Tolerance and Political Correctness

One of the great cornerstones of our republic is tolerance. Our Founders came from  various countries where religious freedom was not present, and other freedoms were restricted. Property was in the hands of a few. Government rule was in the hands of a king or monarch of some sort. Freedom to speak and to assemble were restricted if present at all. Justice systems were autocratic and often trials did not exist; one person could be judge and jury. Our Founders were seekers of freedom.

They were often dissidents seeking religious freedom as the basis for other freedoms. Because they wanted to be free to practice their religious choice, they sought this for all people. For this to become reality in their new home, they demanded freedom to practice their own beliefs and the freedom for others to practice their beliefs. Thus this great principle of tolerance was basic.   Tolerance was a necessity. This tolerance was embedded in their personal lives and guaranteed in their governing documents.

We became a super-tolerant nation. We welcomed others. Our Statue of Liberty became the symbol for the masses seeking freedom. Ellis Island became the beginning of that road  for the many seeking freedom they longed for.

Unfortunately, that very tolerance and acceptance of other peoples, views and other religions have been used to transform, to undermine, to try to destroy our founding principles and even our founding documents. That very tolerance for all religions has been used to diminish our Christian heritage. That tolerance has been used to distort the values and principles of our republic.

Our history books have watered down our founding; they have heralded other cultures and religions while omitting our Christian founding. We have become afraid to acknowledge our exceptionality and instead apologize  for our freedoms and successes. Our tolerance has been transformed into political correctness.

We need to stand tall; we need to appreciate what our exceptionality has allowed us to do and be. We need to be proud of the values and principles embodied in our founding documents. We have not kept our “shining city on the hill” light shining on us only. We have sent the beams of freedom’s light all around the world. We have given of ourselves and our plenty. We have fought and died for the freedoms born of the tolerance we inherited.

Now we must become intolerant of those who would use our tolerance against us. We must not feel guilty of our heritage. We must not fear to be exceptional. We must again proclaim with verve and gusto the founding principles of this great republic. We must, because the alternative is unthinkable.

“Bored”

Almost every day some terrible, crazy, or destructive action occurs, and we ask why. Often the answer given is, “I was bored.” Let’s see. If I translate the word “bored” into all of the many excuses I have heard in my professional and personal life, I would have pages of script.

At the top of my list would be an unwillingness to live a productive and meaningful life. When confronted with the normal issues, concerns, problems and tribulations that occur in the process of living, a quick and easy way to play ostrich is to be bored. The simple declaration gets the head deep in the sand quickly. Easy way of saying, “I opt out.” It excuses what comes next. I always wonder when they found the sand.

What a drag! Living a life of boredom. Imagine living in the doldrums each day with a case of the blahs. Can you imagine getting up in the morning and the first words out of your mouth are, “I’m bored?” Imagine missing the sunshine glisten on the morning dew, seeing the fleecy clouds roll into wonderful shapes and things, missing the daily symphony of the  bird choir, and looking at the new blossoms welcoming the day–missing all of this is not in my wheel-house.

Tedium, listlessness, indifference, and monotony do not exist as commodities in the universe. But neither do joy or sorrow, hate or love. They are created by us. We have been given such incredible gifts at our birth. If we do not use our eyes to see the beauty, we think it is not there. If we do not use our ears to hear the sounds around us, we think they do not exist. If we do not think about joy and goodness, or practice kindness and respect, or know the Golden Rule, our hearts grow hard, our thoughts become angry, and  our words and actions become hateful and harmful.

Greeting the day without gratitude and without passion is sad. Feeling apathy, indifference, and the tired eyes of boredom are self-imposed. We do not come into this world ill-equipped; we must choose not to use the equipment we have been given to live a life of boredom, one of dullness and dry as the desert sand. But remember, even in the desert, we find the occasional oasis. But the blinders of boredom find only the mirage.

Is the United States Exceptional?

Yes! Definitely! You Bet! Absolutely! Without Question!

Start by asking yourself a question. How could so young a nation have become what we have become, and how could such an upstart do all that we have done in such a short period of time if we were not exceptional? Our history is minute in time in comparison with some other countries, yet we have done so much. Being exceptional doesn’t make you better than others; it makes you different with different gifts and different responsibilities. And we are different, or at least we were at our inception. So what makes us so different?

Our Founders were very special people. They created a new nation that would have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Many leaders and nations claim this, but our Founders did it. They created founding documents that could correct the evils they had experienced with government interactions with its people, and documents that would assure the  “of, by, and for.” They understood the nature of human beings and the temptations and foibles that accompany power. They understood the corruption that often follows power. They created a system of checks and balances. They meant to have a citizen government; unfortunately, we have nearly come to have a government of political professionals.

They created a Bill of Rights, a set of guarantees that would assure liberty and freedom for all its citizens then and now. They could not possibly have created what they created if they had not been futurists as well as realists. They did everything that they could to secure for the generations to follow what they fought and died for. These founding documents were not fashioned from thin air. A look at the governments of the various colonial states tell much about the breeding ground for the thoughts, deliberations, and actions of these incredible men. And they did all of this at their own peril and the peril of their families.

Think about this. Our founding is unique. It is exceptional. No nation before or since our founding has been given governing documents like those  that created our republic. Our Founders knew this was a job bigger than all of them. That’s why they acknowledged the presence of Divine Guidance. They knew that they had to have their God in the middle of the circle. So many of the principles and values found in early governing documents came from their strong Christian heritage, from their Bible. That’s how we became “the shining city on the hill.”

The light of that “city” is what makes us exceptional. We are willing to share that light. That’s why we try to shine the light of freedom, even in the most difficult of circumstances. We fight and die for our freedom and the freedom of others. We believe our rights come from our Creator, not our government. We believe in small, citizen government. We believe in limited government. We believe in hard work, self-responsibility, honesty and integrity, in serving and helping those in need, in being frugal, and in individual rights. And so much more.

We are exceptional. Not better than, but exceptional. Others saying it is not so does not change that. Only we can make us not exceptional by forgetting what makes us exceptional or destroying what keeps us exceptional.

If You Don’t Like Change, Don’t Watch a Sunrise

The clouds lay in layers of gray with the white light of the rising sun behinds them. It was an awesome sight. I took a little walk early this morning toward the end of my driveway. The sky in the east was a special sight to behold. These sights and scenes happen only when they happen. If you’re not there, you miss them. Or if you’re not looking, you miss them. There was such beauty in the scene and so many lessons in that early morning landscape.

Everything in the picture  of the moment added its very own color and texture. Every palm frond lay quiet as if it were enjoying the scene as much as I was. Their green lace against the totally blue sky above them offered contrasts with two of nature’s great colors, blue and green. The eastern sky was like a different canvas. But its convulsive changes as the sun demanded more of the space were offset by the strength of Palomar Mountain and the surrounding peaks. They stood firm; they changed a little bit in color, but that was the extent of it.

In just a few more steps, the sun had demanded its place in the morning sky. I could no longer look in that direction. The bold light was so bright I could not view it straight on. That scene of a few minutes ago was finished. It was indeed a picture to capture. That is why we have cameras. We have not only the kind that you point and shoot, as my grandchildren say. “It’s easy, Grandma,” but we also have the best camera of all where the pictures are ours alone. They are stored in the memory book of our mind.

The lessons. Wow. If you can’t tolerate change don’t watch a sunrise; you’ll be a mess in a few minutes. If you love change, a sunrise does wonders. If you think you’re a color expert, don’t watch a sunrise or a sunset; nature has its own color combinations. An early morning walk is a great time to get lessons in getting started; everything around you is doing the same thing. Flowers that rested for the night are waking up; birds and animals are moving about; the sky tells its story.

But the sun–Old Sol is pushing the hardest. No question about where it will be when I take my afternoon walk. I will have to look in the other direction. Yes, it will be on my western horizon. And I can almost bet that it will give me a whole new set of lessons. I’m guessing the picture will be shades of red and orange as it drops into the Pacific Ocean. It continues to teach me that I am one of many; as I see the red sunset many in other parts of the world will be seeing the white light of the rising sun.

Change is happening. I must use the gifts that I have been given if I am to enjoy the abundance of the universe, and I will never enjoy what is to come if I am not grateful for what I have. All of us have the same gift of time so deftly monitored by the sun.

Labor Day 2013–The Lessons of Hard Work

Labor Day each year brings many memories, but it also comes with many questions. The conversations and programs often are confusing. Are they speaking of labor, the noun, or are they discussing labor, the verb? There are a lot of synonyms for each. This day I prefer to speak of the labor that creates, that gives birth to something special, that is difficult, joyous, fulfilling, exhausting, exhilarating, and full of anticipation, expectation, wonderment, and even fear and pain. All of these can co-exist in the planting of a garden and even more so in the labor of birth.

Whatever synonym one chooses, it  seems to be tied to the word “work.”    We even tie the education of our children and youth to the word. “Honey, just remember you’re going to work just like mommy and daddy,” we say. And so they go off to “work” in this place called school. They labor in a place that should be filled with enchantment and joy, but is often filled with tedium, repetition, being told what to do all day, and often filled with few opportunities for choice and real problem solving. Monopolies breed these attitudes, and public schools are monopolies.

While the children labor in the vineyard of the school, the adults labor in the “workplace.” My first one was my home. I can’t remember when I didn’t have chores. Neither can I remember any time in my life when I wasn’t tagging someone around trying to learn how to do something. When would I be big enough to run the tractor? When could I knead the bread? I could dry the dishes if I stood on a chair, or feed the chickens if mother carried the feed.

I was fascinated with how things worked–the windmill, the incubator, water in its various states, and the diversity of the snowflakes. Examination was not a test in my life, it was an opportunity to examine, to observe, and to ask the questions that filled my environment. My unpaid workplaces fit the old Confucius saying: Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.

My first paid job was working for my eighth grade teacher cleaning her apartment. What faith she had in giving an eleven year old kid a job. But I was grateful for the fifteen cents an hour I earned. Opportunity knocked early on my door. And it’s been knocking regularly since then. I ushered in the little theater in town; that allowed me to see movies.

At about this same time, my grandfather, the master of thrift, hard work, and personal responsibility,  was also the master teacher. He would never give us (I had many cousins) money, but he would always provide opportunities for us to earn it. He provided the seed potatoes, the plot of ground ready to plant, and taught us how to do the rest by his example. I planted those potatoes, I hoed those potatoes in the hot Iowa sun, and learned how to look to nature for the rain and occasional cloudy day when I could abandon that straw hat he insisted I wear. I was so proud of that paycheck when I sold those potatoes.

But the lessons were the priceless parts of the process. Maya Angelou has said it well: Nothing will work unless you do. I found out in that potato field the truth in the statement of Thomas Edison: Opportunity is often missed by most people because it is dressed up in overalls and looks like work.

Grandpa offered the same opportunity to all, but others saw only opportunity dressed up in overalls and looking like work. I could only learn the lessons of hard work by working hard. Margaret Mead knew this. Even the home-spun advice of Ann Landers informed us: Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work so most people don’t recognize them. I am thankful for the early lessons of recognition.