Hateful ‘Aginers’ Profane Golden Rule

Okay. The sayings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and even Ronald Reagan about civil society mean little to you.

So, hear the words of Jesus, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31) and “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:31).

Our schools used to teach this concept to children as the “golden rule.” It is the moral law, the rock, upon which civil society and, indeed, civilization are built.

It can be found in all major religions and enlightened philosophies:

“What is hateful to you do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law: all the rest is commentary. Go and study it.”–Talmud, Shabbat.

“This is the sum of duty (Law): Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” –Mahabharata 5:1517.

“Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” –Analects 15:23.

“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” –Udana-Varga 5:18.

“We should behave to our friends as we would have our friends behave to us.” –Nicomachaen Ethics.

“Do ye enjoin Right Conduct on the people and forget (to practice it) yourselves. And yet you study the scripture? (Law). Will ye not understand?” –Al-Qur’an 2:44.

“No one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.” –Second Treatise of Government.

“So act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as means only.” –Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals.

These quotations span from 1250 BC to 1795 AD. They represent Judaism, Hinduism, Confucius, Buddhism, Aristotle, Islam, John Locke, and Immanuel Kant, in that order.

They are timeless, transcendent teachings all should hear and obey. They apply to each of us individually, to our families and associations, our businesses, and to our politics and government.

Yes, our politics.

Hateful messages spewed by the “aginers” in both parties are uncivil, irreligious, and immoral. To be clear, they are un-Christian and profane the golden rule.

They are also unpatriotic.

Even a novice student of our Constitution knows it represents mankind’s best effort, so far, to incorporate moral law into government.

Right after Jesus preached the golden rule to his disciples, he said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock…But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” –Matthew 7:34-36.

Hateful aginers build on sand. Wise patriots build on rock.

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Beware of Legislative Tyranny

Civil society protects us from tyranny.

When Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville toured America in the early 1800s, he marveled at our democratic and civil society. But, in his two volume commentary Democracy in America he wrote at length about the risks of tyranny in America. He believed America had more to fear about tyranny from within than from without, quoting from a prescient letter Thomas Jefferson sent to James Madison.
 
“The tyranny of the Legislature is really the danger most to be feared, and will continue to be so for many years to come. The tyranny of the executive power will come in its turn, but at a more distant period.”
 
Tocqueville saw America’s resistance to tyranny arising from three things, “(1) the peculiar and accidental situation in which Providence has placed the Americans; (2) the law; (3) the manners and customs of the people (civil society).”
 
“The most fascinating aspect of Tocqueville’s model of civil society,” explained Peter Dobkin Hall, Professor of History and Theory at City University of New York, “is the way its various components fit together: (1) family and community life and the churches act to shape private moral and perceptual agendas and direct them towards the public sphere; (2) civil and commercial associations and the press act as vehicles for shaping and focusing public action outside the formal realms of politics and government; (3) political associations and parties in turn act as the bases for forming the electoral coalitions on which formal governmental action is based.”
 
Nearly 200 years ago, Tocqueville saw strong families, communities, churches, civic and business organizations and a free press giving direction to political agendas.

Not today. 
 
Now he would see heavily-financed, national and state political agendas intentionally dividing families, communities, churches, and civic and business associations and dominating media.
 
In the section of his book entitled Tyranny of the Majority, Tocqueville wrote, “Unlimited power is in itself a bad and dangerous thing; human beings are not competent to exercise it with discretion, and God alone can be omnipotent.”
 
As our political parties more ruthlessly pursue ideological purity, detesting compromise and reconciliation, the risks of legislative tyranny grow…that tyranny being able to force and enforce contentious laws and policies on the minority.
 
We see instances already. Legislative tyranny at the national level forced Obamacare on states. Legislative tyranny at the state level forced local governments to abandon reasonable open-carry public safety restrictions. (How ironic to see state leaders fight federal tyranny, then act tyrannically toward local government.) 
 
Read George Washington’s admonition, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
 
Patriots must stand against tyranny of all kinds and ever renew family-, church-, and community-based civil society.
 
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Schools Failing to Deliver Jefferson Vision

The foundation of civil society is education.

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be,” said Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, our third President, and champion of public education.

Jefferson believed education of all citizens to be essential to both liberty and civil society. “I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”

Jefferson knew uneducated children could become the bane of America. “If the children are untaught, their ignorance and vices will in future life cost us much dearer in their consequences than it would have done in their correction by a good education.”

While Jefferson asserted the merits of public education, it was Horace Mann who led the fight to establish free public schools. In Public Education in the United States (1919), noted educator Ellwood Cubberley wrote, “he will always be regarded as perhaps the greatest of the ‘founders’ of our American system of free public schools. No one did more than he to establish in the minds of the American people the conception that education should be universal, non-sectarian, and free.”

Jefferson’s vision was that schools would impart both knowledge and morality, core components of civil society. Mann agreed with Jefferson’s vision but worked hardest to establish the practice of a free education for all.

Ideally, both Jefferson’s vision and Mann’s practice would be the birthright of every American. Sadly, the practice has persisted while the vision has dimmed.

What evidence shall we focus on? Low educational achievement levels? High drop-out rates? Students who don’t know the words to the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem, much less what they stand for? Violence and immorality among school age students?

Or bad teachers, bad administrators, lack of resources, poor facilities, etc.?

Or us?

We have allowed cruel administrators, wimpy parents, frenetic do-gooders, and foolish officials to destroy discipline in our schools. We have allowed zealots, educationists, and political correctness to confound and contaminate coursework in our schools. We have allowed regulation, taxation, transportation, dietetics, and athletics to dominate and obfuscate the obsolete organization of our schools.

Some say the fix is to pass a constitutional amendment to better fund the current system.

Others say the fix is to quit holding students hostage in bad school districts, allow teachers to incorporate discipline and work with learning, and authorize schools to offer early childhood education and extend school hours.

As Jefferson warned, our civil society depends on making the right choice.

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Reagan – Brotherhood an Essential Pillar

Civil society requires civil leadership.

Just as Ronald Reagan defined civil society – order with virtue, he also was the epitome of civil leadership – strong but conciliatory, demanding but willing to compromise, conservative but willing to work across party lines.

Reagan said, “Our first President, George Washington, Father of our Country, shaper of the Constitution, and truly a wise man, believed that religion, morality, and brotherhood were the essential pillars of society.”

Reagan affirmed the prayer embodied in America the Beautiful – “America! America! God shed his grace on thee and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!”

For him, brotherhood transcended politics, as demonstrated by his legendary relationship with Tip O’Neil, the Democrat Speaker of the House. O’Neill’s son Thomas described their relationship, their commitment to “find common ground” this way:

“What both men deplored more than the other’s political philosophy was stalemate, and a country that was so polarized by ideology and party politics that it could not move forward.”

“While neither man embraced the other’s worldview, each respected the other’s right to hold it. Each respected the other as a man.”

The late Congressman G. V. “Sonny” Montgomery also bought into the notion that brotherhood should transcend politics. His relationship with Republican President George H.W. Bush is also legendary.

“When it came to matters affecting our national security and matters of war and peace, we stood as one,” Bush wrote in the foreword to Sonny’s memoir The Veteran’s Champion.

The late Senator John C. Stennis may be the best 20th Century example of civil leadership. Stennis was respected for his character, steadfast faith in God, and love for people.

Reagan said of Stennis, “The humble man who came to Washington from a small town in Mississippi has made an impression on American government that is difficult to measure and hard to fully describe. He has demonstrated for all of us that one man, committed to God and country, willing to work hard and sacrifice personal gain and comfort, can make a difference.”

“He considered it a point of pride, not weakness, to be able to work across the aisle with presidents of the other party,” said Brother Rogers, associate director of the John C. Stennis Cener for Public Service.

“When we face difficult times, difficult issues,” Reagan said, “we Americans can unite for the common good.”

Montgomery and Stennis would agree, but today’s snarly politics would not.

As Thad Cochran’s race shows, national groups with big money are anxious to demean and ditch civil leaders willing to work across the aisle for the common good.

As civil leadership wanes in our national leaders, what does that foretell for state and local leadership? For our national fabric and civil society?

Patriots should stand up for brotherhood and civil leadership.

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Juvenile Violence and Repeat Offenders Disrupt Civil Society

Nobody promised preserving our civil society would be easy.

Two young males dressed in hoodies and blue jeans with their faces covered shot Meridian civil rights leader Roscoe Jones while trying to steal his car. A 16-year-old youth was arrested for gunning down an 87-year old man in broad daylight in a Meridian grocery store parking lot. Two juveniles threw a molotov cocktail into a Meridian housing project, destroying eight apartments.

These are just a few of the violent juvenile crime incidents that continue to daunt Meridian and Lauderdale County, especially after the shutdown of the city-county juvenile center by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Repeat offenders are a challenge too. The 16-year-old arrested for killing the 87-year-old man had on an ankle bracelet and was being monitored by the youth court. A 29-year-old man arrested for the murder of a 19-year-old youth was out on bond for two counts of aggravated assault.

Sheriff Billy Sollie told WTOK-TV: “We all know that we have a small number of people here in the Meridian-Lauderdale County area committing a large number of offenses. These offenders know that the system is broke….Individuals receive very minimal sentences and are back on the streets again within a year, recommitting offenses again.”

“With a crime rate of 57 per one thousand residents, Meridian has one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes,” says the NeighborhoodScout.com website. “One’s chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime here is one in 17. Within Mississippi, more than 92% of the communities have a lower crime rate than Meridian.” Here are rates for other cities: Madison (9); Brandon (11); Hernando (22); Oxford (26); Tupelo (55); Gulfport (58); Hattiesburg (60); Greenwood (65); Jackson (78).

One Meridian response has been “Stop the Violence” rallies featuring young people.

“Sixth grade, I was asked to be in a gang. I actually thought about doing it, just to fit in,” Joshua Lyons told WTOK-TV. “But my parents raised me better, and I knew it wasn’t for me.”

Joshua and others like him choose our civil society. But, too many, particularly those from poverty situations, choose gangs, gangs that have no respect for our civil society, no allegiance to God and country, no consciousness of order or virtue.

Again, as Ronald Reagan said, “There can be no freedom without order, and there is no order without virtue.” The Justice Department, in effect, said that Meridian and Lauderdale County’s juvenile system for imposing order operated without virtue.

Few communities with high poverty rates, including Meridian and Lauderdale County, are willing to commit the resources, manpower, and facilities needed to impose order in a virtuous way.

Like all patriots, we must make sacrifices to preserve our civil society.

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Reagan Defined Civil Society – Order with Virtue

Last week’s column declared that it’s every patriot’s duty to work hard to keep our national fabric whole. “What does ‘national fabric’ mean?” the questioner asked.

That which binds us together as Americans – beginnings, behaviors, and beliefs – knits our national fabric.

Historians have well-captured the beginnings of America and her people – from colonists to slaves to immigrants; the behaviors that followed – from the Revolution and establishment of the Constitution, to the emancipation of slaves and the Civil War, to the emancipation of women and the Civil Rights movement, to the creation of the world’s greatest economy, and so on; and the common beliefs and love of country that somehow endured through it all.

George Washington said in his Farewell Address: “I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.”

Lofty language, but the stuff that leads us to proudly proclaim ourselves as Americans. The stuff that, so far, has generated patriot after patriot to keep our nation together, our people free, and our national fabric whole.

From Jefferson to Lincoln to Reagan, presidents have joined with Washington to caution that preservation of our national fabric requires us to maintain a civil society.

Ronald Reagan said, “There can be no freedom without order, and there is no order without virtue. Now, that’s a simple enough formulation, but it’s an insight found not only in the writings of Founding Fathers like Washington or great political thinkers like Edmund Burke; it is also found in a great part of our Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Order with virtue is the definition of a civil society.

It describes a society where disagreements are peaceably resolved through dialogue or the ballot box, where people disagree but get along, and where free individuals respect the rights of others.

We see the opposite of a civil society in the Middle East where sects murder sects, children and women are raped and killed, and despots rule. Once, this region was the enlightened cultural and educational center of the world.

No nation survives the breakdown of civil society.

Something to think about when politics makes us fighting mad.

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Patriots’ Duty: Keep National Fabric Whole

Every Independence Day, words and symbols from our Founders captivate me.

There is the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” adopted July 4th, 1776, by the Continental Congress.

There is the Great Seal of the United States, commissioned by the congress on July 4, 1776. One side of the seal features the motto e pluribus unum (out of many one), the stars and bars, and the American bald eagle supported only by “Virtue.” The other side features the Eye of Providence below the words Annuit Coeptis (He has favored our undertakings).

There is more, but you get the point.

The great irony to these inspirational words and symbols of liberty, virtue, and unity is the Founders who adopted them also approved slavery and ignored the rights of Native Americans and women.

Fortunately, the Constitution and Bill of Rights that sprung from the Declaration of Independence and the values expressed in the Great Seal wove a strong and virtuous national fabric that eventually freed slaves and gave rights to women and Native Americans as well as Irish, Chinese, and other immigrants who helped build our nation.

Perhaps it is that struggle to live up to our words and values that turns my thoughts to another fabric each Independence Day. It comes from Dolly Parton’s poignant song “Coat of Many Colors.” It’s a simple song about a poor girl with a coat sewn by her mother from a box of rags. As her mother sewed, she told Dolly the biblical story of Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors. For Dolly, the coat represented hard work, love, and devotion. It was far more than a bunch of rags.

Dolly’s song is a metaphor for the rough-hewn fabric of 20th Century America as our original national fabric, ripped by the Civil War and the Depression, was re-woven through hardship, hard work, and hardy devotion… by Americans of all colors and circumstances.

The 21st Century may be different. Vast sums of money supporting ever-more-divisive fights over political and social issues and 24/7 political and media personalities who prosper by inciting others to slash our national fabric pose risks. That plus dysfunctional government, eroding infrastructure, personal and governmental debt, and widening wealth gaps risk deep and dangerous tears.

The Bible warns us “to every thing there is a season.” Could this be the season where our strong and virtuous national fabric rips apart?

It’s every patriot’s duty to work hard and seek His favor to keep our Founder-stitched Coat of Many Colors far more than a bunch of rags.

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