As we prepare for the annual Thanksgiving feast with family and friends, let’s keep in mind how fortunate we are to live in such a bountiful country. Even those considered poor will have access to turkey dinners, complements of the social service agencies in every town and city from coast to coast. With all of our political and social differences we are always united in our belief that no one should go hungry. We are a wealthy and proud nation that was born and nourished with the philanthropic milk of human kindness.
However, even humanitarianism must have limitations; otherwise, it will lead to abuse. The reason our country is in this wealth-sucking black hole is because of an elite ideological group of elected reps who think they can wave a magic wand and create, not equal opportunity, but equal results. Hence, if you didn’t work hard and save enough money for a down payment on a house or a car, that doesn’t mean you should be denied something that others have.
Our parents wanted to make us happy, but they understood the danger of taking satisfaction to the extreme. In addition, they understood the need to teach us the merits of self-sacrifice. They realized that we would grow up and be released into a world in which discipline was a key factor in our maturity. If you had permissive parents, they probably gave in every time you pouted, screamed, or engaged in other childish tantrums. But, if you were really lucky, you had parents who taught you that life isn’t always fair and that nobody owes you a living. They were preparing you for adulthood.
What our government is doing today exemplifies the permissive parent/spoiled child syndrome. Liberal ideologues say you should have everything you want, that freedom is unlimited, and every grievance should be soothed by the curative balm of government largesse. Conversely, conservatives say you must take responsibility for your own future and not use the blame game as a crutch. When you take advantage of a legal product like cigarettes, despite warnings of ill effects, you should not expect a multimillion dollar “reward” for your own lack of discipline when you get sick. Blowing up like a tick on fast food burgers, fries, and shakes doesn’t mean you have the right to get rich as part of a class-action lawsuit brought by an army of obese opportunists. And getting pregnant because you didn’t behave responsibly by taking precautions shouldn’t give you a license to kill the child growing inside you.
Behavior must have consequences; otherwise, we’ll be ruled by animal instincts. Freedom must have limitations; otherwise, we’ll have chaos. Civilization is a social contract in which the participants must agree on the terms of an orderly existence. Those terms involve moral obligations that are consistent with the dominant culture. History teaches us that great civilizations are conquered from within, perhaps because, in their striving for greatness, they neglect and abandon the principles that built their success. Those principles usually were, and are, grounded in religion. Before there were laws in books, there was religion in the hearts and minds of people struggling to carve a decent life out of a cruel and brutish landscape. Before there was a constitution to guide us in the building of a nation, there was religion to guide us in the spiritual recognition of a soul.
Yet in spite of all the lessons of history, we find ourselves in the classic struggle between good and evil. Murder, rape, child abuse and pornography have become so commonplace that the public pays scant attention unless the victim, or the offender is a celebrity. Bodies found in garbage dumpsters may not be mentioned at all if a sports playoff game is in the headlines.
We have been systematically conditioned to tolerate behavior that once would have elicited gasps from even the most seasoned exhibitionists. It appears that we have lost our ability to be shocked. Nevertheless, in the face of all this evidence that we are in desperate need of a spiritual Renaissance, those who strive for a rebirth of values are pejoratively referred to as members of the “religious right.”
In other words, if you want a return to the days when twelve-year-olds were not having sex with their teachers (an almost weekly headline), child molesters weren’t soliciting children on the Internet (NAMBLA), and murders didn’t occur in multiples (daily headline), you must be some sort of extremist. Well, if being an extremist means having faith in a higher power and clinging to a values-based moral code, it’s a label we should wear proudly. It was worn by our ancestors when they celebrated the first Thanksgiving in the new world.