All Sail and No Anchor?
While shredding papers one evening, an old yellowed paper caught my eye before meeting its grisly fate. It was a thirty-some year old United States history test, which I had given to my students. Question 4 was: "In a constitutional republic, what is the highest office?" I wondered if my students, thirty years later, remembered that they lived in a constitutional republic and that the highest office is that of the private "citizen?"
I smiled and imagined them all caught up with children and grandchildren, SUV's, video releases, and CD players. I, on the other hand, am completely out of step with modern technology. The VCR constantly reminds me that its 12:00; my wife repeatedly instructs me on how to operate our microwave oven; and I'm amazed every morning by how they got the stripes in the toothpaste.
Maybe I should have lived in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. Life was harder then, but it wasn't so darn complicated. When you spoke to someone of "constitutional republic" or "citizen," they knew what you were speaking about. Today, you get that thousand-mile stare.
The vast majority of friends that I come in contact with today are in love with all their "rights." The right to "choose." The right to a comfortable retirement. The right to "free" medical care. The right to a "free" education. The right to "free" housing. The right to "free" day care. The right to a "free" computer. Someone even told me that they had a "right" to cable television. Best of all, I am told, is that these "rights" are guaranteed by the government!
What my dear friends have forgotten is their heritage. They forgot the only rights they have are the rights of life, liberty, and property. They forgot their Creator grants these rights. They forgot the American Revolution is all about the state not being sovereign. My friends forgot they are the sovereigns, not the state. They forgot if they let it happen, the government will be master and they will be slaves. They forgot what citizenship is in a constitutional republic. They forgot their duty, or knowing it, failed. They forgot the most important office is that of the private citizen.
The saddest fact is we are not born with a sense of duty. It must be taught from one generation to the next. Come to think of it, this isn't sad, its terrifying. Who is teaching our young duty, if the adults have forgotten what it means? Duty might mean choosing between your government or your country. Duty might mean choosing between your friends or your principles.
But, I am optimistic. There is a remnant out there who do understand their duty. I have met some of them and so have you. They don't stand out in a crowd. And, like me, you are surprised when you find them. They're everyday people who know what honor, country, and duty mean. Some of them are reading this. They know that the principles cherished by their ancestors are as true today as they were a thousand years ago and will be as true a thousand years from now. They haven't fallen into the common trap of situational ethics.
Just as a great sailing ship without an anchor will be constantly adrift and never able to rest in a safe harbor, so too, a people who glorify their mythology of "rights," and lose track of their duty, cannot endure.
Mr. Consolazio is a patriotic American and a private citizen who resides in Macon, Georgia. His e-mail is R73630@aol.com.
Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 1999;4(3):111. Copyright©1999 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).