I know that I am not alone in feeling the way I do about my country. Unlike magnets where opposites attract, human beings tend to gravitate towards those who share similar beliefs. While it is true that there is strength in numbers, one has to be very careful not to fall into a herd mentality and allow others to think for them. From my own experience that is what sets me, and the friends I have chosen, apart from the vast majority of people in this country…we tend to think for ourselves.
There is a quote that I recently discovered is falsely attributed to Thomas Edison. I have used it myself in my articles, and even though no record exists that Edison ever said it, I believe it to be true nonetheless. The quote is as follows, “Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
While I do not consider myself a great thinker, I do like to believe that I think. The quote above appears to insinuate that the majority of people do not think at all. I believe that to be untrue, it is just what they think about is different than what I think about. It is all a matter of priorities and I believe that for most Americans their priorities are not where they should be. Most people are far too concerned with things that entertain them and not those things which expand their knowledge. Like it or not, your brain is much like a muscle, if you don’t use it for what it was intended it tends to get lazy and atrophy.
Maybe that’s one reason why so many people where I work like to read my articles; I am an oddity, someone who, instead of memorizing sports data going back two decades, has spent their time studying American history and politics. I can’t count the times people have told me that they could not remember everything I do about this country’s history, or spend the time I do reading books about our Founding Fathers. People seem to think I am so very smart, but I’m not. I simply care enough to take the time to educate myself. If I were truly smart I would come up with a ‘new’ idea, or be able to find a way to motivate people to spend the time to learn for themselves.
Like I said, it’s all a matter of priorities. English actor Stephen Fry, who has played everything from Mycroft Holmes to Dietrich in V for Vendetta is also an author. In his book The Fry Chronicles he writes, “There are young men and women up and down the land who happily (or unhappily) tell anyone who will listen that they don’t have an academic turn of mind, or that they aren’t lucky enough to have been blessed with a good memory, and yet can recite hundreds of pop lyrics and reel off any amount of information about footballers. Why? Because they are interested in those things. They are curious. If you are hungry for food, you are prepared to hunt high and low for it. If you are hungry for information it is the same. Information is all around us, now more than ever before in human history. You barely have to stir or incommode yourself to find things out. The only reason people do not know much is because they do not care to know. They are incurious. Incuriosity is the oddest and most foolish failing there is.”
Yeah, he is an actor, so what? Does it mean that simply because he is an actor that he is incapable of thinking, of being right? Alexander Hamilton was one of our Founding Fathers. He served alongside George Washington in the War for Independence, both in battle and as Washington’s aide. Hamilton was a bastard child who had no formal education, and although I do not share his views on government, I do admire his intellect. Hamilton once said, “Men give me credit for some genius. All the genius I have is this. When I have a subject in mind I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. My mind becomes pervaded with it…the effort which I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labor and thought.”
I’m sure some of you have heard the old saying that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. I am more inclined to say that you can lead people to information but you can’t make them think. How else can you explain some of the ridiculous beliefs that people hold? They most certainly cannot be attributed to critical thinking.
For instance, many people believe that cops are racist murderers the target the black youths in our cities. Yet these same people believe that only cops should have guns. Other people claim that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment, but they believe in a woman’s right to abort a fetus. There are those who cry out about the human rights violations committed by leaders of other country’s yet turn a blind eye to the violations of our freedoms right here in America. Then there are those who say that the leaders of other nations are guilty of meddling in the internal affairs of other foreign lands yet how many countries has the U.S. invaded to remove a dictator to install a democracy whose government is more agreeable to U.S. foreign policy? How can people even hold such contradictory beliefs and then expect them to be taken seriously?
I don’t know if it is due to our educational system that is not teaching our youth to think, or if it is something else. I do know that I don’t see a whole lot of thinking going on. When I was growing up we didn’t have 24 hour a day cartoon channels, 300 cable channels to choose from, video games and cell phones. We either went outside and played, or we buried ourselves in books. My earliest memories from elementary school were of having to do book reports. The teacher would assign a book for us to read and give us a certain amount of time to read it.
Then, upon completion, we would have to write a report on it explaining the story line and our thoughts regarding it. There was no Wikipedia so that we could just plagiarize someone else’s synopsis. We had to think for ourselves.
Maybe that is why, to this day, I still love to read. It may also explain why I, and others from my generation, are able to compare the things our Founding Fathers said about government to the way our government actually is, and see the drastic difference between the two. It may also explain why we are so easily able to see the peril in allowing government to expand its power and regulate and control almost every aspect of our lives. It is also why we protest every infringement upon our rights. You may feel that it is necessary for the public good to sacrifice a little of your freedom to be a bit safer and more secure. We don’t see it that way.
Let’s say your rights are a $10 bill. Something happens and the people cry out that government must do something to prevent things like that from happening again. So the government proposes a law that eliminates $1 worth of your rights. So you now have $9 worth of rights remaining. Then later something else happens and you again call upon government to do something. So they pass another law eliminating another $1 of your rights. This process keeps repeating itself long enough and you won’t have any rights remaining. Is that what you want?
When our Founders spoke of our rights they used words like unalienable, inviolate, absolute. What those words meant is that our rights are untouchable, that no man, no body of men, could take them from us, not even if a majority of the people demanded that they be restricted. Our Founders were so firm in their belief that their rights were sacred and unalienable that they chose to fight to protect them rather than see them slowly taken from them by a tyrant. Are people today so ignorant, so meek and timid, that they would sit back and allow their freedom to be taken from them as long as they have a TV to watch and food to eat?
I really don’t know what I can do or say to get people to care. Maybe it really is a lost cause. All I do know is that I can’t just sit here and watch the country I love turn to shit and not say something about it. Irish statesman and political theorist Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Well I’m not going to remain silent, even if it means that the things I say are in your face offensive. I take more offense at my rights being taken from me than you could ever hope to be offended by the things I may say.
I saw something on Facebook the other day that I would like to share. It was simply a quote that said, “If you could read my mind I’m pretty sure you would be traumatized for life.” I would like to change the wording a bit, “If you could read my mind you would wither under the contempt I feel for you and your lack of concern for the future of this country.”
Out of all our Founding Fathers I admire and respect Thomas Jefferson the most. Yet it is Samuel Adams who provides me with the two quotes that best quantify how I feel at this point in time. The first comes from Adam’s Liberty Letters, written in 1771, “The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.”
The second comes from an article Adams published advocating for American independence in 1776, “If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
You may live in this country, you may vote, pay your taxes and be an upstanding member of your community, but if you don’t hold to the same principles for liberty and freedom that our Founders did I do not consider you a true American. An American would not allow their freedom to be taken from them for any measure of security. An American would not care more for what was on TV than what is going on in their government.
If you want me to consider you an American, then you better begin acting like one. Otherwise I have nothing but contempt for you. Yes, I may sound harsh, but so did Sam Adams when he said may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen. There was no middle ground for Adams, and there is none for me.
Maybe mankind has evolved and what is happening in our country is the natural course of things. If that is the case then I truly am a freak of nature, a throwback to times when rights meant more than what was on television, and even more than life itself. That could be why General John Stark of the War for Independence said Live Free or Die. In any case, that is what I consider to be the true measure of what it means to be an American, whether you value your rights and are willing to stand up for them, or if you will allow them to be taken from you by those who have taken a sacred oath to protect them.