Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Whose America?

When I was a Junior in high school, I was chosen to represent my county in Indiana as the male representative to a week long "citizenship" camp held at Franklin College. The purpose of the camp was to bring together high school leaders from across the state to learn, discuss, and experience American democracy and citizenship. Honestly, this was one of the best things I participated in during high school and wish every student could participate in something so powerful and informative.

This experience was my introduction to a life (so far) filled with political and civic involvement ranging from running for city council in Provo, Utah to being a state and county delegate and even participating in college politics, etc. The camp brought me understanding and inspiration for our country's democratic process and a passion for using my voice for what I feel is right.

One of the things I received when I was at the camp was a booklet called, "Know Your America", published by the American Legion. It's a 65 page book of sorts filled with information about "Americanism". It covers flag etiquette, the constitution, key American leaders, citizenship, and more. It is really a cool book - one I have referred to and studied often in my life. In fact, I was re-reading it again even this morning and came across something that really struck me.

In the opening chapter, "The American Way", the book has this sentence:

"The members of Congress and the President are chosen by the people for a definite period of time and they are delegated authority to act for the people during that time."

Delegated authority. Did you notice that?

Let's say that you and your spouse go out on a date and want to leave your children with a babysitter for the evening. The purpose of that date is to grown and maintain your relationship together - just you two. Let's be can't bring your kids along with you or the purpose would be thwarted. So you hire the babysitter to act in your behalf while you are gone. But it is a temporary assignment to the babysitter done under the guidelines and rules and conditions you set as the parents. The babysitter is there to just be stewards of your home and children while you are gone. This is delegated authority. This is what the quote above is referring to. And yes, it should feel as personal and important as leaving your children and home with a babysitter.

Unfortunately, it feels like the government is acting more and more like the owner, allowing us to leave on a date and delegating freedom to us. Let us be clear...there is no delegating of freedom. As the Declaration of Independence states,
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."
Unalienable. Meaning that they cannot be bought, sold, or transferred from one individual to another. Freedom is guaranteed by the constitution and by our conviction of those principles. Freedom is not delegated. However, the more power the government has, the more it seems to think it can delegate freedom and dictate to us what is better for us.

Indeed, it feels to me that our government has forgotten that they only have authority to act in our behalf to secure our freedom and protect our unalienable rights, which have among them, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Also, the authority to do that with is only delegated. It is not unalienable to the government. The government has no unalienable rights. It only has delegated authority.

The question is, are we as a people going to enjoy our "date" away from the "kids" so much that we end up letting the baby sitter raise our kids and steal our authority straight out till they only delegate some sort of visiting privileges to our own freedom? Or are we going to take responsibility for the birth, the care, and the love of our own democracy? Are we going to let journalism define and create accountability - an entity that gets paid for what they do?

There are serious problems in America and it feels like we are beginning to take the wrong path towards solving them.  The far left seems to thing government should just solve things and delegate back to us freedom - as if the government can own it and can delegate it. The far right would just as soon take back all authority and do everything itself, which is why they tend to give up on any attempts at reforming public schools and see vouchers and "market" type solutions as the answer. We seem to have lost the will for discussion and compromise. One side wants to delegate all the authority and the other wants to quit delegating any authority. It was never meant to be this way.

So, whose America is it? Is it ours? Or the governments?

The truth is, America is supposed to be OURS. I am worried, however, that we are simply becoming members of a country owned by our government because we are unwilling to take responsibility for our own citizenship and our own civic duty. Remember, the authority is still technically ours. Will we remember this and come home? Or let someone else raise our country and simply give us limited visitation rights to our own freedoms?