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Middle Ground

Four score and seven years ago .  .  Lincoln opened with these words eulogizing the maimed and fallen in Gettysburg field saying in part . .  giving their last full measure of devotion, they did not die in vain. The same could have been said of casualties in the French & Indian War,  the American Revolutionary War and War of 1812.

It’s doubtful he realized the sweeping historical impact his words would have, and how in the next four score and seven there’d be more bloodshed and sacrifice apropos those sentiments, including the Spanish American War, World Wars I & II and Korean Conflict.

declaration-257x300Lincoln was obviously stunned by the horrific loss at Gettysburg, how so many had fallen on a single day. I think he was speaking to both sides, mourning not just his own, and I hope he’d agree whether a single day, a particular battle or all down through our history, all who defend our homeland deserve these words. Together with our Declaration, Constitution, Bill of Rights and more, they define we and our country, giving purpose, comfort and resolve to those who would defend our sovereignty, freedom and way of life.

Only by paying the ultimate sacrifice, again and again, did America come to be. The Pilgrims and early settlers from the 1600’s-1700’s up through the revolutionary period saw hundreds of thousands, maybe millions risking everything, including their lives, to be free in the new land. It was good fortune to have a General Washington leading the fight for independence, and later to have a wise, steady Lincoln inspiring his countrymen to hold sacred the union, preserving it at all costs.

How do we take the measure of such costs? What value has freedom? To be free and left to our own devices has been mankind’s greatest hope, but history teaches the ways of the world, reminding repeatedly how humanity has never been free, how ruling class dominates servant class, dictators/tyrants subjugate the masses and less than 5% haves have always lorded it over have-nots.

This was particularly true in 18th century England, whose people were considered the freest at that time, and whose constitution was the best in the world. Still, it was somehow not good enough to stay tyranny’s hand. The colonists witnessed this from afar, then felt its intrusion and impact on their daily lives, causing many dissatisfactions and the initial stirrings of rebellion and revolution in their hearts.

It’s eleven score nineteen since America was born into this harsh reality birthed by the yearning to be free, the wish to have no master telling us how to live. In a primal sense we were made our own masters, prizing liberty above all. We can be strong and survive, fulfilling our needs and protecting our families, but to beholden to someone/something else for these demeans our self esteem, if not our humanity. Being told what we can/cannot do, suffering unwelcome levies on our talents and labors, told what loyalties to hold, this is unacceptable to free men.

Where lies a middle ground between servitude and liberty? Where can be found a condition whereby we enjoy our freedoms yet yield willingly to the authority of a beneficent master? Where can we lead free, easy lives yet still obey certain rules, abide certain conventions and agree to certain levies whose purpose is to benefit us and our neighbors?

America was meant to be such place. Using representative democracy the founders designed a plan of self-governance, invigorated by free and easy elections. Their plan described separation of powers emphasizing federalism; that is, reserving to the several states powers not expressly granted to the central government. Of essence was maximum freedom of expression/enterprise for the people and minimum intrusion from government.

They intended government to be small and limited to specific powers, having three separate branches with no single branch enjoying primacy. Needed were cooperation, cyclical renewal, an informed participating citizenry, respect between the branches, the rule of law and a guiding overarching constitution. Underpinning it all was the necessity of a virtuous people functioning within a free enterprise, capitalistic society, energized by personal effort, industry and ruggedness.

In truth they favored republicanism and modeled their plan on the British parliamentary system, along with elements of classical liberalism & democracy. They took painstaking efforts to insure against any possibility their government could fall victim to a rogue protagonist, individual or group, as had England’s. For two hundred thirty plus years it’s been working, fulfilling the goals/aspirations they originally envisioned. They created an archetype societal system which, combined with unyoked ambitions of free men, bore up a most brilliant, wondrous place. The world stood in awe.

thCAQL0TYLGuided by Washington’s leadership and courage, the founders risked everything to create a better place. Later generations, guided by Lincoln’s intellect, counsel and absolute resolve to preserve the union, gave and sacrificed their all to maintain that better place. Subsequent generations, driven by legacy, sacred heritage, and this treasure we call home, continue paying homage and making sacrifice to this better place, this middle ground, this America.

Unfortunately, of late there has been an obvious erosion of the original principles/concepts they set out. Lines of authority are blurred and rule of law is bending to serve a particular master as opposed to the whole of society. Central government has become a huge edifice against the warnings of the founders. The people in their states, counties, cities and homes are losing say over their personal lives as this federal bureaucracy, its agencies and tyrannical judicial arm mandate away evermore of their liberties and freedoms.

To appreciate this strange pass we must recall how freedoms and liberties once yearned for were found; how yokes of monarchy, plutocracy and oligarchy were gone; how the people, albeit poor, had set about being their own masters, profiting by their labors, becoming less poor; compared with the world, far less poor! And they prospered, becoming a new stratum in society: middle class. Evidently, it’s not enough.

Where once the masses were have-nots, now here in America 65-75% are haves, and those still languishing as have-nots whatever the reason are a lot better off than say their African, Indian, Asian or Latin American counterparts. Still not enough.

Middle ground yielded up these bountiful rewards. What is meant by this?  When the colonists were finally moved to separate from Britain and fight for their independence, they knew they must have a plan for self-governance. They scanned the world and history’s best examples of societies and empires and concluded the Brits had the best system going, even with its faults and monarchy. They would do better, based on the virtue and integrity of the American people.

Think of it as a wagon or coach going down a road. The conveyance is the republic, sturdy and sound, driven by one of our own. If we tired or got displeased with the driver (president) he/she would be changed periodically to satisfy we travelers. The rules of the road were to be the government, crafted in such a way as to insure the driver could not get out of hand, driving too fast, recklessly, or in a wrong direction.

obama-marxFinally, the road itself, steadying the coach and carrying it safely was to be an economic system paved from capitalism, agrarianism, free enterprise/entrepreneurism and a strong work ethic, which were the chosen livelihoods in the colonies at the time. Not government service, other than temporary, and not being a ward of the state, reliant upon the ongoing largesse of a local or central bureaucracy. Also of note is that Karl Marx wasn’t born yet, so his marxist/communistic models didn’t exist, except in tribal groupings and primitive locales.

The last element of the metaphor would be making allowance for ongoing differences of opinion on how to govern: partisanship. The contemporary choices were Tory and Whig, just as in England. These eventually became republican and democrat. So a sturdy conveyance, driven by an elected representative would roll down the road, favoring the center divide or the right shoulder, perhaps choosing an alternate path on occasion that offered similar direction and dependability, but with different features and scenery.

Today, as back then, we live in a left-right political world along whose axis lie many societal models, from chaotic pure democracy to stifling totalitarianism. America staked out a middle ground between the two, taking democracy up a notch to the republican form, giving voice to the people using politicians/proxies to find agreement/compromise amid competing priorities.

Sometimes together but often at odds, their dickering process causes middle ground to inch forward, sometimes left, sometimes right, hopefully staying near center. If it moves too far either way it ceases being middle ground and takes on the characteristics of a different form of society. Too far left, it looks statist or socialist; too far right it resembles a stricter, fascist-type society offering little government help and a survi val of the fittest mindset.

In spite of dire warnings to the contrary, progressives have incessantly ranted about middle ground’s inequities, claiming it’s unfair, demanding evermore government services and redistribution of wealth. They have touted these sympathies since the days of Woodrow Wilson, wanting more benefits/entitlements for the poor. Have they ever once paused to consider the poor aren’t so poor, only relatively so? Could these liberals or progressives ever admit the lower classes are better off here in middle ground than anyplace else?

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

No, their insistent mantra wills government to be bigger, causing it to control more and more. Huge government {leviathan?} wielding its will as it sees fit, not at the behest of the people but of itself. Middle class has less say, freedoms diminish, hope evaporates. Lower classes evolve into influential blocs voting not to improve the whole of society but just themselves, welcoming more dependency/entitlements from bigger government and on and on it goes. What we have today is less middle ground and increasing leftist ground.

This destructive process feeds on itself moving evermore into left field which history has repeatedly proven to be a fallow field empty of promise, certainly lacking any hope for a utopia that can never be.

Marx wasn’t around at the time of our founding, but his economic model has been tried over and over again with no success, certainly nothing that comes close to America’s middle ground. There is absolutely no reason for us to believe our model is faulty or deficient when it comes to what’s best for its citizens.

By any measure, approach or comparison, America has given the most hope to the most people, evidenced by its thriving middle and upper middle classes. Even the meager prosperity of its lower classes show it to be the best place on earth, whatever the circumstance.

In summary, America was born of a yearning to be free. It would be a  place where the people ruled themselves, living in harmony. It came into existence and remains so only by the bloodshed and sacrifice of  countless generations. Its founders worried that too much central government would tend towards tyranny and strove to create a system whereby such a calamity could never happen. Based on the ambitions, skills and cultural homogeneity of its citizens, they brought a land into being in the political middle ground, yielding a happy, prosperous populace such as the world had never known.

But even with such striking success, human nature being what it is, equality of opportunity has not produced equality of result, giving a perception middle ground isn’t fair. Huge disparities exist between haves(1%) & have-nots(15%), provoking progressives to cry foul and demand concessions to level the field. They remain stubbornly if not conveniently oblivious to the fact uber-rich haves are less than 1%, nominally rich maybe 3-4%, middle/upper middle perhaps 75-80%, leaving only 15% have-nots who aren’t really that bad off, especially compared with the rest of the world. Still they whine not fair! No egal’ite! Not enough!

Using race, gender, class, big labor, sexual preference, the naive’te of youth and a deliberately promoted influx of legal/illegal immigrants, combined with progressive strangleholds over academia, media, entertainment and bureaucracy itself, they fight endlessly for more government and more entitlements. We’ve reached a point where, unbelievably, something like 40% of us collect some form of government help. Needless to say, the founding fathers would rightfully view this truly as a calamity, if not nightmare. Their beloved model is failing . . . .

They wanted their system to encourage individual effort and independence of spirit. When hardship or misfortune struck it was assumed a family would look within or to its church and neighbors. That being inadequate they’d look to their village/township before ever, in final desperation, looking to city, county or state government. I doubt it even occurred to them (or the founders!) that, some day, a huge central government would bear this burden and to such extent.

We’ve been under progressive sway for fifteen of the past twenty-three years (55 of the past 100) moving leftward on the political axis, with increasing financial burden on all levels of government, especially federal. The producer-payer component among us is paying more and entitlees less. The cultural balance of power is adrift, rule of law is yielding to partisanship, comity among institutions is weakening, voter stability is polarizing and the cultural, religious and ethnic homogeneity of the nation is diluting and factionalizing, if not disintegrating.

We’ve moved away from center, away from the effectiveness and  profficiency of middle ground. Are we so blind not to see, so stupendously dumb as to chase after yet another utopia one more useless time?

Has history no validity? Is democracy in any form like one of Einstein’s repeating experiments of same result, harkening insanity? Is the whole of humanity doomed to subjugation by a tiny, elitist ruling class, or perhaps a monstrous, faceless bureaucracy, or maybe a New World Order of Big Brother, planet-wide proportion?

debt-640x480We cannot sustain huge deficits, or twenty trillions in current debt or two hundred trillions in unfunded future debt, or uncontrolled immigration, or higher and higher taxes, or a failing educational system, or crony capitalism & corruption, or a partisan judiciary/rogue executive, or a would-be future leader of low character & vulgar disposition .  .   . and we simply cannot survive as a divided, deconstructed society at cross-purposes with itself, with disparate interests & unaligned goals.

We can struggle to make a better America, but only within the system we have, and with people and leaders of integrity and virtue. Even then we can never be perfect, so can never hope to create a utopia.

I can’t speak for others, but as an American, as one who is proud to honor our country, its heritage and its way of life, I think I’ll take the the founder’s middle ground and fight to keep it, if I have to.

You’ve been reading Shaneview

I’m Al Shane

Alvan I. Shane Author, The Day Liberty Wept 2270 N Euclid Ave Frequent Op-Ed Contributor Upland, Calif 91784 Political Donor to Cons Grps / Causes (909) 946-5104 Ex-Marine / California native Tax Accountant / Mar 43yrs / 1 son
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