Relativism is dead. Your views that simply make you feel good are not necessarily truly good for you. It may be popular to feel good, but it is not healthy to feel good all the time. It’s important to pay attention to the things that make you feel bad; they may be necessary truths that will actually satisfy you deeply, beyond physical and emotional pleasure. And they’re probably good for you.
I hear you. “Damn, he’s a jerk. Why say that to start the New Year? Doesn’t he know we’re supposed to feel great and make lots of resolutions that we’ll forget about by January 31st? We can at least feel good for a few weeks before we really have to work to avoid unpleasant truths that make us miserable.”
To begin, objective truth is universal. It transcends individual opinions and particular time periods. Objective truth is the solid foundation on which families, communities, and nations are built. Without objective truth, society is just another Titanic (without Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet); it sinks.
A good way to start looking for truth in today’s world is to examine some current problems in the light of history. Sounds like a healthy New Year’s resolution. Here are a couple of issues I’m focused on.
The political drama in the United States over the past few years is actually tied to a couple of questions: What does it mean to live in a democratic republic? and What does it mean to be a citizen?
The usual references for understanding this nation’s government are The Constitution and The Federalist Papers. Of course, the Anti-Federalist Papers are equally important for understanding opposing views on our government structure. But the fact that we have a federal government with an Executive office, a bicameral Legislature of House and Senate, and a Judiciary reflects the compromises made between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists.
In 1993, during the 103rd Congress, members of the U.S. Senate were challenged to reflect on the historical development of the Senate. Senator Robert C. Byrd, a Democrat out of West Virginia, presented the history of the Roman senate and it’s historical impact on Rome. (For those not familiar with Senator Byrd, he served in the Senate for over 51 years. See Memorial Addresses and Other Tributes IN HONOR OF ROBERT C. BYRD to appreciate the impact of this man on the Legislative Branch of our government.)
Over the span of 14 Senate sessions, Senator Byrd recounted the history of Rome and the development of the Senate as a governing body. This was not an academic exercise. This series of “lectures” was tied to his opposition to the line-item veto legislation under consideration in the Senate and endorsed by then President, William Jefferson Clinton. The Senator’s objective was clearly stated in the first speech and succinctly summarized in his closing line in the last one: I have developed this series of 1-hour speeches on the history of the Romans, with particular reference to their political system of checks and balances and divided powers.
Senator Byrd’s concern over the balance of powers is also presented in Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency. He voices concern over the Legislative Branch yielding its Constitutional authority to declare war to the Executive Office during the presidency of George W. Bush. This concern was justified since, via Executive Orders, presidents from both parties circumvent the Legislative Branch on a regular basis.
I encourage everyone to set aside time during this year of midterm elections to listen to Senator Byrd’s speeches. The table below contains links to videos of the Senate speeches (from the Internet Archive based in San Francisco, CA). The Address column links open the videos, and the Transcript column links open the Congressional Record for the Senate session that day. (Be sure to open the link under “Senate”, not the one above for the entire journal for that day.)
|May 5, 1993||One||Line Item Veto 1|
|May 11, 1993||Two||Line Item Veto 2|
|May 18, 1993||Three||Line Item Veto 3|
|May 25, 1993||Four||Line Item Veto 4|
|June 9, 1993||Five||Line Item Veto 5|
|June 15, 1993||Six||Line Item Veto 6|
|June 22, 1993||Seven||Line Item Veto 7|
|June 29, 1993||Eight||Line Item Veto 8|
|July 13, 1993||Nine||Line Item Veto 9|
|July 21, 1993||Ten||Line Item Veto 10|
|July 29, 1993||Eleven||Line Item Veto 11|
|September 7, 1993||Twelve||Line Item Veto 12|
|September 20, 1993||Thirteen||Line Item Veto 13|
|October 18, 1993||Fourteen||Line Item Veto 14|
Also, note that Senator Byrd gave these speeches extemporaneously, no notes. He was, at the time, 72 years old.
The rights, and responsibilities, of U.S. citizens seems to be restricted to the voting booth. Most Americans are comfortable with registering their vote and leaving their elected representatives to do whatever they want. I’ve always disagreed with this view. Our responsibility begins after we cast our vote.
Last year, Victor Davis Hanson published The Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America. Dr. Hanson provides some historical perspective on citizenship. He ties this historical background to a number of serious problems which demand attention. Since not everyone has time to read the book, it might be helpful to listen to some lectures on The Dying Citizen.
Hillsdale College, a liberal arts college in Michigan, offers free courses on a variety of subjects. A course by Victor Davis Hanson based on his book is currently available. The title of one of his lectures provides insight into the content of the book.
Lecture 3: The Disappearing Middle Class: This lecture presents some historical background on the middle class. Dr. Hanson describes the political necessity of a strong middle class in the Greek polis, the city-state. He also examines the U.S. middle class of the 1950’s and its deterioration from the 60’s to today.
Some other topics included in other lectures are (1) illegal immigration and its effect on national sovereignty, (2) the current decline of governance to tribal politics, and (3) the efforts to undermine, and redefine, the Constitution.
I encourage everyone to sign up for the Hillsdale course American Citizenship and Its Decline. Set aside some time to reflect on these important issues.
Keep these two 2022 resolutions high on your priority list. Be ready to choose wisely in November’s election.
And, as always, in the words of Edward R. Murrow, “Good Night and Good Luck”.