Eleven score and seventeen years ago, as Abraham Lincoln might phrase it, “our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that …”
As he stood on what he considered hallowed ground at a cemetery in Gettysburg, Lincoln spoke of the central issue that was shaping the future of America: “… all men are created equal.”
U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus recently mailed constituents a survey, stating that “your input is important to our constitutional republic.” Question 1 of Section 1, labeled “General Issues,” cuts to the chase: “Do you believe our country is on the right track or the wrong track?”
The right and wrong tracks may not be wearing blue and gray uniforms, but the question does suggest the country is again fighting a civil war, this time the battlefield being of the mind. Is America becoming an even greater country? Or is it on the road to hell as it decays in the shadow of World War II’s greatest generation?
The survey’s second question wants to know where to point the guns if the answer was “wrong track.” Rothfus identifies 12 potential targets, including national security, tax reform and Social Security and Medicare. All are cannons that can pound at the country’s strength, but it is the last included in the list that may be the ultimate deciding factor.
The last to make Rothfus’ Dirty Dozen is “Traditional Values.”
Is it a set of values, taught and learned in churches, which are fading away like the Cheshire cat in Alice’s Wonderland, that serves as the spine of America?
As America becomes more and more liberal and less and less willing to take the judgmental risk of calling a spade a spade, many Americans have a growing yearning for “the good old days.”
In the good old days of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson mused of inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness while Ben groused about the inevitable: Death and taxes.
In his day, Franklin would not have thought, because it was too obvious, to include determining the sex of a baby as inevitable: When the doctor held it up and looked between its legs, there was no doubt or uncertainty: “It’s a boy!” Or “It’s a girl!”
What was so obvious then is not so obvious in today’s world of values. The government of Germany recently has made it official that a person’s sense of being male or female is not to be determined by physical characteristics. At birth, a baby’s gender can be left blank until the child, himself or herself, regardless of sex organs, decides what kind of life he or she wants to live.
Progressive America will surely soon follow.
Rothfus asks for input. Is this progressive line of thinking the right track for America?
In 1987, country duo singers, The Judds, won a prestigious award for their song “Grandpa (Tell Me ’Bout the Good Old Days).”
The lyrics of the first verse are as follows:
“Grandpa, Tell me ’bout the good old days. Sometimes it feels like this world’s gone crazy. Grandpa, take me back to yesterday, where the line between right and wrong
didn’t seem so hazy.”
The song goes on to remember by asking questions:
Did lovers really fall in love to stay? Stand beside each other come what may?
Was a promise really something people kept, not just something they would say?
Did families really bow their heads to pray?
Did daddies really never go away?
Rothfus’ survey goes on to ask questions about the tax code: Should it be simpler, flatter and fairer?
He wants to know if the federal government should be required to have a balanced budget. He wants to know if immigration reform is important.
Back in the days of America’s Woodstock generation, Janis Joplin had a hit song “Me and Bobby McGee.” The heart or Achilles heel of progressive America, depending on how you view it, is summed up in one line from her song:
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
Rothfus’ search for the right or wrong track can come down to the relationship between “responsibility” and “freedom.” Anyone who has a sense of responsibility is shackled by it and is not completely free.
America’s mantra has always been “land of the free.” But in Grandpa’s day, freedom was what was left after responsibilities were accepted. Daddies really never went away.
Questions 19 and 23 of the survey both have to do with term limits. No. 23 asks if there should be term limits for members of Congress. No. 19 asks whether taxpayers should be required to support abortions. One of the questions is a traditional values question; the other is not.
The questions and legislation go on, but all lie in the shadow of the one factor that may decide the fate of America: The erosion of traditional values.
Thomas A. Sabo of Johnstown is a former newsman and former English teacher in the Westmont Hilltop district.