The Founders Knew How to Deal With Division in Politics

There is little argument that the current socio-political sphere in the United States is divisive. I saw one article headlined something along the lines of “he supports trump, she doesn’t: can their marriage survive?” Mind you, this was a “respected” journalistic article, not just click-bait. The article was full of statistics and quotes by marriage counsellors showing an substantial increase in familial strife because of the current political climate, up to and including divorce. If this is your family, may I point you to my most recent article?

Occasionally, we hear media pundits and political commentators make the seemingly reasonable statement that “our country is more divided than ever,” or “this is the dirtiest campaign in American history,” or some variation of those sentiments. I’d like to share some evidence to the contrary, my thoughts on the topic, and the Founder’s solution.

“We would see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution.”

“Murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will openly be taught and practiced.”

– Adam’s surrogates speaking of a potential Jefferson presidency

From Forbes.com

One particularly stinging attack came via one James Callender—an influential journalist of the time whose incendiary pamphlets had been secretly funded by Thomas Jefferson and who had an axe to grind for having been prosecuted and imprisoned by the Adams Administration for violating The Sedition Act.

Callender wrote that Adams was a rageful, lying, warmongering fellow; a “repulsive pedant” and “gross hypocrite” who “behaved neither like a man nor like a woman but instead possessed a hideous hermaphroditical character.”

I could go on, but my point is made: politics have been dirty and divisive from day one, and these two men, two of the Founders, were in the proverbial mud pit slinging the slanderous mud.

But the founders suspected this; indeed, they expected it.

The founders did not have high praise for the elected official. They believed quite the worst in people. Madison said:

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.

So the founders made a delectably ingenious government: one in which the central government was only just large enough to function, but no larger. They recognized that the closer to home, the smaller the division. The closer to the family unit a government could be (in the respect of being controlled by the family, not emulating nor replacing it), the better government would function with the least amount of destructive division. If national political office is less consequential, people are able to overcome division much easier.

In short, the founders knew that national races, like the presidency, would divide America, but they wanted that division to be as limited as possible.

The problem is not dirty politics, divisive campaigns, or even a two party system (which I dislike very much): the problem is a national government that has overreached its bounds and taken upon itself the responsibilities and powers of state and local governing bodies.

Do you want to reduce the division caused by American politics? Vote for candidates who will shrink the size of the federal government; who will localize control; who will decentralize power: this will put our country in line with its original intent, and it will neuter the destructive power of partisan dissidence.

To best protect the family, which is the most important political and societal unit, we must take away the power of the government to destroy it.

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Egg Laying Rabbits and Cute Chicks

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, which kicks off the week that culminates in, arguably, the most important day in Christendom. Sadly, I was unwell yesterday… Very unwell. I had intended an introductory post Saturday, followed by one a day through the end of the week, but pain is an effective writers block. So I’ll try it anyway, 3 posts today, pain allowing, and one each day this week.

Easter is an important holiday for Christians, but here in the States, I fear we put our focus on the wrong things. Easter, for example, rather than focusing on the Savior, recognizes Eastre, Goddess of Spring and fertility. Most other languages use a name more associated with passover, but we retain the names of Spring.

While my passions are greater than I intend to show here, I am more of a proverbial grinch toward Easter than toward Christmas, which is saying something.

Many faithful followers of Christ try to justify  the symbolism of the eggs, rabbits, chicks and general springtime feel of the holiday by saying that the celebration of new birth and spring are representative of the resurrection, a surface explanation that, in truth, doesn’t outweigh the pagan origins of the symbols.

Understand that I believe that the most common symbols of the holiday represent and celebrate fertility and procreation far better than they could ever represent the atonement and resurrection of the Savior. The rabbit is known for its… abundant? Frequent? Prolific? Yes. …for it’s prolific procreation. The egg is an obvious symbol for birth, and for fertility. 

But most of all, the resurrection is not a re-birth, it is an overpowering of death. Unlike our Hindu brothers and sisters, we Christians don’t believe in reincarnation, but rather in resurrection. And the ancient pagan symbols of the grove don’t fit in our Holy worship of the Almighty.

For this reason, other than my routine hard boiled eggs, I have not  participated in an egg hiding ceremony for my children. Do they miss out? Maybe, but we still buy them candy and such, after all, I’m not suggesting that we needent celebrate this joyful week, just that we aught to keep our focus on that which is important, rather than follow the example of our Israelite ansestors and worship the Grove and Baal, even if only by our symbolism.

So this week, I intend to share some thoughts that help me keep my mind focused on my Savior, and to remember His last mortal week. It begins with Palm Sunday, and ends with the Passover.

Jericho’s Walls and Lonely Hearts

One of my favorite biblical stories shows the struggle of indomitable defenses being overcome by the weaker men, powers by the will and strength of the Lord. Of course, I could be speaking about any number of stories, but I am speaking about Jericho.

Jericho is one of the oldest cities in the world, and though the inhabitants were wicked, they had built up strong defensive walls. When the Israelite army, marching to Jericho before their long list of  victories, saw the walls and despaired, knowing that they had no means to defeat the city. If the city was left to stand, not only would they be violating God’s command to rid the land of the wicked, but they would have strong defensive city on their northern border, constantly harassing and working toward their destruction. If they could overtake the city, they would have a strong g strategic position to defend that same northern border. Jericho was, perhaps more than most cities, critical for the Israelites national defense.

God, however, was with the Isrealites. At His command, they marched around the city walls for 6 days, the army was silent, and the priests blew the trumpets. On the last day, the army joined the priests by shouting, and the walls crumbled. The city fell to the army of God’s chosen people.

Perhaps my love of the story comes from my desire to have the God of Israel on my side as he was for them. Perhaps it comes from my love of a song I performed in high school (this is just the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, we probably sounded better, and unless someone want to go through the trouble of pulling one of our recording sessions out of their memento box, there’s no way for you to disprove that!… If someone does do that, however, forget I said that because it was probably a typo on my part… Or… Taken out of context – those are the standard Washington defenses, right?)

Still, it’s one of the stories often the most difficult to tie into our own lives.

In yesteryear, neighbors knew their neighbors. They were intimately aware of the needs, desires, and struggles of those around them. They had block parties, and worked together to now lawns, shovel walks, or raise barns. As the world has gotten proverbially smaller, we’ve begun to build more walls. Oh, it’s no longer common to see a new wall go up around a city or stronghold, but we build them around our hearts.

I remember some of this global shift. I look back with some nostalgia on my old myspace page; sharing with my closest friends my photographs that I had painstakingly scanned into my computer and (as is still the practice by most) painstakingly photoshopped out the most egregious flaws in my photos. I look back fondly on the late night IMS chat sessions, some with yahoo, others with AOL, and yet more with MySpace chat- 3 or 4 different conversations with the same number of software pieces to do it. We didn’t have this newfangled “texting” back then. And this 😊 looked my this : ) – ah, those were the days. The world was made new. The cold hearts and barriers that would isolate people where finally gone.

Of course, MySpace has gone the way of the typewriter (gone, except the the hardest hipsters), and facebook, Twitter, and Instagram compete for social media kingship.

But hearts haven’t softened. Isolation has increased, not decreased. And, like my old myspace photos, people still use these mediums to whitewash the flaws from their lives. In case you hear condemnation in my voice (which, if you are perceptive, you do), understand that I am also guilty of this. I haven’t kept up with photoshop, but I usually only share when things are going well, or only share the things that make it look like they are. I know, however, when they aren’t going well, and it is exhausting to see everyone around me (read: on the Internet) leading perfect lives. How can they be so perfect? They, and I, have built up strong defensive walls around our hearts in order to protect ourselves from the emotional hurt that can come with being close to people.

Ironically, it is precisely these walls that causes us to feel isolated, even when we’re surrounded by people. It is these walls that hinder our ability to have meaningful relationships with new people, and worse, often with those whom we love and are closest to.

But what about the trumpets?

I’ve mentioned before that I have little filter. My old choir members and teachers would be the first to attest to that (“Jared, shut up!” Was often on the tips of tongues, and was not unheard of slipping out…). And, as I’ve mentioned before, one of my medications removes what little filter I have. It’s darn near all I can do to keep my bank account PIN numbers and Internet passwords from being shouted at the nearest strangers at the grocery store (hyperbole? Probably…)

I spend a lot of time at the gym. My workouts take a lot longer than most people, and I get less from them, but it gives me something to do that’s not watching TV, and makes me feel like I’m being productive. I feel significant anxiety being looked at by people, particularly the hotties at the gym. Interestingly, the best solution I’ve  found to that anxiety is precisely the most difficult thing to do: have meaningful conversations with those I feel judgement from the most!

My gym has about 2500 daily visitors. But many of them know me by name. If someone is near me for more than. Few minutes, they’re going to be talked to (sorry if I’ve victimized you in this way.)

I tell them my life story. The cane makes people ask about my health (it’s like a magic wand – it’s going to happen, period) and I tell them. Because I have no filter, I tell them everything. My history, my hopes, my desires, and my goals.

What I’ve found most curious, is that my opening up is exactly like the Isrealite’s trumpets: it crumbles people’s walls. I’ve had as many life stories shared with me in the last 6 months than my psychiatrist friend (also probably hyperbole… probably). People, in my experience, are desperate for meaningful, human interaction. They often don’t even realize that they are missing it, but they embrace it fully. Even the most secure are, like me, insecure about some things.

The walls can’t be broken down by siege, only by example. Only when I first drop my walls and open up, sharing the intimate details of my life, and never before, do people share with me their demons, their struggles, their failures, their hopes, their dreams, and their victories. It’s become so common for me that I’ve forgotten many of them (not surprising, considering that I can’t remember anything…), but because I’m the anomaly, they can’t forget me. “How are you feeling today, Jared?” “How’s the weight loss going?” “How are your kids?” My long, well established friends… That I’ve only just made.

I hope you don’t understand me to say that these friendships aren’t meaningful to me, they really are. But my point is this: if we are lonely, we are cold, and we long for the warmth of friendship – we must open our own gates before the walls keeping us from our neighbors will come down.

Who’s that fat guy floating in the pool: is he dead?

Me. I’m the fat guy floating in the pool. That’s pool with a capital P that rhymes with T and that stands for trouble…. Or something like that.

About 10 days ago, I had another procedure done. For those interested, it’s called a radiofrequency ablation, also called radiofrequency lesioning. Basically they stick a series of large needles into my spine and (before the numbing agent has taken effect) charge them like a taser. It felt nice, as I’m sure you can imagine.

One of the advantages of Julie working for the gym is that I get a membership, too. I’m not sure if the ablation has been terribly effective, but I’m sure that I’ve got knots in my back like a sailor got bored. The problem is, I can’t stand being touched, it hurts, let alone for someone to start pushing on my back (which is damaged, and thus hurts more)… No relief has been found… Until…

I went to the gym the other day to try out the hot tub (spa pool?)… And that was too hot. But I discovered that, appropriately drugged, I could spend some time in the pool itself. I overdid it on the first day… Night… Not really sure what the time was, but I intstagram-ed it, like a good internet addict. I walked and swam and it was glorious. 

I regret that activity today. Now the knots aren’t just in my back, but my shoulders and thighs as well. My calves seem to be free of the monsters, for now.

At any rate, being I the water has felt nice. I’ve gone back to the gym about 2 times a day since, 2 or 3 hours at a time. The second trip I worked out hard like the first. The third and forth got to be a little more difficult… And by the fifth all I could do was use a water noodle to keep my head above water as I floated lazily in the slightly cool water. In truth, the water takes pressure off of my spine, which is nice.

However, I’m sure the poor gym employees (I don’t go to my wife’s, as her’s isn’t open 24 hours), I’m sure they worry that I’ve gone and died. That wouldn’t be without precedent, but Julie will have to tell that story.

For now, if you see a bloated body in the pool at the gym, it’s just me. Don’t poke me with a stick.