Like many of you--most of you, I hope--I watched President Obama's "State of the Union" Address. Some comments ramped up my hope. He is a gifted orator. But some of his comments left me unsatisfied, like soda that had lost its fizz, as he attempted to reset an agenda that had lost touch with the average American's concerns.
But the Republicans shouldn't gloat. Winning that one seat in Massachusetts was a sure sign of the nation's mood, but they shouldn't forget that one year ago, the government was plucked pretty clean of the color red, primarily because they also lost touch with their constituents.
Like a star-struck amateur astronomer on his first trip to Cape Kennedy, then Senator Obama asked to pilot the political equivalent of the Space Shuttle, and the majority of Americans supported his request, handing him the House and Senate as well as the presidency. How well that adventure is going is for each of us to decide.
Mariners set their course by the North Star. To me, the political north stars are the Founding Fathers themselves. That they were inspired is not debatable to me. It is a truth. Read enough history and the intervention of heaven is unquestionable--from the sad, sorry tales of survival of the first religious dissidents to come to America, to the miraculous fog that shielded the Americans during the perilous crossing of the Delaware. Consider also the sudden storm that cooled the fires of a charred Capitol and President's House, preserving their shells so these emblems of this struggling infant nation could rise again, symbolizing that this weak confederacy of states had finally fulfilled the vision of becoming "One Nation Under God."
So what would Washington have said last night? One need only read his "Farewell Address," where Washington clearly points out the dangerous shoals he already saw looming on the American horizon. Reading this document for the first time as an adult changed my entire political perspective, and I wish our current leaders would heed his advice.
I've previously blogged about the six nearly prophetic cautions Washington raised as he prepared to leave the presidency and return to political office, but the web site, "Archiving Early America" has done an excellent job laying out these points. I summarize them below, and urge you to read the address in its entirety from the Avalon Project link posted above, as well as visit the Archiving Early America site. Both are excellent.
Point 1) Even after the signing of the Constitution, America remained a loose confederation of states with no real national identity. Washington knew the nation's survival required a strong federal government to defend the nation as a whole, and to balance the inequity between the large and small states. He said, "The unity of government...is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence...of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize."
Point 2) He had already seen the strife the party system was creating amongst good people--men who had sacrificed much and bled together for America's survival, but who were engaging in a political tug-of-war. He warned against party politics saying, "It serves to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration....agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one....against another....it opens the door to foreign influence and corruption...thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another."
Point 3) Knowing that our Constitution was written for, and would only stand when supported by a religiously moral people, he stressed, "Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice?"
Point 4) His economic counsel was almost prophetic considering the recent financial crises. He said, "...cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible...avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt....it is essential that you...bear in mind, that towards the payments of debts there must be Revenue, that to have Revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised, which are not...inconvenient and unpleasant..."
Point 5) Washington knew all too well that today's ally could become tomorrow's enemy, and that dependence on foreign governments results in a loss of liberty. "It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world..."
Point 6) A trained military was essential to defense, but, said Washington, "...avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty."
I am a Christian Conservative, no longer a staunch "red" or a "blue." I want to be a thinker--someone who examines the character of each candidate and the value of their platform; someone who measures each bill, law, amendment, and proposal by the wise counsel of the inspired men whose vision founded this nation. I wish our current leaders would likewise consider the wisdom and warnings of the past.