When I was growing up as a kid, way before Man of Steel, before Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of him, there was a TV version of Superman with the title role played by actor George Reeves. At the beginning of every episode was the same voice over that repeated the following words, “Superman – defender of law and order, champion of equal rights, valiant, courageous fighter against the forces of hate and prejudice, who disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way.”
What did they mean by the American way? Well, according to Wikipedia, “The American way of life, or simply the American way, is the unique lifestyle, real or imagined, of the people living in the United States of America. It refers to a national ethos that purports to adhere to principles of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ At the center of the American way is the American Dream, the idea that upward mobility is achievable by any American through hard work.”
This commentary is not about Superman, it is about that national ethos which, aside from a small percentage of Americans, seems to have all but vanished from our way of thinking. Ask yourself how high on your personal list of priorities are the beliefs in truth, justice, and hard work?
Does the truth really matter to you? Sure, you might be offended when it has been proven that someone you had trusted for all these years had lied to you; such as the recent evidence brought to light regarding TV News anchor Brian Williams and his exaggerated claims of what happened while he was in Iraq. But had this evidence not come to light you would probably had never questioned Mr. Williams’ integrity and gone about your lives trusting him to tell you the truth.
The truth, more so today than at any other time in our nation’s history, is an elusive thing, if you want to find it you are going to have to exert some time and effort to do so. It is not going to come to you in a registered letter, an e-mail, or a text message…YOU are going to have to actively seek it out. The problem is though that you may not like it when you find it.
There is a psychological term known as cognitive dissonance which is mental stress brought about by a person holding conflicting beliefs or values, or who is confronted by new evidence which conflicts with currently held beliefs or values. People, as a whole, are loathe to accept things which go against all that they have believed to be true. I don’t know if this is because of the mental effort required to do so, or if it is simply because they refuse to face the consequences of having everything they have believed in proven to be untrue.
There is a quote from H. L. Mencken that I would like to toss in right about now. Mencken once said, “It takes a special sort of man to understand and enjoy liberty – and he is usually an outlaw in democratic societies.” Can you put on your thinking caps for just a moment and ponder what that means? Why would Mencken say that it takes a special kind of man to understand and enjoy liberty?
There is a quote, most often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, but which actually was something taken from another quote by John Philpot Curran, wherein he said, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”
Eternal vigilance huh? How, dare I ask, is that possible in a society where what is happening on TV, Facebook, or Twitter, more important than understanding the true nature of liberty? Yet that is what it takes to retain your freedom. Those who would seek to enslave you never rest, never tire. They are ceaseless in their efforts to deprive you of your rights and your freedom. If you wish to retain them you must resolve to be equally vigilant for any violations of them. The alternative is bondage and servitude.
I don’t know if I was born cynical or if life has taught me to be this way, but I trust very few people to tell me the truth…about anything. Even when those who I consider to be my closest circle of friends tell me something I will go out and research the information for myself. That is just my nature. I have been caught too many times in the past repeating information that I had heard from a so-called friend, which was later proven to be a hoax, or false. So if I don’t even take what my friends tell me at face value, how can you expect me to trust those who have already proven to me that they have no respect for my liberty?
I have been told that because I do not support certain actions taken by my government that I am unpatriotic. People who tell me this are so far off base that I wonder if they even realize what patriotism is. I’m not a huge fan of Howard Zinn, but there is one thing he said which I agree with completely. Zinn is quoted as saying, “Patriotism is not obedience to the government. Patriotism is obedience to the principles for which government is supposed to stand.”
Understanding, and upholding those principles, are what I consider to be the true definition of what I consider patriots. Anyone who does not do these things are simply taking up space and those whom I consider a threat to my liberty. In this there can be no middle ground, you either stand for full unrestrained liberty, as understood by our Founders, or you stand against it.
So what is true unrestrained liberty? Basically it means that I can do whatever I please as long as my actions do not hurt anyone else, or restrict them from enjoying the same privilege. I once heard that Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “My right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” That is a pretty apt description of what rights are, as long as what I’m doing does not physically threaten you, or take away from you what is yours, I am free to do it.
Rights, freedom, liberty cannot be taken from a people because by their exercising them others become emotionally uncomfortable. Freedom of speech cannot be restricted because certain words cause others discomfort. Use of certain words, although they may be profane, or racist in nature, cannot be restricted simply because others find them offensive. Nor can praying in schools simply because it offends the sensibilities of certain groups.
The same goes for our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. We should be allowed to own any kind of gun we want, with magazines that hold as many rounds as possible. The simple possession of these firearms causes no one any harm, it is only the fear that someone may use them in the commission of a crime which causes people to fear them, and therefore demand that our ability to own them be limited.
Ronald Reagan, the American president who even was loved by many a so-called liberal, once said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law is broken, society is guilty rather than the law breaker. It’s time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Liberty demands this to be true for the moment you stop holding individuals accountable for their actions you begin placing that responsibility upon others who suffer for things which were not of their doing.
Let’s just say that someone drinks a twelve pack of Budweiser and climbs behind the wheel of a big SUV, say an Escalade. They end up causing a major accident on the freeway, killing dozens of people. Is it fair to ban Budweiser or Escalades for everyone who drinks, or drives responsibly?
Let’s say for a moment that even though I have a job I am not responsible with my finances and spend more than I earn, even going into debt to buy things I cannot afford. Is it fair that you be asked to bail me out of debt and sustain my way of life?
No, those are not examples of the American way. The American way is such that you are free to do as you please; to achieve success or failure by your own wit and skill alone. The American way is such that we do not demand that others be taxed to provide for the sustenance of those who cannot find work. The American way does not punish those who are guilty only of defending what they have worked for from those who would take it from them. The American way does not force feed us ideas and beliefs which run contrary to ours.
The American way is such that you are free to do as you please but the moment you cross the line and invade my rights I have the right to defend them…with whatever force I deem necessary. The American way is such that you are free to practice beliefs that I disagree with as long as you do not demand that I publicly accept them as normal behavior, or subsidize them through taxes taken from my earnings.
The American way is such that I am free to speak my mind, defend what is rightfully mine, and to live without fear that the government whose job it is to protect my liberty will not try to reduce me to servitude. That is the American way, and that is what I fight for with every ounce of my being.
You can go ahead and call me a radical, an extremist, if you will. If you do you will only have proven that you know nothing of our nation’s Founding Fathers and the beliefs they held. I, along with a small percentage of others in this country, are the few remaining patriots this country has left. We fight for the same things Superman once stood for, truth, justice and the American way.
The rest of you…I don’t know what you stand for, but it certainly is not the American way I grew up to believe in. And until you change your beliefs, although I may speak to you frequently, I will consider you as much a threat to the American way as those who sit in our nation’s capital and pass laws which further reduce us to slaves. As for us, the American way has died and we don’t like what you have replaced it with.