We humans tend to think mostly about people. About their personalities. What they are like, what they do and what they have done. Are they 'this' or are they 'that?' Ideas? These we think about less often.
I suppose this is entirely natural. After all, from our very earliest
days our lot in life -- even our very survival -- depends on other people and
whether or not they seem to "care."
Does our mother respond to our cries with food and comfort? Is our father there
for us with support in times of youthful crisis? Is our first grade teacher
nice or is he or she a meany? Does our little-league coach care about how we feel
after we strike out in the bottom of the ninth with bases loaded and the score
tied two to two?
The media encourages us to keep thinking about the world in just such a
childish fashion all the way up through adulthood into old age. “Does
President so and so ‘care’ about the middle class?” “Which senatorial candidate
will ‘care’ more about us now that we are getting old?”
From the above we might come to think -- indeed, as many have come to think --
that ideas are not very important. That what our future depends upon
more is the personalities of our leaders.
During our present national crisis -- a time when our dreams for ourselves and
our children seem to be slipping away -- such youthful thinking is not serving
us well at all. Are the failures of the Obama Administration's programs,
for example, more a reflection of shortcoming in the man himself and his
appointees as people? Or are they actually a reflection of the application of bad
ideas that would be doomed to failure no matter who stood behind them?
The above questions matter. Indeed they matter greatly. After all, changing
people is relatively easy -- we get the chance to do that via elections every
2, 4 or 6 years depending on the office. But ideas -- especially when ignored
or when they've been just thoughtlessly accepted -- hang on and on and on.
Sometimes for generations.
Does it really matter whether President Obama (or for that matter 2012 presidential candidate Romney) likes dogs? Or plays golf?
Does our nation's future hinge in any way on whether First Lady Michelle Obama wears her hair in bangs? Or whether she prefers her family to eat freshly
picked greens rather than fried potatos?
If one listens to the press coverage -- or for that matter the conversation
around the office water cooler -- one might actually think so.
Why is our nation's economy frozen and on hold? Does our economy coming back to
life depend on President Obama "caring" more about the middle
The answer to the latter is "no" and to the former on a change in our
thinking -- on something that Americans have allowed themselves to forget: That the wealth of our nation has always been created by, and depended upon, free individuals striving to fulfill their own dreams.
In its place -- and now hanging on with increasingly petrifying results -- has
come the idea that our nation's wealth depends primarily upon the government's
actions and a citizen's prosperity upon government largess. False ideas. Ones
repeatedly proved false in all of modern history.
And note: Ideas that are
equally false no matter what the personality of the person in high office.
Why is the world seemingly an increasingly insecure place? Why must American
diplomats go into virtual hiding, entire embassies close down, and American
citizens limit their travel simply because a number of malcontents in other
lands offer threats?
Is the prime cause the weakness of a single
person -- his dislike (and possibly fear) of conflict? Or is it the
replacement of one historically proven set of ideas about the just use of force
by a nation with another set of ideas that condemn and limit the same?
Is the increasing division between various groups of Americans -- the sad
reversal of a trend towards increasing unity that has accompanied all our
nation's storied history -- primarily the result of one man's personal biases,
narrow thinking and prejudice? Or is it more due to the fact that our
nation as a whole has largely forgotten one of the founding ideas of our
republic -- one expressed in the very motto of our nation and placed on our
Seal -- "E pluribus unum" -- "Out of many, one"?
One of the things that has historically separated Americans from other peoples is
this: Our historical preference for thinking
-- for being guided, and seeing our nation guided, by ideas.
-Ideas that have been tested and that have proven their worth over the centuries.
Our nation, more than any other, came into existence because of
an idea, or rather, a group of ideas. Ideas centered on freedom and upon the individual’s
right to chart their own course.
For America to again work and prosper ideas must once again start to matter -- to dominate the
national discourse. They must again matter
more than ease. More than convenience. More than safety. More than personalities.
Yes, they must matter more even than you and me.