Most people live their life without analyzing it. What they think about is a natural part of living life: how to get what you want, how to compete, how to survive, how to prosper, how to be happy. But some people, out of a need to understand, take a step back from their own personal concerns, and observe how others live their lives.
Observing and analyzing others is what gives us the wisdom to establish and maintain social cohesion. The bulk of humanity looks to its leaders for such wisdom. Most people are too occupied with the immediacy of their own needs to question the “wisdom” of their leaders. They simply expect those leaders to be qualified and do the right thing because that’s their job. Too often, such expectations only lead to disappointment.
When I was young and untried people didn’t disappoint me. In my naive idealism and inexperience I felt freedom meant I shouldn’t hold others to any standards. By not expecting anything from anyone, I was never disappointed. But as I matured, and especially after becoming a Christian and learning that God holds all of us to his standards, I began to be disappointed in my fellow human beings. I learned that some people bear watching, especially political leaders who don’t have our best interests at heart.
History has shown that of those leaders who stand back and observe others, not all are motivated by altruistic or benevolent intentions. There are those who seek to understand the dynamics of social behavior for selfish reasons. They seek personal power and wealth by taking it from others. They use their understanding to control society and manipulate it to their own benefit. While a few of their supporters may also benefit, the general public is left out in the cold.
The common attitude of dependence upon the largess of leadership enables tyrants to gain a foothold in legitimate government and increasingly deprive the people of their freedoms and assets — all the while being seen as “wise” leaders who are looking out for the interests of the people. By the time the people realize they are nothing more than slaves, they no longer have the means to do anything about it — all because they were too busy living their own lives to step back, observe and try to understand.
This process doesn’t happen over night. It’s gradual, like the warming water in the pot that holds the frog. So gradual, the frog has no idea it’s being cooked. Consider the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Astonishingly, they ruled that the universal mandate in Obamacare is constitutional, defining it as a tax. This kind of legal thinking reflects a total repudiation of the doctrine of “original intent”.
Many Americans are oblivious to the meaning of original intent. A century ago, it was the established and respected legal approach to determining constitutionality and applying law. The question was, “How did the framers of the constitution intend this passage to be applied to our case?” But in the twentieth century, another legal philosophy developed, embracing the view that the constitution is a “living document”, subject to changes in application as circumstances and social attitudes evolve. The original intent of the framers was seen as irrelevant, as it was assumed that they could not have anticipated our contemporary complexities of technology, internationalism, sexual and moral “diversity”, etc.
As recently as twenty-five years ago, conservative icon Ronald Reagan was President. He had described America as a “city on a hill” (from Matthew 5:14) and most Americans seemed to agree. There was a vacancy in the Supreme Court and Reagan nominated one of the most brilliant, respected and influential legal scholars in the country to fill the spot. His name was Robert Bork. I just heard the news of his death. He was 85.
There was never any question as to whether or not Robert Bork was qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. He was eminently qualified. His only “sin” was that he was a proponent of original intent. That, and that alone, was reason enough for the radical progressives to pull out all stops in their efforts to prevent his confirmation to the high court. Their tactic was to attack him personally, vilify his character and misrepresent his legal philosophy. In the end, his confirmation was denied because politicians chose popular, permissive legal thinking (typified by Roe v. Wade) over the clarity of Bork’s originalism.
For the past twenty-five years America has been on a downward roll, our society continuing to become even more permissive and “progressive”. If Ronald Reagan were still around, I doubt if he would even recognize the nation he once called a city on a hill. What a loss, that Robert Bork was not allowed to serve on the Supreme Court.
Lately, we hear a lot about the “fiscal cliff”. But most often, dropping off a cliff isn’t the greatest danger we face. It’s the slippery slope that gets you when you don’t step back and observe what the people around you are doing. So, America is slipping. We’ve slipped past Robert Bork, and he’s almost out of view. I hate to think of the climb ahead of us, when we finally bottom out. I don’t expect our leaders will be giving us a hand up, either.