A friend of mine told me of wise words he once heard. When in despair, don’t stop moving. Or, as he said, “keep your fly wheel spinning.” It takes less momentum to keep moving than to start moving. I think Robert Hall, who blogs at The Old Jarhead, would agree, in this essay he wrote about “what we can do.” (By the way, I can’t find the essay on his blog, so I’m linking to his blog generally, and republishing the essay in its entirety here.)
What can we do?
Robert A. Hall
Many of the comments on my blog, or off-line e-mails ask, “What can I do.” Others suggest that I should “do something” instead of just complaining. One correspondent said that I now had a following, so I had a responsibility to make things better. (300 blog followers vs. the 63,000,000 votes the President received. I don’t think he’s fretting over me running for president, despite the well wishes of many who wrote.)
It’s both hard to know what you can do, and frustrating. When you are one person among 300 million, what difference can you make? When you know that 40% of the people don’t pay taxes (perhaps soon to be a majority), how do you fight the handout mentality? When you know that polls show that Congress had an approval rating of 12% at the last election, but also that 67% of the public couldn’t say which party controlled Congress, and they voted to strengthen the leadership of the Congress they disapproved of, you are tempted to despair.
And very few of the folks lobbying Congress and the state legislatures in any concerted way are lobbying for long-term political reform. Most are trying to protect their turf, get more dollars for their cause, or prevent more dollars from being extracted from them. That’s true of teachers, businesspeople, veterans, healthcare workers, unions, environmentalists, lawyers, CPAs, engineers, and on and on. The fact is, all of us belong to some “interest group,” usually many. And we’re afraid if we take the long view, some other group will eat our lunch today.
So what to do? Unfortunately, I have no magic bullet to fix things.
One view is to give up. Say to hell with it. Try to have as happy a life as you and your family can. Ignore them, and ignore politics as best you can. (Many folks find they are happier doing this with their retirement funds right now!). I know a very bright guy in Mensa who likes to talk about politics, but has given up voting. He maintains an amused detachment. His considered opinion is that the Republic is beyond salvation, that the bureaucracy is too powerful, the unfunded debt and promises of the welfare state too enormous, and that we can’t fix it. He thinks the country is going to collapse. He’s retired, so thinks he may get away clean before that happens, but that there is no longer any use getting upset or putting effort into it, which you could spend on things that make you happy. He may be right.
But I keep remembering what the Greeks said:
One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. –Plato
Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you. –Pericles
I’ve read that the word “Idiot” comes from the Greek description of one not involved in public affairs.
And, I’m a Marine. As General Alexander A. Vandergrift said to the Senate Naval Affairs Committee in May of 1946, “The bended knee is not a tradition of our Corps.”
So my intention is to fight on, to go into battle with a light heart and an iron determination. While my health, my finances and a family to support wouldn’t permit me to run for town council, never mind national office, there are still things I can do. There are things each of us can do. Here are a few (you may think of more):
1. Vote. As Robert Heinlein’s character Lazarus Long says in his great novel Time Enough for Love, “If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for…but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong. If this is too blind for your taste, consult some well-meaning fool (there is always one around) and ask his advice. Then vote the other way. This enables you to be a good citizen (if such is your wish) without spending the enormous amount of time on it that truly intelligent exercise of franchise requires.”
And if you vote for or against a candidate just because of party, gender, race, age, ethnicity or sexual preference, than you are an idiot. Contrary to what many readers off my blog apparently think, I don’t vote for or support everyone who puts an “R” in from of his or her name. If President Obama changes his party to Republican tomorrow, it doesn’t guarantee he’ll get my vote. Choose your candidates on the basis on their character, their experience, their ability and their positions on key issues (and know that you won’t agree with anyone 100% of the time.)
2. Work on Campaigns. Find good candidates, regardless of party. (Even minor party candidates can help articulate issues. The Socialist Normal Thomas never won an election, but his ideas are sure popular today!) Contribute money if you can. Contribute time. Put on a bumper sticker. Put up a lawn sign. Stuff envelopes. Distribute literature. Go door to door. A few volunteers really can make a difference. (I won my senate seat by 9 votes out of over 60,000 cast.)
3. Write. Write letters to your state and federal legislators. Keep them short, and focused on one or two issues (they get filed by issue). Due to terrorism concerns, letters get through faster when sent to the district offices of Federal legislators.
And if you are going to join the “Tea Bag” protest, you should probably send just the tag from the bag. The full bag will probably be discarded by the screeners, on the theory it might contain anthrax. Or nuclear waste. Or common sense.
Write to people on your e-mailing list. Write your thoughts and post them on blogs. Write to the newspaper.
4. Speak. Talk to your friends, family and neighbors. Get them interested and involved in the issues. Go to meetings and speak out. Bring people together to discuss the issues. Support each other.
5. Educate yourself. Read all you can. There are a lot of uninformed ideas floating around, and they aren’t all on the left, friends. Understand economics by reading Dr. Thomas Sowell’s terrific book, Basic Economic. (He has other great ones as well.) Understand what the demographics tell us about the future of both the West and the welfare state by reading America Alone by Mark Steyn. Read as much as you can.
6. Avoid profanity, name-calling and racism. Leave that to the left. You may think that an e-mail referring to the President as a “Lawn Jockey” is funny, but it plays into his hands, as he can go on portraying himself as a victim of racism, despite holding the highest office in the land. We do not oppose the President because of his racial heritage. We oppose him because we believe that a massive government and a centrally controlled economy destroy freedom, and lead to economic disaster and collapse. We do not oppose what has happened in Zimbabwe and is happening in South Africa because we support “White Rule” while liberals support “Black Rule.” We support “Competent Rule.” The left supporting incompetent rule because it was by blacks has killed millions of black people. That is evil.
7. Teach. Teach your children and others who look to you that hard work matters. That individual responsibility matters. That integrity matters. That involvement in community affairs matters. That education matters. That helping the less fortunate through charity and private organizations matters. That service in our armed forces matters. That they shouldn’t be embarrassed to love their country openly. And remember that example is the best teaching tool.
8. Laugh a lot. Be cheerful. Keep a positive attitude. I may be a pessimist by policy but I’m an optimist by temperament. Work hard. Love your family. Participate at your place of worship and in community groups. Try to focus on the good things in your life. This country has faced down great challenges before. We may again, if we who love her work together, support each other, and fight hard.
We must win. If America goes down, there’s no place to run to.
Reproductions of a poster have been going around, which was printed in Britain in the dark days at the start of WWII. It says: “Keep Calm and Carry On.” It’s still good advice.
Hat tip: Bruce Kesler (who has his own take on the matter)