Wednesday, November 13, 2013
As usual, upon returning to Pawleys Island after visiting children and grandchildren (Mojo is goddog for all), Mojo curled up with the paper to get caught up on his reading. Mojo has a taste for irony and this led to his being drawn to the last sentence in an article by a Professor Williams from Virginia in which he challenged the American people to move beyond a government that uses “intimidation, threats and coercion” to take money from one person and give it to another. He goes on to attack the end result of what he sees as coercion — entitlements. He lists a few entitlements, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid …
Professor Williams' closing statement is what drew Mojo, “If we are able to avoid ultimate collapse, it's going to take a moral reawakening and renewed constitutional respect — not by politicians but by the American people, The prospect of that happening may be whistling Dixie.”
Mojo posed the question to me. “Well, isn't Mr. Williams already whistling Dixie?”
“What do you mean?” “Remember our walks around the Decatur Court House?”
When Mojo, Mary, Isabelle the cat, and I visit our family who all live in Decatur, GA we stay very near the court house square. The old granite court house is in the middle of the square. On one corner there is an ancient sign, “Unlawful To Park Your Buggy or Wagon Here”. Monuments are scattered around the grounds. Mojo is very careful on our walks not to perform his body cleansing activities on or near the monuments.
“Sure, I really like the walks.” “Remember the particular monument I asked you about the last walk we took?” Ah, Mojo's point was beginning to take shape. The monument in question is a tall obelisk erected in 1907. It paid homage to the those who believed that they were “subject to no power except that agreed to by the states.” Of course, it was placed as a memorial to the soldiers and sailors of the Confederacy. At the time I studied the monument, I was wrapped up in my family history and told Mojo about the men in my family who served in the Confederate army. One was captured and spent much of the war in a Union prison camp.
Now, thanks to Mojo's prodding I began to see the connection between the quote on the monument and the Professor's article and closing quote. As William Faulker said, “The past is never dead. It's not even past.” In my opinion, the Civil War was fought over the notion that the United States is more than the sum of its parts and sometimes the common good prevails. The trigger for the Civil War was slavery. Will we be a country that allows some human beings to be owned by other human beings? The answer was no. We thus evolved from the time when the Constitution was first written. A time when slavery was permitted. Our nation has continued to evolve as we have struggled with the question of national identity. Public policy, the setting of community norms, often through law, has followed and sometimes led that evolution. In terms of “entitlements,” we decided that in our nation the elderly, and poor folks who are sick … were not to be abandoned and so we have Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. And we decided that to accomplish that community norm, some of us who are able, help others who are not as able. To my way of thinking, the Professor seemed to be saying that he wants to return to the day when states rights and nullification prevailed. “Ain't nobody gonna tell me what to do!”
In my world view, this evolving of our national identity has a moral, ethical and even religious base. In one of the best known, but incorrectly understood portions of the Bible, Jesus is surrounded by folks and he tells them about separating sheep from goats. Separation is based on when the hungry have been fed, the sick visited … “Whenever you did it to the least of these you did it to me.” If you ask people who the folks gathered around Jesus were, they usually will say something like, “the disciples.” No, it was the nations. Sounds like public policy to me. In my opinion, the moral test of government is how we as a society treat the least of these.
The Rev. Dr. Jim Watkins and Mojo
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