HAS AMERICA REACHED ITS TIPPING POINT?

BLOG #40, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
HAS AMERICA REACHED ITS TIPPING POINT?

October 1, 2014

Unbelievable that we could even be discussing such a thing, but recent events in Colorado are serving as not only a state-wide but national groundswell of concern on the issue. Might it be that we as a people have become so complacent about our 225-year-old democracy that we have missed the ominous cracks that are only now being taken seriously?

In history, rare is the great nation that remains great long-term. We, as a people, however, have blithely assumed we’re an exception to the rule in that respect.

IS COLORADO A WAKE-UP CALL?

This is a question many people across the nation are beginning to ponder. Since we locals are in the eye of the storm, so to speak, we tend to take for granted that most Americans are aware of the raging debate over Colorado’s Jefferson County School Board. Permit me to fill you in on the story:

An unusual situation developed during the last six months when three of five board member positions became open at the same time. Since many local citizens felt strongly that they had little voice in how the district was being run, three centrist locals decided to run for those seats. In spite of being greatly outspent media-wise by union supporters, all three were swept in, giving them a three-fifths majority.

What disturbs so many people is what followed: The media regularly categorizes the three new board members as “Christian extremists,” and passes up no opportunity to disparage or discredit them. The teachers’ union orders district teachers to storm the board meetings, along with union operatives from all over. Without defenders, these board members tremble as hecklers turn their deliberations into virtual lions’ dens. One of the new board member’s own children has been so viciously harassed that the parents were forced to pull the child out of a local school and transfer to a charter school some distance away. Teachers have so openly maligned and discredited these board members that many of the 85,000 students in this large district are now seething with hatred against them. So much so that these board members dare not even step foot in any of the classrooms they are legally in charge of.

At first, the storm of media negativity was general: in essence, trying to make life such hell for the new board members that at least one of them would resign. And daily life for each of the three has become just that. “Daily discouragement” a mild term for how they feel from day to day—and unpaid positions at that!

They were first attacked for hiring a new district superintendent [the original one resigned rather than work with the new board members] who was empathetic to the desire of ordinary citizens to have a say in the running of the district.

They were next attacked for their attempts to tie pay-increases to excellence in teaching. The two original board members voted against it. The union unleashed a storm of outrage that the poorest-performing teachers wouldn’t get the same salary increases the best-performing teachers would.

Then there is the latest storm of outrage over the board decision that some form of positive patriotism in the teaching of U.S. history be encouraged. Deconstructionists raged: How dare they encourage patriotism when so many terrible things have been done in the past!

During the last week, teachers have been disrupting family-life by staging sick-ins; by not showing up for classes, parents are forced to stay home with their kids.

Well-founded rumor now has it that as soon as the fall election is over, a massive recall of the three new board members will be organized and funded.

All this is making many people, not only in Colorado but across the country, wonder what has happened to our nation that such things can be? That such tactics of intimidation and poisoning the well against an opponent can be condoned. Indeed, locally and nationally, Republican candidates are blistered in a media frenzy of attack ads for their right-to-life stances (which is in essence an attack on all American Christians who believe in the sanctity of life).

Woven through all this is a nation-wide tide of ridicule and scorn directed at all conservatives, Christians, and people who still dare to defend traditional marriage and family. One of the new board members’ cars had a Defense of Family bumper sticker depicting stick-figures of a man, woman, two children, and a dog defaced during the last week: defaced by the addition of a painted-on meteor on collision course with the family.

I’m in a personal quandary here because I have wonderful relationships with area teachers and administrators in five area elementary schools, where I’ve worked in tandem with them for eleven years now, as we together try our best to get more elementary students into reading. There are so many individual teachers who continue giving their all each day.

Reflecting national concern over one aspect of this controversy is a September 27-8, 2014 Wall Street Journal major opinion essay titled “Democracy Requires a Patriotic Education” by Donald Kagan (Yale University historian and professor emeritus), in which he weighs in on the issue in observations such as these:

“Our schools have retreated from the idea of moral education, except for some attempts of what is called ‘Values Clarification,’ which is generally a cloak for moral relativism verging on nihilism of the sort that asserts that whatever feels good is good.”

“Just as an individual must have an appropriate love of himself if he is to perform well, an appropriate love of family if he and it are to prosper, so, too, must he love his country if it is to survive.”

“Neither family nor nation can flourish without love, support, and defense.”

“Assaults on patriotism are failures of character. They are made by privileged people who enjoy the full benefits offered by the country they deride and detest, but they lack the basic decency to pay it the allegiance and respect that honor demands. But honor, of course, is also an object of their derision.”

“The encouragement of patriotism is no longer a part of our public educational system, and the cost of that omission has made itself felt. This would have alarmed and dismayed the founders of our country.”

“The story of this country’s vision of a free, democratic republic and of its struggles to achieve it need not fear the most thorough examination and can proudly stand comparison with that of any other land.”

* * * * *

So, my question is this: What can each of us do to help avert further cracks in the foundational structure of our republic? Is our current culture of disparaging, discrediting, and ridiculing conservatives, Christians, right-to-lifers, defenders of traditional marriage, and defenders of traditional family, irreversible? If it is not, what can each of us do to help fix it?

A Trembling World – Part Six

WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE

A TREMBLING WORLD

PART SIX


And now for the silver lining to tough times.

Every once in a while, a dear friend of mine, author and Archbishop Robert Wise, and I get together for lunch and talk History of Ideas, strategize, and just let our minds soar.  The last couple of lunch-discussions, we discussed the fiscal plight our nation and the world are experiencing.

Well, after coming to some rather grim conclusions: subjects such as the disintegration of the modern family, the decline of literacy and parallel dumbing-down of society and polarization brought about by myopic thinking, the increasing likelihood that societies that devalue centrists will turn to dictators for leadership, the breakdown of governmental medical assistance and retirement benefits, the obesity/diabetes epidemic, the substance abuse epidemic, the continual trashing of Christians by a generally unchurched media, the lost generation of boys into men who have opted out of advanced education (locking themselves and their mates into minimum wage subsistence), the gradual disappearance of our middle class, skyrocketing joblessness, the epidemic of foreclosures and bankruptcies, etc—Dr. Wise leaned back, with a thoughtful look on his face, and said,

“But we must not leave out the one factor that could reverse all this—God.  Down throughout history, God has again and again stepped in with men and women who made a seismic difference:

•    St. Francis, whose counter-revolution within Christianity reverberates still;
•    Monasticism, which almost single-handedly preserved civilization by their hand-copying of fragile manuscripts;
•    Martin Luther, who brought about Protestantism;
•    The Wesley brothers, who almost single-handedly rebuilt the English family and saved Britain from a bloody revolution such as France’s; and
•    Other luminaries such as St. Patrick, Dwight Moody, Abraham Lincoln, Billy Graham, Albert Schweitzer, Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc.”

These were, more often than not, obscure individuals who came onto the scene when things appeared bleakest, and by the power of their words and examples, turned their world around.

Perhaps it is long past time for us to adjust to new realities: A house is not an ATM, a credit card is not money, government without a vibrant economy cannot long survive, avoiding education and mental growth is almost certain to lead to minimum wage substandard living, a society that has lost its moral bearings will inevitably self-destruct, a society that ridicules marriage and lifetime commitment can not long endure, living on dole is no substitute to earning your own living, leisure without work is insipid and depressing.

If this current global recession wakes us up in time to our true condition, it will be possible for America to regain its position as the world’s most admired and coveted society.  If we do not, we will disintegrate just as surely as did the Roman Empire almost two-thousand years ago.

The choice, each of us must make.