"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day Thoughts

The oppressive heat may quell much of our Independence Day activities this year, but it gives us more time to reflect on the meaning of this holiday.  The wave of government intrusion into our individual lives is now close enough that many of us on the beach front can recognize it for the destructive tsunami that it is. Just like those waves, it is both broad and tall in scope, hitting us across a vast expanse of our everyday lives. It will be no less destructive in its slow steady overwhelming of everything in its path.

A child born into our country now is more likely to grow up believing that they are weak and incapable of achieving the adulthood many of us have known. The story of Julia is said to be their future. They will believe they come from cruel and greedy stock because their school will only teach about the impact of European invasion on the native peoples of the Americas when they learn  about the founding of this country.  If they learn about the religious persecution of the Puritans at all, it will be an abstract discussion.  They will have limited ability to understand a people who were desperate to escape a king and country, whose clergy had been bought by the monarchy, who therefore ruled virtually every aspect of the Puritans' lives.

Though the Puritans had been taught to read and were quite capable of doing it, they were forbidden by law from owning bibles written in English. That would have allowed them to see the holy scripture for themselves and their government knew the danger of allowing them interpret those words themselves. The clergy and King hid this fear under the guise that the people were not smart enough or strong enough to receive the word of God directly and thus needed an intermediary to act on their behalf, to take those confusing words, that spoke about concepts like personal obligation to increase one's talents, and make them understandable. Thus the Puritans were not allowed to practice their faith as they read it in the bible.

Today's child has little understanding of what religious freedom meant to the Puritans. Our children have had religion stripped from their lives. It has become taboo in the public square and the public school. Those who are lucky enough to belong to more devout families are being forced to compartmentalize their religion into some separate area that has little connection to their day to day living.  They live, as Nancy Pelosi said, doing their religion "on Sunday, in church." If they hear the Purtians were not allowed to practice their religion it is easy for today's child to mistakenly envy those children as being free from having to attend church once a week. It sounds more like a reward than a punishment.

To the Puritans, religion was no less necessary for living than food and shelter. It was wholly integrated into their lives. They were truly thankful for the food they managed to scrounge for a meal and bent their heads in honest grateful prayer before they ate it. If they managed to survive the latest onslaught of bacteria or viral infection it surely was by the grace of God. Relief from the elements was a blessing, not something available at the push of a button. Their life, their liberty came from their Creator and their religion was therefore a part of their very existence.

We need only look at sermons by ministers like Jeremiah Wright and other black liberation theologians to see what life could be like under a system where the clergy has all the power to read and interpret the bible for the congregation. And when those who are supposed to be the shepherds of our faith are also compelled to legitimize the  latest government action in their sermons, the distortion of the wisdom of the bible is epic.

Because the Puritans had gotten their hands on and read their bibles, they saw what we being done to their religion. They saw that God was being stripped from their lives and replaced with the King. It would be the same today if we found that our food supply was being tainted by our government with an addictive poison. Their only choice, one that many of them paid for with their lives, was to leave everything they had and knew behind and find a place where they could once again connect with their Creator and be free to practice their religion.

Those were the people who landed at Plymouth. Their spirit was written into our constitution which promised the freedom to practice one's religion without government interference. Yes, later others came who imposed particular religions on those living their particular colony, but the spirit of those first arrivals prevailed and eventually even those proscriptions were done away with.

Today's child is more likely to equate freedom and liberty with permissiveness and anarchy.  Freedom of speech has been interpreted to mean that anyone can say whatever vile, adolescent, or obscene thing pops into their head with (the mistaken notion of) impunity. Freedom to them means the ability to defecate on a police car while squatting in a public square at an Occupy event. Liberty is the release from personal obligation to both take care of and control oneself. Their own President legitimized this belief when he said that our constitution is weak because it did not spell out "what the government must do on your behalf" as if it were patently obvious that we needed some outside entity to do things for us.

Today's child would not have lasted that first winter in Plymouth. Our poorest suffer because they have neither the drive nor the skills to fend for themselves and thus wait out their misery until someone else steps in to help them. If today's child  were lucky enough to live through the cold and starvation, until the seas had settled and Captain Christopher Jones said, "Everyone get back on board, we're going back to England," today's children would be scrambling up the gang planks instead of waving goodbye to the last lifeline to the life they knew from the bay colony shore.

It is time we take a hard look at what we are teaching our children about their country in our public schools. We should stop teaching, as one teacher in southwest Missouri reported, how much the government owes you with a government produced worksheet designed to help students calculate how many entitlements they were qualified for. We should stop teaching that the writers and signers of our Constitution were merely slaving owning, rich deists, whose nail biting heartfelt debates in that hot meeting house in Philadelphia were some sort of amusing sport from Caligula's court.

Like the Puritans desire for the original document of their lives, the bible, we should light a fire in our children's hearts for the original founder's documents, for the true American history that they can read and interpret for themselves. Our academic clergy, who provide their interpretation of the founder's writings in our children's text books, are no different than the clergy of the 17th century. Are our children really as weak and incapable of self learning as they would have us believe? Do we have the strength to leave behind all that we have been taught in public school of our history and seek out the truth ourselves? Whether this country remains the place of liberty the Puritans established or becomes exactly like the oppressive regime they left may depend on our answer.

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