to self-govern without too much interference. Two, state and local governments are primarily responsible for protecting the equal opportunity part of citizens rights. Now what is equal opportunity? Equal opportunity means everyone has the same chance to achieve the same life regardless of whether or not they are successful. I add in this caveat because of how some people interpret the idea of equal opportunity. They believe that equal opportunity means everyone ends up in the exact same economic class with the exact same everything as everyone else. This is actually the essence of socialism as so horrifyingly expressed by George Bernard Shaw.

“Socialism means equality of income or nothing. Under Socialism you would not be allowed to be poor. You would be forcibly fed, clothed, lodged, taught and employed whether you liked it or not. If it were discovered that you had no character or industry enough to be worth all this trouble, you might possibly be executed in a kindly manner, but while you were permitted to live you would have to live well.”

The problem with “equal end result” is it is simply not plausible. While America promises equal opportunity, everyone lives a different life with different circumstances. Sadly we cannot guarantee that if you work hard your whole life you will be a millionaire. However we can guarantee that you will have the opportunity to rise to whatever level you set in your sights; whether or not you make it is dependent on you and your circumstances.
The current argument against this idea is that people don’t have equal opportunity because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Alright let’s give that a fair shake. Say all of those things are true. Let’s take all of us and put us in Venezuela for a minute; same social status, same gender, same race, same everything. You now have nothing. Regardless of what any of those identifiers may be. You now live in fear. You now do not know if you will eat today, or tomorrow, or this week. You will now go to a job where you will do back breaking work and make maybe enough to live off of for the day. You will now wonder if your loved ones will disappear. You have no opportunity at all. It does not matter if you are white, black, male, female, gay, straight, etc. You simply do not have any chance to make a better life for yourself. Now let’s put us all back in America. There may be more challenges based on your identifiers. As a woman I understand this idea very much. Although I haven’t been discriminated against in the workplace I have felt the pressures to work twice as hard in other aspects of my life in order to measure up to the men (when in reality I hold my own or surpass my male counterparts). Here’s the deal. I still have the same opportunity to get to the same place. I just have to approach it differently and maybe work a little bit harder. Am I saying that the challenges that face us because of our identifiers are okay? Absolutely not. It is not okay that a woman has to work harder than a man to get to the same place. It is not okay that a black person has to work harder than a white person to get to the same place. It is not okay that we see color, gender, etc. as reasons to inhibit someone from the path of progress. My point in all of this (which I am FINALLY getting to after 1000+ words….thanks for sticking it out) is this. We cannot take these problems to the government to be solved. We must solve them on a social level through example, patience, and our own hard work. If someone tells you you can’t do something because of x, y, and z reason do it anyways! Throw it back in their face! Do what you were called to do because it fulfills you and don’t let anyone take that away from you. But that’s besides the point.

Why doesn’t government involvement work? JFK’s quote touched on it broadly by saying that we are sacrificing the liberties of the people when we give more power to the government. Why? Well a few reasons: one, bureaucracy; two, individual accountability; three, respect; four, responsibility; and five, humanization. I’ll cover these quickly because I realize this is now very long winded. I’ll start with bureaucracy.

Calvin Coolidge said, “unless bureaucracy is constantly resisted it breaks down representative government and overwhelms democracy. It is the one element in our institutions that sets up a pretense of having authority over everybody and being responsible to nobody.” Guess what happens when we take things to the government. It gets handed to the bureaucracy. If there isn’t a bureaucratic office to handle your request a new group of bureaucrats is created to fulfill your request! This grows exponentially until we have a new system of government that goes a bit like this: Federal government (actually bureaucrats), state government (also bureaucrats), local government (also bureaucrats), people (guess what you no longer have rights). While some level of bureaucracy is necessary to keep the country running, filling up the government with thousands upon thousands of unelected government workers is no friend to the rights of the individual. It takes away your right to live your life as you choose because some bureaucratic agency somewhere has a made a rule saying you cannot do whatever it is you chose to do.

The great experiment of America was “can man govern himself?” Two hundred and forty one years of self-government has proven that man can indeed govern himself when he (and she) lives by these principles: individual accountability, respect, and responsibility. Individual accountability requires people to be aware of themselves and their impact on others. It is the sister principle to the responsibility we have to exercise our rights, well, responsibly. Both of these principles are grossly misunderstood and ignored in current American life. Individual accountability requires the individual to recognize that they are in charge of their own destiny and that the government, society, their personal fear, their self imposed limitations, NOTHING but their own self is in charge of their own path in life. Yes, there may be challenges that arise because of these factors and people may be judgemental and cruel but unless you’re planning on becoming a terrorist or doing some other such threatening/illegal activity your failures in life are your failures. Your successes are your successes. You choose the life you live. This requires a lot of responsibility over yourself. It involves overcoming offense, rising to a higher standard of character, and most importantly respecting (or at least being kind to) other people even if they don’t respect you. It means not swearing in front of children at the playground (yes you have the right of free speech but you also have a responsibility to exercise that right with dignity and honor). It means if you are an atheist and think religion is the bane of society you respect other people’s right to practice religion because that is their choice. Guess what. That absolutely goes vice versa. If we can implement these simple principles into our own lives we can have a stronger effect on society as a whole than the government ever can. Why? A lot of that comes down to the last principle: humanization.

Our society spends a lot of time dehumanizing one another. From blatant disregard of people’s opinions, to actively avoiding human interaction, to trying to solve all of our problems without actually talking to the humans. By not trying to solve problems with respectful communication we will never be able to affect the change we want to see. If you want to change society you need to focus on the people. You cannot include the government. Although the government is instituted to protect the people it is not a social institution. It is not created or designed to designate social cues or social lifestyle. If you give the government that power you strip the people of their individuality; especially in a nation as large as the US. We are a culturally heterogenous nation which is a beautiful and powerful gift. What we often forget is that our vast cultural differences can make it difficult to communicate with any semblance of respect. We have taken the human element out of solving our problems because it is hard to solve problems with a people who are so unique and so opinionated! Rather than seeing this as a blessing we have taken it as a curse and instead of rising to the challenge of working together to create change at a social level we have tried to take our social change to the government so it wouldn’t be so hard. Unfortunately we as a nation have not paused to learn from this mistake. Instead we have pushed forward, maintaining a frantic cry for government intervention when what really needs to happen is a large dose of humanization. America we do not need the government to solve our problems. We need the government to make sure we can solve our own problems. No side is perfect at solving problems. In fact I think pretty much everyone has done an absolutely abysmal job of doing so in the past 40 years. However, we have the responsibility to work together as citizens to create a society that is respectful of people and that honors the individual.

“The scarlet thread running through the thoughts and actions of people all over the world is the delegation of great problems to the all-absorbing leviathan - the state…Every time that we try to lift a problem to the govt., to the same extent we are sacrificing the liberties of the people.”

Let us not be a people that tries to take the easy way out by handing all of our problems to the government. The end result is a life of misery and bondage. We will lose our freedoms. We will lose our identity. Let us instead rise to the occasion and be the American people of self-governance and respect. It’s what we were made for.  

(You all use Wikipedia. Let's not make this a big thing)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

PC, Cultural Respect, and Getting Over It

I was watching Fox news during my morning routine a few days ago (I’m conservative, sue me) and saw the story on Trump’s visit to Israel. Between the back and forth on Israel and U.S. relations, foreign policy, and Trump’s actions overseas, I caught some of the conversation on Melania Trump’s overseas presence. The newscasters were discussing the Israeli media’s praise of First Lady Trump and her modest clothing choices. The Israeli media made a point to recognize that while she wasn’t dressed in a head scarf or other such traditional dress she chose a very conservative outfit out of respect for a culture she was not a part of. They took note of her freedom of expression in not dressing exactly like they dressed but they appreciated the efforts put forth to show her respect for their culture. Respect. That’s really what it all comes down to here.

We hear a lot in our culture about the endless ways we can offend other people. We can say, do, act, or be a direct offense to another individual without conscious knowledge of our “mistakes”.  One of my favorite examples of this is the use of the phrase “Merry Christmas.” Let me get one thing straight. If I say “Merry Christmas” to you I am not trying to force my beliefs on you. In fact I absolutely love when someone says “Happy Hanukah” or some other such sentiment in return. Why? It’s a celebration of culture, religion, and people. If I say “Merry Christmas” to you I mean “I sincerely hope you have a joyful time of year as it is generally a time that uplifts people’s spirits.” Since I am Christian and believe in celebrating the birth of my Savior I shorten that painfully long greeting to “Merry Christmas”. I welcome the warm and kind words of “Happy Hanukah”, “Feliz Navidad”, etc. because as a rational human being I recognize that these people are not trying to force their religion or ideals on me. They are in sincerity wishing me happiness and joy. 

This politically correct, don’t say any words that could possibly offend anyone, extravaganza has only grown worse in the past few years. Now we can’t say ma’am or sir without offending someone; even though these words are intended with respect. There are a myriad of words and phrases that I cannot say because I might “offend” someone or blaspheme their “safe space”. When did we become a people who let other people dictate how we feel? Millennials, why do you let your feelings get in the way of your abilities. I cannot tell you how often I am ashamed to be counted among the millennial generation because I see countless people around me who are brilliant, talented, vivacious human beings throw temper tantrums because someone hurt their feelings, go on a rampage because they’re offended or upset, or lay on the ground crying because “there are just too many injustices in an unjust world”. It’s time to take control of your emotions, appreciate when people are trying to be kind, and get over it. Most people are trying to connect with you, get to know you, appreciate you, or whatever it may be even if they don’t do it in the way you’d like. Guess what. The world doesn’t revolve around you and your feelings. You choose whether or not to be offended. If you feel that you cannot possibly go on because you are just too darn offended you should probably do a little soul searching and rethink your life.

Don’t get me wrong. I recognize that plenty of people say rude, immature, and unnecessary things. I’m a Mormon, conservative woman. The number of times I’ve been asked how my goals will (hinting at negatively) affect my children (as if my wanting to continue to pursue educational and career goals will somehow psychologically mess up my currently non-existent children) is astronomical. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. I know what I want and who I am. I know my character. I choose not to be offended because it only slows me down. My only goal today is to be the best person I can be regardless of what other people think and to prove those people who have doubted and disrespected me wrong. If someone makes a derogatory remark about your race, religion, sexual orientation, political beliefs, etc. Prove. Them. Wrong. You want to make a change; you want to see a difference? Get over it and prove them wrong. If someone makes a remark intended to be kind and uplifting, accept the comment. Don’t be trite and disrespectful. That is the most sure-fire way to destroy the humanity of a people from the inside than anything else I know. It keeps people from wanting to share goodness and respect out of fear that they will be lashed out at for their efforts. Don’t be a part of the problem. Be the solution. Get over it. Accept kindness. Prove the nay-sayers wrong.

To finish I want to go back to the concept of respect. Being respectful of other people’s beliefs does not mean that we cannot talk about our own beliefs and principles. In fact it’s quite the opposite. Rather than “tolerating” one another’s beliefs we should be celebrating them. Tolerating is a word used by people who have no grasp on the idea of respect. I can tolerate you and you can tolerate me but we’ll never really be friends will we? However if we can come to a point where we celebrate each other’s differences we have made a huge leap in the social atmosphere of today. Bridging the culture gap is hard. People are comfortable in environments that are most familiar to them. That’s why people don’t usually extend outside their circles of familiarity too much unless they’re forced to do so. If we want the social injustices of this country to go away as much as they possibly can in a world with imperfect people we’re going to have to learn to have true respect for one another. That means I as a conservative and you as a liberal, independent, green party, whatever you may be can sit down in a room and appreciate one another as human beings rather than judging one another for our difference in thought. We can have a political conversation that doesn’t end in a fight or loss of friendship. We can have differences because differences make us individuals and that above all is the greatest part about being human. We are not all the same and we have the remarkable opportunity to learn from each other. Let respect be about learning from one another and valuing different opinions rather than keeping quiet and closing off out of fear of offending others. There will continue to be offensive comments, people, etc. Learn to rise above trite offense. Learn from your experiences and continue to seek to respect others. If you can respect others the people worth having in your life will respect you too. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

God Bless America

Yesterday I watched American Sniper. It was one of the most gut-wrenching, eye-opening, tear-jerking movies I have ever seen. As someone who watches the news frequently I had semi-followed the trial regarding Chris Kyle and heard the powerful words of his wife Taya. My heart went out to this family who had seen their father narrowly survive four tours in Iraq only to have his life taken by a fellow veteran in the states. The movie ended and I sat there in awe; unable to say a word. My respect for the military, for what they go through, and their dedication to defending freedom greatly increased. I have always loved our military. Memorial Day, Veterans Day, D-Day, etc have always been days to remember those who have fallen and those who serve. I never could have imagined the pain and suffering these soldiers see. Our military sacrifices more than their lives for the cause of freedom. Every soldier who goes overseas makes sacrifices. That could be sacrifices of comfort and security or it could be sacrifices of sanity and innocence. These people see more than we can understand. They watch men, women, and children die. They watch their best friends fall next to them. They see suffering and hatred. Instead of walking away they continue on doing the duty that has been asked of them; doing it with a spirit of patriotism. I understand that not every soldier goes to war with these intentions and that not every war may seem to have good intentions. However, the large majority of those who recruit do so with a desire to serve their country. I do not always agree with what our military is doing. Despite that I support our troops. We as a nation must stand behind our troops through thick and thin. They deserve our support as they put their lives on the line for us. As a nation we have the duty to protect our nation from within while they serve outside. We must defend the constitution and participate in the political scene so that our military has a cause to fight for. Keep America the land of the free and the home of the brave. Remember. We are the guardians.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Federalist Project: Modern Federalist # 85

To the People of the United States of America,
Many points have been made in ensuring the protection of the Constitution. We have discussed the need for a balanced government, for a strong voice of the people, for the financial stability it provides, its economic strengths, etc. There are many other reasons the Constitution is still applicable today and for that I encourage you to go and read the Federalist Papers yourselves. They are a phenomenal work. The Constitution of the United States required difficult work by dedicated people. Do not take that lightly. Choose to support a government built to balance human nature and government.
The checks and balances system is set up to keep the wrong groups from gaining all the power. That includes the people. The founding fathers spent much time addressing the virtues and vices of democracy in establishing the Constitution. They understood that it is just as likely for the people to hold too much power as it is for the government to hold too much power. Negative changes in the Constitution have come from power hungry people that usurp these checks and balances. We must stand against those who seek to destroy our freedom. We must support the constitution.
It is now up to you to decide whether or not you will accept it. Read it, understand it, and think for yourself. This is our duty as citizens of the United States. The Constitution is not a perfect document. However it is the best that we as imperfect people can abide by. We cannot attempt to force a Utopia on the people. Instead we must do the best we can with what we have. That is the Constitution. It is built on compromise, on the best understanding we have.
It is easier to get the approval for new amendments that to adopt a new system entirely. We must be cautious with this power and not amend the Constitution at every whim we so desire to act on. Creating a balanced, working government that benefits the people requires difficult work! It requires unity, labor, and time. It requires these same values to fix it. Be patient in the flaws. Do not try to amend everything you feel. Give it time, work together, and change what is absolutely necessary. Remember that the Constitution is meant to provide the best representation of the people without giving them all the power. One group of people may be a majority on one issue and a minority on another. That is the point. Well-rounded representation among the many different voices.
We must also be guarded against usurpation of leadership. It is not in the nature of those with power to want to give it up. This is the reason for term limits and specified years per term. With this said, we still need leaders who have public spirit and integrity. They must hold power in a spirit of accommodation and they are required to truly represent their constituents.
A national government is required for the success of a nation. The US establishing a constitution in a time of peace with general consent is a miracle. A gift by the grace of God. Do not abuse it. 

A Patriot

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Federalist Project: Modern Federalist #48

To the People of the United States of America,

The check and balance system established in the Constitution of the United States is one of the strongest guards against corruption in the government that imperfect people and imperfect government systems can live by. Under the Constitution the three legislative bodies have separate responsibilities but they are balanced by each other. The executive is in charge of matters that require instant decision making. For example, while he cannot declare war, the president is in charge of making decisions regarding where to send troops and other decisions of that nature. He deals with emergency responses. The legislative power makes laws and organizes institutions such as the postal service or the national mint. The judicial power observes and determines the constitutionalism of the laws the legislative branch enacts. Each branch has a very distinct set of powers. However, each branch is checked and balanced by another.
Why is it necessary to establish a system of balances? It is necessary to keep the branches of government in check. The legislative power is the strongest power. It is essential to balance the strength of the legislative with the roles of the executive and judicial so that one branch does not over power another. While the executive and judicial branches do not have the same amount of power as the legislative they have vital roles in the functionality of the US government.
The founders decided on a republic with this system of checks and balances because there was no government system that properly represented the people without giving them all the power. A monarchy put too much power in the hands of a single person. A democracy put too much power in the hands of the majority. In that case government becomes too inconsistent or too partisan. The balance between different government systems keeps the power from going too much to one group and becoming corrupt.  
The republic keeps the people from acting on every whim they have be establishing them as the core power center but providing a strong federal government to balance out the people. The legislative holds the most power and has the greatest extent of jurisdiction. The executive and judicial hold lesser powers because they have smaller roles. Since the legislative branch has access to the money of the people in the sense that they control the money the government receives from taxation all the branches must work together to use that money wisely.
Balancing the power of the branches is essential so there is not corruption. The people hold the greatest power but they have representatives in a divided and balanced government to represent their needs and wants. There are three separate branches and no one person can have power in more than one. The three branches, although divided, are united. They work together. One cannot operate without the cooperation of the other.
Under the Articles of Confederation the powers of government were scattered and essentially unusable. This is what is happening in our government today. The three branches are becoming completely separate and ignoring the balance of power they are supposed to uphold. Just a list of what the branches are not supposed to do are insufficient bounds for government. They need a list of just their responsibilities. For example, Article I Section 8 of the Constitution lays out 18 powers of the legislative branch. They are not to deviate from those 18 powers. Each article of the Constitution also includes a system of checks and balances that help balance the power.
The branches must be balanced. They are required to keep the people from overstepping their bounds, but they also answer to the people and to each other. Separating the powers causes confusion and chaos. Unity is required among the powers of government.

A Patriot