Its an election year, which means that politics are front and center. The situation in our nation has been gradually sliding around for the entire 20th century. We've lost sight of some things that used to be considered values. Here's a list of some things I think we'd do well to bring back.
We used to place value in our own name. We would behave a certain way, work a certain way, in order to not dishonor our name. Honor is something that has become twisted over time. Every society defines honor differently. Honor to me means doing everything you can to the best of your ability, placing others before yourself and serving them to the best of your ability.
Honor is sacrifice.
Honor is not killing someone else because they've insulted you. An honorable man will take the insult in stride, recognizing that everyone has an opinion. They will reply to the insult in varying degrees, depending upon the circumstances. The rule to this response is that the response cannot exceed the initial insult. If you insult me verbally, I cannot in honor respond to you in any way other than verbal. If you push me physically, I will respond physically. In legal terms this is called "due force". You push me, I push you. You try to hit me, I try to hit you. You take a lethal action against me and I am free to respond lethally against you.
Honoring our first amendment (I did a post a while back about Paying the Bill of Rights and this ties into that) means that we will be insulted, offended and disgusted. That is guaranteed. Those who do so have a right to do so. I have a right to insult, offend and make them disgusted in return. I do not have a right to prevent them from expressing their opinion or limiting their Freedom of Speech in any way. I do not have a right to take a verbal or written insult and respond physically. Legal response is only an honorable choice if said insult or offense has wounded us in some way; either our reputation or financial situation.
Duty is an obligation that is imposed upon us. It may or may not be voluntary. I have a duty to my family; my wife and kids, my parents and siblings and other members of my extended family. I also have a duty to my country: I once swore an oath to honor and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic.
These duties mean placing others ahead of myself. I feel a duty toward my fellow man, so I have at times endangered myself in an effort to aid them. When I was in the Coast Guard we had a saying: you have to go out, you don't have to come back. We were a service intended to save lives. If that meant we died in the effort to save others, then that was the price required. I have applied that to the rest of my life as well.
I place the needs of my family ahead of my own desires. I place the needs of my friends ahead of my own. I have in the past and will in the future given others food that I would have otherwise eaten. I share freely of my time and talents.
Duty is sacrifice.
Its funny, when I start writing these rants I have a vague idea of what I want to say and everything else just sort of comes out. The result is that, if I had to define how we arrived at the society we have it would be that we lost the sense of selflessness that we once prized so highly. Both Honor and Duty are putting others ahead of ourselves which is a way of expressing selflessness.
Ironically, the selflessness of previous generations has created the selfishness of ours. Most of my peers, and often me, think of life in terms of benefit and cost to ourselves. "If I take this job, will it better my situation and that of my family?" "I know water is better for me, but I really like soda." "I want to be able to pay for my kids' education and give them a hand up that I never had."
Yes, that last one is selfish. What does your child learn if you pay their bills for them? Do they learn how to control and manage money? Do they feel any investment in their education? Will they apply themselves the same when they're not paying the bill for it? History has shown us no. Too many people in my generation and those following had no idea how to manage debt appropriately and got into trouble as a result. Animal House had a joke that Bluto was in college for seven years. That isn't a joke today: that's an average student.
The hardest lessons are the ones we learn the most from. Giving your kids what you think is a hand up can really be a hand out. I would rather give my kids a house when they get married than pay for their college. I would rather take them to get a loan and insurance for their first car than purchase it. Acquiring debt is unfortunately necessary in today's world. Getting a loan for a car and college will teach my kids more than if I paid for them. By the time they get married, they'll have already learned about how to manage money. Purchasing them a house at that time will allow them to have more cash flow to pay off those debts. They'll have learned how to care for things they own. They'll have learned how to manage their cash flow. The money pit that is home ownership would be easier for them to manage at that time.
And let's face it: if I can afford to buy them a house, it'll be a "fixer upper" that they'll be pouring money into anyway.
Tying it together
In the end, by learning to sacrifice and be selfless we would have greater empathy for others. We would be more inclined to help others. We would hopefully have acquired the necessary wisdom to know how best to help them up, not give them a hand out that benefits us more.
"Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for life."
That old saying is more valuable than many think. It is easier for the giver to spend a few minutes giving a hand out than the hours it would take to teach a valuable skill. Giving a hand out is selfish. It satisfies our guilty conscience without inconveniencing us in any meaningful way while simultaneously not really solving any problems of the people we are pretending to help.
"How does this relate to politics?"
Glad you asked! This nation is in dire straits. Our economy is on the verge of collapse. Enemies are knocking at the door. Congress is filled with infants holding their breath rather than take the chance of listening to their political opposition. A little more honor, duty, sacrifice and selflessness in our halls of government would change the direction we are headed in. We would be once again the shining city on the hill.
Do not take the easy route. Honor demands that we consider all options before us. Duty demands that we take an active part in the political process. We need to give up on the shorthand of political parties and listen to what the politicians say and see what they do. Both sides are guilty of hypocrisy. Who would be willing to reach across the aisle and find a solution that works for everyone? Right now, the capitol is filled with corruption. Both sides are beholden to special interests. Don't chose the candidate beholden to the special interests you like, chose the one who will be willing to put aside their own interests and serve others.
After all, that's what they're really there for.