Today, and in our future we face important moral choices as a people and as a nation. If we are to conserve what we have and who we are we must change with the times or lose our Republic and our way of life.
Trust has eroded in our institutions of government and in our free enterprise system. In poll after poll the public has shown how a lack of confidence and trust, in banks, in business, in our government and in our courts. This lack of trust has grown to historically low numbers in the polling that has taken place. In order for our system to work trust must exist in our institutions.
It is part of the American character that a healthy skepticism of government has always existed. What is new is the lack of faith in our courts and an increasingly pessimistic view regarding whether the children of this current generation will have a better life than their parents.
We are presently split into two nations, not just the media view of red and blue states, but a battle for the heart and soul of the American people.
On one side you have those who claim to be conservative. For them it is about me. It is an issue of individual liberty. Taxation for them is the equivalent of thievery. Life is about the attainment of wealth, or the prospect of becoming wealthy. They want a well ordered society, a civil society based upon their view of what America should look like.
It is about free enterprise and a laissez faire view of government. They want fewer regulations and rules inhibiting their chance of becoming wealthy and keeping the money that they have earned. Some really want an end of government as we have grown to know it, since the days of the Great Depression. They want to get rid of the vestiges of the New Deal. Their ideology is based on the equal weight that they give to their idea of what liberty is and the elevated view of the equal importance that they give to property. Today’s conservative, include religious fundamentalists and Ayn Rand followers. It is really about obtaining material wealth and having a society that they view as being civil, a civil society.
But the bottom line for them really is that their civil society is really a white society preserving white power, and including those people who are religious fundamentalists who are frightened by the changes in society that are taking place.
Increasingly we are seeing a changing face of America, a society of many cultures, races and religions. We see a multicultural society growing day by day and for some who face economic difficulty this change is unwanted.
For many children of what has been called the Greatest Generation, their parents taught them of a different view of government and society than that of an older America.
Leaders who emerged during the Great Depression and World War II, were born during the Victorian era. They were honed by traumatic historical events that shaped their thinking and beliefs. Those leaders such as Winston Churchill, Clement Atlee, and Franklin Roosevelt were determined to prevent the events of their era from ever happening again.
Gone were the days of isolationism and thoughts that a laissez faire free enterprise system could work. For those leaders who were forged by those awful times of the Great Depression, the preservation of their way of life demanded change. It really was about conserving by change. Capitalism was changed in order to save and conserve it by ushering in regulations and rules to attempt to limit greed. Our current Social Democracy that exists in America and in Europe came about as a result of their determination and hard work. A social safety net was created.
Modern Liberalism was defined as follows: “When the growing complexity of industrial conditions required increasing government intervention in order to assure more equal opportunities, the liberal traditions, faithful to the goal rather than the dogma, altered its view of the state, and there emerged the conception of a social welfare state in which the national government had the express obligation to maintain high levels of employment in the economy, to supervise standards of life and labor, to regulate the methods of business competition, and to establish comprehensive patterns of social security.” Arthur Schlesinger,Jr.
As it has been said we are no longer hunter gatherers from the caveman days. We have changed from an agrarian society to an Industrial society and now we are moving further and further into the age of Technology and an information revolution. And with these changes we as a people need to change with the times. We can’t go back to some bygone era of the rugged individual like the mountain man of 1820. Modernity has arrived regardless of how the older generation wants to admit it, times are changing.
We have a moral choice to make, do we become a society that is all about me and what money is in it for me? Or do we want to have a society where we view society as a community interdependent upon each other, a society where equality of opportunity is valued as much as liberty? Will we have a country where every man is out for themselves or will we choose to maintain and preserve the social democracy that our parents, the children of the Great Depression and those who fought for our way of life, gave us after World War II.
We need to conserve what we have by changing with the times. We will remain a country divided and increasingly angry with each other if we don’t listen to one another.
Memories and echoes of the past, when an ordered society resembled countries that had dictatorships, can become today’s reality. It was once said, Hitler put people to work or Mussolini had the trains working on time. With people out of work and with increasing hopelessness, those times of a somewhat forgotten era can happen, again.
The wealthy one and a half percent may feel safe, but such a disparity of wealth in a society is a recipe for the kind of change we don’t want. We don’t want an ordered society when we are all marching in lock step to some autocratic leader who gains power by promising order. Our goal should be that our collective boats rise together, not that one person or a few people have the biggest and grandest boat, and that somehow some of that wealth will trickle down to the rest of us.
Danger signals can be seen in Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina where our fellow citizens are being marched off to jail for merely protesting against their current state governmental actions in those states.
As Benjamin Franklin once said in response to a woman’s question about what do we have Mr. Franklin, and he responded by saying, “We have a Republic if we can keep it.”
Our fate is in each of our hands. It is our choice to either remain silent or to let our voices be heard.
Let us choose wisely, not only for ourselves but for posterity.