by Stephen Smith
For those who happen across this op-ed, I wish a very happy and prosperous New Year. Even if you do not come from a Judeo-Christian heritage, I hope that in this past Christmas season you took time off to cherish and honor your parents, friends and family. Even if it is viewed only as an exercise, it might be a good time to review the Decalogue, more commonly known as the 10 Commandments.
With its statements of not to murder, steal, give false testimony and covet, I believe it is the finest set of rules on how best to live in a civil society ever conceived. You might even consider its requirement to take some time each week to be holy and contemplate the possibilities that there is a divine power in the universe greater than ourselves. An explanation, better stated than I ever could, is found in Micah 6:8.
“He hath shown thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
I believe that for many in our country, our nation has become a very dark place. I also believe that it is because we have forgotten what we once knew and that we can regain what we have lost if we rediscover our founding principles and the lesson learned by Western civilization.
I hope that in the coming year, we (in no particular order):
•Will experience a time of spiritual and intellectual renewal and revival. We need a new “Great Awakening” and to once again teach our rising generation civics – as originally intended by our founders.
•Will view those with whom we disagree as simply wrong and not evil. I hope that we can take more time to understand the views of those with whom we disagree. I also hope that in doing so, we can also rely on historical wisdom and experience to predict outcomes, and not just feelings.
•Can be passionate in our beliefs without sacrificing civility.
•Can end political correctness as the new religion. No one should suffer forever for something said long ago. What matters most is what kind of person you are today. The term “It’s a Dog Whistle” should be banned for being impossibly stupid and ambiguous.
•Will rediscover our founding principles and follow them in the administration of government. Justices who do not give value to original intent of the Constitution and the actual text of law in making their decisions should be impeached. Justices, who legislate from the bench by making rulings that make new law, should be impeached. Their job is to follow and interpret the law, not to make it.
•Understand that most issues are best handled locally. Federal government cannot and should not be all things to all people. A limited government is always best.
•Should, whenever possible, choose liberty.
•Should emphasize individual responsibility over the collective.
There was a time when people, seemingly instinctively, were adamantly self-reliant. They were often called “rugged individualists.” Back in the mid-sixties, when I was only 15 years old, I met such a person. I often think about her.
My father was born and raised in the Ozarks of Arkansas. His parents and his three brothers lived in a one room homestead, far back in the woods with no electricity or running water. They attended a single-room school. During the depression, his father committed suicide. He was only 6 years old. Unable to provide for the boys, his mother sent the brothers off to be raised in a Masonic orphanage. I never met my grandmother, but I did visit her and my grandfather’s graves. In 1964, we took a trip see the old abandoned homestead. On the homestead next door lived the remarkable Ms. Yates. As we approached her 100-plus year old house and small farm, the 65-year-old, a grey haired sturdy woman, was man-handling a plow being pulled by her mule.
As we got closer, we could see a small field of corn with pumpkins growing in their shade. She also had a vegetable garden for her table and a flower garden to decorate her home. Also seen were a pen with pigs and a chicken coop. We later learned she had no electricity and her water was drawn by a bucket from her well. When she spotted us coming, she quickly ran inside her house. We became concerned that we may have frightened her.
We soon learned that she went into her house to wash her feet before greeting us. You see, she did not own shoes, but thought it impolite to receive guests with soiled feet. She invited us into her modest neat home and we talked. She asked how we came to Arkansas and we told her of our flight on a Boeing 707. Ms. Yates informed us that she knew all about airplanes for she once took a ride in a bi-plane when a barnstormer had come to town. We leaned that by her own hand she could take care of her needs. If she ever needed some cash, to pay her property tax for example, she would sell a pig. The corn and the pumpkins were being raised as feed for her livestock. Though never married, she was social. She attended church on Sundays and went to Wednesday night revival meetings.
I later learned that she could not read or write. I suggested that she apply for Social Security or other financial assistance. Her response has forever been burned into my mind. She simply replied, “No, I figure that the government needs the money for the war in Vietnam.”
Our country was once heavily populated with “rugged individualists” such as Ms. Yates. They built this country, and there were no snowflakes among them. When they said, “I built that,” you knew that it was true. I never saw Ms. Yates again. She is now lovingly caring for God’s garden and animals. She still greets visitors with freshly washed bare feet, and her home is adorned with beautiful flowers. They come to show their respects to a woman who truly knows what it means to be free, live in liberty, and honor God, her country and her fellow man.