For some time I have been trying to find a way to express my feelings about what I see as a dangerous trend in American politics and thinking. I love my country and want it to be safe. But I also appreciate the benefits others have received from the marvelous experiment that is The United States of America, even if their origins are not the same as mine. The clamor caused by some of our political, social, and economic leaders to protect the country by testing or limiting the freedoms of specific nationalities or ethnicity is a very dangerous proposition. When we start to fiddle with the rights of citizens based on birthplace, religion, or culture we begin the journey that will result in a loss of freedom for all.
A few days ago I was pointed to a link about a group that is in such a position. The focus of the article was Scouting amongst a ‘less-than-popular’ religious group and how they have dealt with prejudices encountered. As I read their story I was impressed with the feeling of “this could easily be the story of my people, and has been in the past.” It wasn’t too many years ago my own religious faith suffered from some extreme persecution because others misinterpreted the true facts about what we believe. And now, again, I am witnessing frightening statements that echo the fearful experiences of past days.
Somehow, Americans must come to understand that there will always be groups of good people that are unpopular and feared because they are different. And there will always be politicians, teachers, business leaders, and others who will try to influence their constituents through fear and prejudice for their own personal gain. Whether it be financial, political, religious, or some other reason, these influencers have only one interest at heart --- selfish increase. And when good people let these desires of others hold sway over what they know to be correct – then we have the beginnings of captivity for all.
I am very disappointed with the direction our political, economic, and social worlds have moved in the past few decades. There is too much of self-centeredness and too little charity (in the Christian sense of the word) being offered by many who lead. The more we separate ourselves into classes (Democrat, Republican, LGBT, Straight, Christian, Muslim, etc.), the more likely we are to have fear and loathing for the other side. And fear begets fear until there is no trust left and we divide into little cliques of our own making and disassociate from the main body of the citizenry. While that may not seem a particularly bad thing, there are always consequences when we withdraw from the body of the people. Let me illustrate by referring to an experience from the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 7).
A few years before the coming of the Savior, the Nephite nation was going through a difficult time of conflict and political upheaval. An unsavory group had gained control of the government and were doing an awful job governing. It got so bad that when a secret band of men murdered the duly chosen but morally corrupt national leader the whole government fell into disarray. Confusion reigned and the citizens banded together in small groups based primarily on familial and neighborhood associations. Each group created their own set of laws based on the whims and traditions of their leaders. The only common agreement between the groups was that they would not go to war with each other – each would be allowed autonomy in their own place.
In many ways, our nation is on the brink of just such a calamity. The focus of a small minority is the personal satisfaction of their own needs and wants at the expense of the safety and protection of society. Instead of recognizing that the majority will be hurt through the unlimited exercising of individual desires (rights??), no matter how abhorrent, the vocal minority insist that everything must be recognized, legalized, and satiated. To do otherwise would be unfair to those offended.
And when new freedom is given, by law or through social edict, even more is expected. As the laws that have been traditionally obeyed in the past become less important or are eliminated, this nation begins to withdraw into little groups designed to protect the individual rights of the identified group. And the pains caused by these separations are pushed off as part of the path to progress.
When those who wish to lead this country begin to create classes of people who are desirable or politically correct, we are following the same pattern as those in ancient days. The results will be the same. Unity is founded on a mutual respect for the common good and the inalienable rights of the individual AND society. Traditionally that has included some give and take on both sides. But give and take does not mean an abdication of all that is morally right. It is wrong to judge an individual by their faith/beliefs in God. There will always be aberrations in a religious society, but to judge a whole faith by their outliers is unfair and unjust. Tolerance does not mean acceptance of behavior that is unseemly and destructive. But it does mean that we cannot judge a whole society by the misdeeds of a small minority.
There must be a distinction.
One of the reasons for concern this election season is founded in the dilemma we are all facing. As politicians vie for our votes they say whatever they think will sway us to their side, no matter how preposterous.
We know this and, for the most part, are not fooled by their rhetoric.
Unfortunately, this political cycle seems to have a deep thread of nastiness and a shallow basin of substance. Most of what we hear is pandering to the selfishness of the individual. It sounds good for personal reasons, but what are the costs to the ‘body politic’? We’ve been headed down this road for quite some time, but I wonder if this might be a more dangerous trip than experienced in recent memory.
I have always had confidence in the morality and intelligence of people. Human nature is generally drawn to do that which is good. But if we begin to listen and follow the rantings of the most extreme in our citizenry, there aren’t many good thing that will come to pass.
My hope is that people will search their hearts and find goodness in those around them. I am confident that if we will all think beyond the sound bites and placards of politicians we will see what is right and make wise decisions. It would be wonderful if people took time to converse with God on the choices they have to make and listened to His answer. It’s a sure bet that things would work out a lot nicer if they did.
Here’s to getting good answers and ignoring extremes.