Here’s a question for you: Three frogs are sitting on a log; one decides to jump into the water. How many frogs remain on the log? The answer is: Three. The statement might suggest commitment, but it doesn’t confirm action. Likewise, with all the celebration regarding the Fourth of July, it occurred to me that the big event was actually July 5th. Our founding fathers spent quite a long time debating the proper course of action, putting pen to parchment to declare their intentions and then signing on the bottom line. But with that done, the real work started the very next day, as the time for talk was over, and the time for action had begun.
We may celebrate the Fourth of July, but the reason we can is because of what happened on the fifth, the sixth, and every day after. If the follow-through wasn’t that important, then we would be wearing out Public Square with endless celebrations whenever an athlete guarantees a victory. Follow-through is everything; in golf, in tennis and in life.
But, it’s a trait that can prove elusive in this day and age. It’s easy to pick on politicians for talking a big game. After all, you make or break a good campaign with how big you promise, not necessarily how broadly you deliver. And, seeing how the political environment rewards compromise and punishes stubborn idealism, tilting at windmills can be one of the fastest ways to end your career. Which is why I can honestly say that there is not a congressman I respect more right now than Dennis Kucinich. Don’t get me wrong, there are very few things we agree on, and sometimes I just don’t understand what he could possibly be thinking, but I challenge you to find another politician who has more consistently done everything he can to actually do what he said he'd do, and strongly represent the views of the people who voted him into office. I may not ever vote for the man, but I’m actually proud to see him serve.
With that said, and with us facing social, environmental and economic struggles all over the country, my focus right now isn’t on politicians, but on the people.
Working my way through the Federalist Papers, one premise stands out above all else. The authors of those letters understood that the success of the republic hinged as much on the dedication and vigilance of the people as on any individual article or clause. Carefully laying the groundwork of a new government takes a backseat to the absolute need for the power to remain "of the people, by the people, and for the people". Answering their critics, Hamilton, Madison and Jay all fell back on a simple, indisputable defense. Any shortcoming from the government would be easily overcome by the publics’ ability to vote out those unable to represent their constituents and uphold their oath of office.
And so, as I sat downtown and listened to a variety of guests take the microphone at the July Third Tea Party, what I heard most were not the impassioned arguments blaring through the speakers, but instead the daunting words of James Madison echoing through my mind, saying, “The passions...of the public would sit in judgment. But it is the reason, alone, of the public that ought to control and regulate the government.” If the people who sat on that lawn are truly disappointed in their government, then it is their actions, not passionate speeches or colorful rhetoric that will correct it.
Obama won the election because more people were moved to action to support him than those who took action to oppose him. But taken further, the very social programs that this administration is proposing are only the result of that very same portion of society having slipped into inaction in other parts of their lives. An increased welfare state, greater restrictions on industry and a heavy tax burden are the simple response when the vocal minority feels the silent majority has taken too great a leave of their societal responsibility.
Yes, if you attend the Tea Parties, you can call or write your congressman and you can scream and yell until you’re blue in the face. But, the only action that will bring about the return to the conservatism you seek is the individual war that you must fight against greed, corruption, waste, and oppression. Do what you can individually to alleviate the problem, and no one will bother asking the government to do it for you. If you see a neighbor in need, don’t wait for them to ask for help. Go ahead and offer it. And if you are in need of help, don’t be scared to ask for it, or too proud to accept it. The government is too slow, too expensive, and way too impersonal to meet the needs that only require the love and kindness of someone willing to step up and be a true neighbor.
Our country is here today because brave men and women before us took action. Our morals, principles, and values will be gone tomorrow unless we do the same.